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Further postings are at llops.org

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The title of this entry is a bit of a misnomer. The Library of Congress hasn’t put out a video game, although it would be fantastic to have an LOC board game; rather, they have released an iPhone app.  The application is a virtual tour of the library, taking adventurers into the deep and mystic rooms of knowledge and history. The application is optimized for the iPhone 4, containing rich graphics, sounds, and interface structures. In short, a free must download app.

I decided to tackle the app in the most rigorous testing regime I know, as a video game. Here’s the opening scene:

The LOC is epic and luckily the app serves as a Virgil, casting light onto a certain path. After reading the opening scene I knew this journey was not for the weak of heart. Thusly, I finished my sandwich, braced myself, and tapped “explore”. Without hesitation the game was afoot! Gracing my screen was a list of levels, luckily I didn’t have to unlock them- I could travel wherever I wished:

I’m no fan of spoilers or jumping ahead, so the main reading room was the only place to start. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t craving excitement or adventure, as it so happened, I had found it:

The initial screen contained a detailed history and description of the Main Reading Room/ Level 1. The beginning textual mission could have been better displayed if the font were adjustable, as it stands its hard to get a paragraph onto one screen and it becomes difficult to visualize. However, this is quickly remedied by the audio mission.

Sheridan Harvey gives life to the Main Reading Room and engages my imagination. She calls the Main Reading Room the “living heart of the library” and she truly makes The LOC an inviting place, as anyone 16 or older with a valid ID can use the space and materials. She would be perfect for audio books too! After my encounter with Librarian Sheridan the game had me. I was ready for the next mission: photos!

The text and audio description prepared me for a battle with living statues. These high quality images put me in The LOC, feeling the DC sunshine light up the room and bask me in a fountain of olden days. It’s easy to click onto each image, zoom in and out, and learn.

The last mission, link, is exactly what is sounds like: related links to supplemental information. How often do we go to presentations, read an article, or visit a blog with related links? It’s great to have but I bet dirt to donuts that the percentage of actual related links clicks is less than 10%. This mission didn’t challenge me as the others before it had. Yet, minus related links, The LOC app/virtual tour left me pleased to have spent a portion of my lunch break wandering the Main Reading Room, listening to Sheridan’s tales, and mingling with greatness of past times. I look forward to the next levels and expect the same captivating lessons.

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My graduate school professor, Jill Hurst-Wahl of all things digital librarianship, posted this via Twitter and it looks a fantastic project. [WDL]

“The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.”

It’s an exciting use of libraries and collections on the Internet. I imagine that it will have many uses in and outside of the class-room too. I didn’t have much to look forward to on April 21, 2009 but now I do!

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I don’t have much of a reason, but something inside me tells me that I have to read this book:

A Tucson native, Hanson is a writer and naturalist and the author of some 12 books on natural history and outdoor sports. He offers urban dwellers in the southwestern U.S. a guide to creating “a healthy little island of urban habitat” in order to live in harmony with the inhabitants of the natural world. Coverage includes how to attract, feed, and enjoy wildlife and how to avoid wildlife problems. Illustrated with b&w photographs and diagrams. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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 I will spare you my literary analysis and interpretations on the American classic: The Grapes of Wrath. However, the book is fraught with intense imagery, symbolism, themes, and a struggle of family versus the machinations of business. Moreover, the work plays upon nature to highlight the difficulties a family can face even though a ripe earth waits to support them.

California has a rich history, plentiful in goodness and even more so in heinousness. For me the American story is largely one that doesn’t lead to success. It leads to downfall and constant suffering in the face of a capitalistic and indifferent world. For a greater part of American history there has been starvation, slave wages, suppression of free speech, and other transgressions against American citizens. This book is the real American story and the founding families of our western country. Our social responsibility has improved quite a bit within only 60 to 70 years; but reflecting upon this kind of past leads to a greater appreciation of our history and contemporary times.

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The 44th President of the USA signed into action an Executive Order to ensure transparency and openness on Presidential actions. This measure seeks to improve government agency information dissemination and access. Moreover, it kicks to the curb secrecy and back room dealings, effectively stating:

“Sec. 6.  Revocation.  Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.”

E.O. 13233 was signed and put into action by George W. Bush to limit access to presidential records and government accountability went on the back burner for 8 years. I don’t know about you, but this news gives me goose bumps. Well, so did George W. Bush’s order; except this time it’s the good kind of goose bumps. As a nation, we have more to gain with open information versus controlled filtered access.

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Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!” is a well-crafted novel that delves into American capitalism, detailing corrupt Government from local authorities to the Presidency. It also tackles the rise of Communism and Socialism across the globe and especially The United States. The main characters are wonderfully written and a sense of understanding and sympathy is easily developped.  The book required me to view the world through different lenses, focusing on private struggles to corporate issues to world war.

The movie is loosely based on the novel to a massive degree. While the movie had me focused on the characters and their development and circumstance; the book focuses on life-styles, political belief, mechanizations of labor and Governments, and so much more. Sinclair details how the working man looks for oil and drills, from digging to derrick. Then he’ll describe the scientific process of refining it, followed by a detailed summary on oil transportation and trade- locally and globally. He describes the poorest classes, prisons, the richest classes, film stardom, and even royalty in such a way that one would think that he had lived multiple lives. The richness of detail he provides reminds of Balzac or Proust.

I’ll admit that the book reads very quickly and is addicitve. Yet it gets to one point where it drags. This minor snag doesn’t take away from the tale as it soon leads to a conflict that winds the story down. Moreover, the book has a more brilliant main character. The movie is centered around oil tycoon Daniel Plainview. Where the book focuses on J. Arnold Ross, Junior- the son of an oil Tycoon. J. Arnold Junior is in constant struggle as we read through his growth from a boy, living a live of extreme luxury and entitled to his father’s dealings. We get a deep look at his father’s life but a book centered on him wouldn’t be as fantastic or interesting. The movie worked because it wasn’t the same character (at all).

But don’t take my word for it. “Oil! ” a novel by Upton Sinclair will leave you a better person, contemplating human behavior and history.

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