Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bracken Library: Yesterday and Today

Over the past 25 years, I have seen many changes at Ball State University, and I continue to marvel at its beauty. The design and architecture, the beautification of the north end of campus, and the positive changes at Bracken Library are impressive.

As the first female in my family to enroll in college, I could not wait to visit Bracken Library. The building was only five years old in the early '80s when I began my studies. I loved to roam through the stacks and I enjoyed curling up with a book in a chair near Bracken’s north windows, as students still do today.

I remember thinking how fortunate I was to live in a country that values learning and study.

Research was done manually or was librarian-mediated using Dialog’s databases. Copies of the familiar green Reader’s Guide were always in use, and self-service searching using InfoTrac. I would gather all of these pages and take them to the photocopier. My pocket was heavy with dimes especially if I had a lot of research. Surprisingly, copies still cost a dime today!

The sound I remember most was the loud tapping of dot matrix impact printers. A long wait in line was the norm for those who visited the library during busy times as there were only a few computers at Bracken in the '80s. Not so today, since there are about 350 public computers for use.

I commuted with another student, so our daily meeting place was often at the vending area in Bracken where I would purchase chicken broth or a cup of coffee for a quarter for the ride home. Similar machines are still in the same place, although cappuccino replaces the chicken broth today.

In summer, the life that fills the rooms and walkways of campus and the library were not the same, and it was an odd sensation to feel so alone in such a big place. It was as if the library was resting, waiting for the next generation of young minds to enter and put it to the test.

Now as I round the beautiful spiral staircase at Bracken, I smile as memories of trekking up and down those stairs with a heavy load of books come back to me. I am amazed at how technology has changed the very act of research and how the physical process of completing a project has become so efficient, thanks to computers and help from librarians.

When I returned to campus in the late '90s for graduate work, Bracken Library, the Whitinger College of Business, and the College of Architecture and Planning were still fairly distant locations on campus. However, that was quickly changing.

Fast forward to the present: the Atrium, the Bell and Ball buildings, the new music building and parking garage have forever changed the face of Ball State’s campus. And there is a much-needed new dormitory under construction that will house more students who come to Ball State and to Bracken Library to explore, research, and discover.

It occurs to me that one of the differences between the libraries of yesterday and today is that focus has shifted from collection to place. That is, libraries today are less focused on the number of items in the collection and more focused on providing quick and easy access to resources in a welcoming environment.

I feel proud to have attended Ball State, a great university with a beautiful campus and great library system that prepared me for my profession. I am confident that my daughter who is studying speech pathology at Ball State will have similar feelings as she finishes her studies and someday visits her alma mater.

I am honored to work at the University Libraries, a campus information center that serves to enrich students’ minds and help them in their academic lives. It will not be long until a new group of students – the Class of 2010 – will fill the university with their energy, dreams, and hopes.

by Susan G. Akers, Marketing Communications Manager


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