Friday, January 23, 2009

Historic Presidential Inauguration Viewed at Bracken Library

On Tuesday, January 20, about 100 students stopped by Bracken Library during the late morning to watch the inauguration of Barack H. Obama as the 44th president of the United States. The large TV screen in Bracken’s Lower Level accommodated the crowd with a spillover group moving to the e-classroom, also in the Lower Level. Many students purchased lunch in The Bookmark Café to watch the new president’s inauguration.

Personnel at the University Libraries were pleased to offer the opportunity for students and faculty to gather and be a part of the historic inauguration.

Ball State University Libraries: A Place to Experience Critical Thinking and Visual Rhetoric

A recent conversation with Dr. Adrienne L. Bliss, Assistant Professor at Ball State’s Department of English, revealed information about the University Libraries’ broader, richer scope, and its role on campus beyond serving as a resource for research and learning.

“The library supports the concept of learning in that it enhances critical thinking,” she said. “Critical thinking is about interacting with the world and problem solving, so when students visit the library, they learn how to find the information they need to solve problems and that includes using the maps, the technology, the physical space, and even the café.”

Dr. Bliss mentioned the trend of visual rhetoric being modeled in the library. Visual rhetoric is the study of how document design communicates through the use of illustrations, graphs, typography, and layout. Visual rhetoric also examines the relationship between images and writing. In this regard, the library’s signage and slides shown on the plasma screens communicate a range of important messages, including the slides that welcome students in a variety of languages, thus recognizing the importance of international students.

The library’s signage reminds visitors about vending machines in Bracken’s lower level, the availability of help from librarians, the range of resources, such as new collections, international films, DVDs, and laptops for check-out, and
the importance of not leaving personal belongings unattended.

Dr. Bliss believes that the library plays a significant role in the successful retention of freshmen and that reference librarians are key providers of library and information service to the campus community. She encourages students in her English composition classes to seek advice from librarians if they are stuck on a research project or if they need to narrow a topic for a paper. She tries to put a face on the library by personalizing the services offered by our librarians, and she encourages students to talk with librarians by saying, “They are your librarians. Go talk to them!”

On many mornings, one finds students working on their English papers in the New Books and Bestsellers corner while Dr. Bliss confers with others. She keeps “office” hours there on occasion because students prefer to meet with her in the convenient, comfortable setting of Bracken, which is centrally located on campus.

“Everything we need is here: technology, research tools, music, movies, even comfy chairs,” she said.
The scope of library services utilized by Dr. Bliss goes beyond the first floor. She takes students to instruction sessions offered by Technology Training Support Services, such as a Web design class. She also looks for ways to engage library personnel in her classroom, such as a visit early each semester by Dr. Fritz Dolak, University Libraries’ Copyright and Intellectual Property Manager, who discusses copyright issues with students.

The University Libraries continue to explore ways to serve the campus community and to support endeavors in teaching, learning, and research.

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The University Libraries’ Garnett Mystery Collection: A Collection Management Perspective

Everyone likes to receive gifts, and the University Libraries are no exception. Donations of library materials or monetary contributions assist us in our efforts to provide a rich array of resources and services for our students and faculty despite rising costs and tightening budgets. Over the years the Libraries have received a number of gift collections that have strengthened our holdings for specific subject disciplines, such as music, architecture, history, and military history, among others.

Few gifts, however, have caused as much happy excitement as a recent donation of over 2,800 mystery books written by about 450 contemporary, women authors. The books are the gift of an anonymous Ball State alumna who originally gave her collection to the Women’s Studies Program to be made available for others to enjoy. Realizing that the University Libraries are better prepared to circulate books, the Women’s Studies office made arrangements last July to turn the collection over to the Libraries. The original donor is still reading mysteries, and she expects to contribute more books in the future.

Because of its popular nature, the donation, now dubbed the Garnett Mystery Collection, raised some interesting questions from a collection management perspective. Who would be most likely to use these books? And for what purposes? How should they be organized to facilitate use? Where should they be located? And what about preservation? Over two-thirds of the collection consisted of paperbacks that surely would not survive repeated circulations.

While the collection is not without potential research and instructional value for such areas as Women’s Studies, Creative Writing, or Sociology, the largest readership was deemed to be mystery lovers pursuing recreational reading – readers who probably also enjoy the Bestsellers Collection on Bracken Library’s 1-East area. It seemed prudent, then, to keep the Garnett books together as a collection and locate them near the Bestsellers where several ranges of shelving were already in place that would provide sufficient space for the current collection and still accommodate its anticipated future growth.

On the assumption that most people like to browse popular fiction collections, a simplified call number schema was devised to arrange the collection in alphabetical order by author’s last name and then, for each author, alphabetically by title. Of course, bibliographic records were also added to the Libraries’ online catalog, CardCat, to assist readers looking for particular mystery writers or fictional detectives in whatever Libraries’ collection they might be – bestsellers, audio books, or general collections’ literature sections.

A renewable two-week loan period was established to provide circulation opportunities to as many people as possible for what is expected to be a high-demand collection.

Preservation was one of the more difficult issues to resolve. There was little doubt that some kind of binding would be necessary if the collection was to endure, yet part of the appeal of a browsing collection is its colorful book covers and the information that publishers often provide on them.

We did not want to sacrifice these features, even though the solution came with a cost both in money and staff time. For the hardbacks with dust jackets, library staff performed the time-consuming process of applying plastic covers to the original jackets. The paperbacks were sent to the Libraries’ commercial bindery where they received a special type of binding called DigiCovers. Unlike the typical library buckrum binding process, which removes and destroys the cover, the DigiCover process makes a digital copy of the book’s original cover before removing it and then incorporates the digital image as part of the outside of the bound volume. The result of these decisions is a mystery collection that is both durable and visually appealing.

To identify the collection, library staff also designed special bookplates, even acquiring new labeling software so as to be able to create bookplates small enough to use in the paperbacks.

One final consideration in processing this collection was timeliness. Recognizing the potential appeal of the mysteries to our students and faculty and the donor’s desire that the books be made available for others’ enjoyment, it was important to make the collection available to the public in as short a time as possible. To accomplish this, both streamlined procedures and efficient use of available staff were required.

The normal cataloging process was expedited by the decision to download full bibliographic records from OCLC’s WorldCat into CardCat with minimal local revisions. In this we were fortunate that all but nine of the over 2,800 titles had usable records in WorldCat. Assignment of the locally devised call numbers was partially automated using an Access database developed by one of the Libraries’ catalogers. Other processes, such as binding and physical processing, did not lend themselves to shortcuts and were accomplished with great efficiency and much hard work on the part of the responsible library staff.

For more information, contact Sharon A. Roberts, Assistant Dean for Collection Resources Management,, 765-285-1305.

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Creating a Web Laboratory

by Roy “Todd” Vandenbark, Part-time Temporary Special Project Developer, Library Information Technology Services

I recently attended the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) Forum. Some of the sessions I attended were about topics such as distance learning, hacking prevention for Web 2.0 applications, and optimizing library resources for persons who read on screen.

One of the sessions most directly applicable to my work in the University Libraries was Jason Battles’ and Jody Combs’ session, “Building a Web-based Laboratory for Library Users.” As library technology staff develop new products and services, a major question is how to test and market the products effectively to students and faculty. To address this problem, Battles and Combs may have adopted an idea from Google that will prove useful in libraries.

Google Labs is a site that showcases prototypes of software, or beta versions. These are available to the public for “test driving” in return for feedback about the experience. Battles and Combs adapted this for the Vanderbilt University Libraries to seek suggestions for new services, highlight and seek feedback on projects under development, and recruit participants for usability studies and focus groups. This online “Web laboratory” is organized similar to a blog, with an RSS feed to allow visitors to track updates and additions to the site.

It also includes an integrated feedback mechanism in the form of comment boxes for each item and for the site as a whole. Responses are recorded in a database where administrators can track and analyze user comments. Their concept has proven so successful that four additional academic libraries in addition to Vanderbilt are using it: the University of Alabama, the University of Alberta, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Virginia.
Advantages of a Web Lab

A library’s “Web lab” offers a number of advantages available to institutions of any size. Because it can be set up in a blog format, its implementation is quick, easy, and does not require technical staff. It also frees libraries from forcing innovations to fit an academic calendar. Online testing and feedback also helps the library serve distance learners who do not necessarily use the physical library, allowing them to see and comment on how the library serves them. Feedback on major projects such as redesigning a Web site or library catalog interface can be honed for greater success, avoiding mistakes in interface design and functionality, and tailoring services to better meet the changing needs of patrons.

Ball State University Libraries’ efforts to remain at the cutting edge of innovation include adopting successful concepts developed at other institutions. Our Libraries’ version of this Web Lab is currently under development, visit

For more information, contact Roy “Todd” Vandenbark, University Libraries’ Part-time Temporary Special Project Developer,, 765-285-8032.

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University Libraries by the Numbers, Fiscal Year 2007-2008

Visitors per year based on turnstile count

Books, bound journals, and serial volumes (and counting)

Items circulated

12th century illuminated manuscript
Century when Libraries’ oldest item was published

Pre-17th Century items (6 books, 11 illuminated manuscripts, 35 individual leaves)

Reference requests made to the Libraries

Reference requests made to the Archives and Special Collections last year

Items used in Archives and Special Collections last year

University Libraries Experience Digital Development Success in Past Year and Plan for Initiatives in New Year

Arthur W. Hafner, Dean of University Libraries, outlined the Libraries’ strategic goals in the June 2008 issue of this newsletter. One of those five goals was to expand the Libraries’ digital initiatives and facilitate development of emerging media opportunities for learning, research, and classroom enhancement.

The beginning of a new year provides us an opportunity to review progress on this goal and to look ahead and make plans for further achieving our goals.

The Ball State University Libraries have made many exciting advancements toward accomplishing digital initiatives in the past year, including:

Increasing the number of digital objects in the Digital Media Repository (DMR) to over 112,000 items to support research, learning, and teaching
- Designing a new DMR public interface with enhanced features, new content, expanded menus, and improved navigability
- Implementing Zoomify in DMR collections to allow users to view, zoom, and pan detailed images in a quick and efficient manner
- Enhancing DMR collections by creating Google interactive maps for selected collections, such as Muncie Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and the Man Haters Film Collection
- Developing the Cardinal Scholar Institutional Repository to provide global access to Ball State’s student and faculty work

In total, 14 new digital collections have been made available for global access in the Digital Media Repository (, bringing the total to 72.

Here are a few digital developments to watch for in 2009:
- An emerging media project to create educational applications using Digital Media Repository collections and other University Libraries’ digital resources through Microsoft Surface™ that will allow for data and digital asset manipulation by students for class projects
- A partnership to create a digital collection of Delaware County aerial plat maps that illustrate property changes between 1976 and 2006, including land development and use, zoning changes, and urban sprawl
- Collaborative grant projects with other institutions for the University Libraries to provide digitization services and host their digital collections
- New enhancements to Digital Media Repository collections, including a portal to U.S. Veterans digital resources
- New collections in the Digital Media Repository, including digital audio and video interviews with United States military veterans, Ball State University monographs, early issues of the Ball State Daily News (then called the Easterner), Indiana archeological surveys, and rare books from Archives and Special Collections
- The opening of the Helen B. and Martin D. Schwartz Special Collections and Global Digital Complex on the first floor of Bracken Library

For more information, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections,, 765-285-5078.

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Exhibit at Bracken Library: Making a Difference: Voices of Freedom throughout African American History

Celebrate Black History Month and explore resources by and about those who have changed, inspired, and affected African American history. The exhibit will feature abolitionists and slavery opponents such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Robert D. Owen, publications such as The Muncie Times, and writings by Muncie’s own Hurley Goodall and others.

Making a Difference: Voices of Freedom throughout African American History will be on display in the Archives and Special Collections on the second floor of Bracken Library through the month of February.

For more information, please contact Lajmar Anderson, Archives and Special Collections Supervisor,, 765-285-5078.