Friday, January 23, 2009

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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