BSU Group Has New gifts for Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

By Gail Werner

MUNCIE, IN - Members of a Ball State University immersive learning group have played a huge role in enhancing the offerings of Indianapolis' Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (KVML), doing their part to ensure the late Hoosier novelist's legacy never leaves Indiana.

The team of 12 students spent six months learning about Vonnegut and working with the library on a series of projects under the guidance of faculty members Rai Peterson, associate professor of English, and Russ Wahlers, associate professor of marketing.

"I never imagined how much time, resources and energy this group would put into this effort," said Julia Whitehead, KVML executive director. "It has far exceeded my expectations."

The group's completed projects include a digitization of Vonnegut's physical manuscripts; creation of a film archive and oral history of the author, a traveling exhibit and new products for its gift shop; and development of a marketing plan to help KVML become self-sustaining.

Peterson originated the idea for the two-semester course after paying a visit to KVML shortly after its January 2011 opening. "I knew we could get a group from Ball State to expand what the library had to offer. I thought, 'We can make this happen,'" she said.

To fund the experience, Peterson and Wahlers secured more than $76,000 from a university-sponsored Provost Immersive Learning Grant and numerous community partners, including the Indiana Historical Center, WFYI-TV and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Senior Kendra Gillespie said working with those community partners was one of her favorite aspects of the experience.

"It is one thing to take a class and listen to a professor, but it's a completely different experience to work firsthand with a client," she said. "We took their comments very seriously because they have the experience we do not have."

Students participating in the group represented academic disciplines that included English literature and creative writing, business marketing and administration, and journalism graphics.

With all of the students' new assets in place at KVML, sophomore Todd Bastin said he hopes future visitors to the library "come out even more interested in Vonnegut than they were going in. I want them to find a truly satisfying connection to the man behind the books they may already know and love."