The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Meet the KSRL Staff: Adrienne Sanders

May 21st, 2024

This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Adrienne Sanders, who joined Spencer Research Library in September 2023 as a Rare Materials Cataloging Librarian.

Photograph of a woman standing in front of a wooden bookshelf. She is holding a book about Robert Burns.
Rare Materials Cataloging Librarian Adrienne Sanders. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I’ve lived in Lawrence for over 25 years, so I think I’m from here now. I grew up in various places around the greater Kansas City area and went to college in Southern California, then came to Lawrence after getting my undergraduate degree in linguistics. I like it here so I stayed.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I didn’t set out to specifically work with rare materials. I worked in Watson Library at KU as a cataloging staff member for many years, and then at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library for several years. Both positions had me working with rare materials some of the time. I worked with Latin American materials from Spencer’s Griffith collection at KU and with local history materials in Topeka. This position combines my cataloging and rare materials experience, although I’m still learning more all the time.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

Cataloging, in a nutshell, is creating the description of library materials that goes into an online catalog or database, so users can find out what we have. I describe the item physically, and I also assign subject headings that say what the work is about and call numbers that tell where the item is located in the stacks. There are multiple sets of rules that tell me how to compose and structure a bibliographic record, as well as conservation guidelines we follow to physically protect the materials. All of this is so when people search our catalog, they get results that (hopefully) show them what they want and how to access it through the library.

What part of your job do you like best?

I love learning a little bit about lots of things, and this job is perfect for that. Most materials come to me in batches of similar things that were donated or purchased together and are similar in topic or genre. I have to quickly learn what they’re about in order to describe them. It could be anything from 100 books about flying saucers to a dozen zines about political protests in Hong Kong. It keeps me from ever getting bored!

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

One of the most interesting items I’ve worked with is also one of the oldest items. It’s a document created in Spain in 1570, called a carta executiva de hidalguía (or ejecutiva in modern spelling). These cartas were created to commemorate successfully petitioning the king to become nobility. (One of the benefits of being nobility was not having to pay taxes.) It’s written in gothic script and has a couple of pages of fantastic painted illustration. It turned out to be harder to read than I’d predicted, as I quickly learned that particular type of gothic script didn’t use punctuation marks or spaces between the words. The majority of materials I work with are from the 20th century, so this was both a challenge and a treat to catalog.

Colorful illuminated manuscript page with a block of text in the middle, and illustration of Mary and baby Jesus in the upper left corner, and a large family crest at the bottom.
A page from the Carta executoria de hidalguía de Lazaro de Adarve, 1570. Call Number: MS E289. Click image to enlarge.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I’ve been knitting for many years, and it’s my favorite, but I will dabble in just about any craft involving yarn, fiber, or fabric. I’ve done a little crochet, embroidery, cross stitch, spinning (making yarn on a spindle), yarn dyeing, quilting, sewing, macrame, and probably more I’m forgetting. In stereotypical librarian fashion, I read a lot/listen to audiobooks, mostly literary fiction and science fiction. I also enjoy going to museums and historical sites, especially when traveling to places that are new to me.

Adrienne Sanders
Rare Materials Cataloging Librarian

That’s Distinctive!: Recipes from Lawrence Public Schools

May 17th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our collection of Lawrence Public Schools (USD 497) records. The collection spans 1858 to 2022 and contains a myriad of items including records, reports, newsletters, yearbooks, and photographs. The collection consists of 144 boxes, 33 oversize boxes, 24 oversize folders, 143 video tapes, 18 audio tapes, and seven CDs. According to the collection’s finding aid, “the State of Kansas unified Lawrence schools in 1965, creating Lawrence Unified School District #497, or the Lawrence Public Schools. This was during an era when schools were consolidating across the state in part due to better transportation options.”  

The pages shared below are from “Charlsia’s Cordley [Elementary School] Recipe Book.” The document is undated, although other items in the box range from 1962 to 2012. The recipe book contains various recipe entries for date cake, applesauce salad, refrigerator rolls, and more. I assume the recipes were submitted by students.

Before finding this item, I did not know that the USD 497 collection existed. I was digging through the finding aids looking for old recipes when I found this folder. I thought it would be fun to share given the school district is here in Lawrence.

This image has the text of recipes for apple sauce salad, burnt sugar cake, date cake, and "my favorite recipe."
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This image has the text of recipes for ice cream pie, yellow angel food cake, cheese cake, and refrigerator rolls.
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This image has the text of recipes for Russian tea loaf dressing, ginger ale salad, savory meat balls, "Eri's favorite barbecued spareribs," and uncooked cookies.
Selected pages from “Charlsia’s Cordley Recipe Book,” undated. Unified School District 497 Records. Call Number: RH MS 1255. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: John Brown Portrait

May 10th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our artificial portraits collection. Artificial collections contain smaller collections that have been grouped and stored together based on some similarity. Oftentimes, items in artificial collections do not come to the library together. Per the finding aid for the portraits collection, “many of the purchases were selected by Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection photo archivist during the 1980s and 1990s. The collection consists of real photographic postcards, lithographic print postcards, cabinet cards, cartes de visite, mounted and unmounted prints, glass plate negatives, and other visually-based formats of individuals, couples, and groups posed formally, often in photographic studios.” The items date from approximately 1868 to 1986.

The portrait shared today is of John Brown (May 9, 1800-December 2, 1859). Brown was an American abolitionist who, according to PBS, “could not be deterred from his mission of abolishing slavery.” Throughout his life, Brown settled in many various states, held numerous jobs, and fathered twenty children. He “first reach[ed] national prominence in the 1850s for his radical abolitionism and fighting in Bleeding Kansas,” notes Wikipedia. For example, “in May 1856, Brown and his sons killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, a response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces.” In 1859, Brown was “captured, tried, and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia for a raid and incitement of a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry.”

Black-and-white portrait of a white man. There is text at the bottom.
Portrait of John Brown, 1884. This is an artist’s proof of a copperplate gravure of a painting by Selden J. Woodman of John Brown, signed by Woodman. Artificial Portraits Collection. Call Number: RH PH-540(f). Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Random Rhymes

May 3rd, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing a book titled Random Rhymes by Ed Blair. The book was published in Spring Hill, Kansas, in 1939. It contains 213 pages of poems.

Not much about Random Rhymes can be found on the internet. It is another item that I stumbled upon while walking through the stacks. Sometimes I go wander around to see what titles pop out at me. I had no background knowledge on what the book held until I had it paged to the Reading Room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was delighted to find the poems. A couple of poems from the book are included below.

This image has text: the title and author's name in black lettering against a blue background.
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This image has text: the first part of the table of contents.
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This image has the text of the poem "Dreaming of My Kansas Home."
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This image has the text of the poems "The Little Old Town Where I Live" and "What Makes June."
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This image has the text of the poem "Kansas Invites You."
The front cover, the first page of the table of contents, and selected poems from Random Rhymes by Ed Blair, 1939. Call Number: RH C6635. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Lawrence Historical Museum Scrapbook

April 26th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing some news clippings (circa 1951-1952) about the Lawrence Historical Museum, now known as the Watkins Museum of History. The Lawrence Historical Museum, which was overseen by the Douglas County Historical Society, was located in a city building at 8th and Vermont streets. The Watkins Museum of History, which is also run by the historical society, opened in 1975 at the corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets. The building housed the Watkins National Bank before being refurbished for the museum.

The Douglas County Historical Society was started in 1933 “when a group of concerned citizens were motivated to preserve the community’s early history.” Today, the society’s main activity is maintaining the museum.

The news clippings are part of an artificial collection, meaning it was put together by library staff (not assembled by an individual or organization and then donated to the library). The clippings discuss plans for the Lawrence Historical Museum and highlight when the museum opened for visitors in the basement of the new city building – a span of about six months. The articles also share information about new additions to the museum.

The Watkins Museum of History is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Admission is free to the public. The museum “showcases unique and fascinating stories from Douglas County’s past.” Exhibit topics include Territorial Kansas, Civil War era artifacts, Quantrill’s Raid, and more. The museum also hosts many public programs and school groups, and it’s open for community research.

This image has text.
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This image has text.
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This image has text.
The title page of – and selected pages page from – a scrapbook of Lawrence Historical Museum clippings, 1951-1952. Call Number: RH MS B64. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services