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: Tiffany McIntosh

December 16th, 2022

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 Tiffany McIntosh, who joined Spencer Research Library in August 2022 as an Administrative Associate.

Headshot of a smiling woman.
Administrative Associate Tiffany McIntosh. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I’ve lived most of my life in Lawrence but just recently moved to Meriden, which is a small town just north of Topeka.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I primarily serve as the student supervisor and run the reception desk. I am also responsible for scheduling, supply orders, and other day-to-day administrative tasks throughout the building. Starting in Spring 2023 I will also be working at the reference desk.  

How did you come to work in Public Services?

My answer is a little less straightforward than others’ are. I graduated from KU with a Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) in anthropology and religious studies in May 2021. Since graduation I missed life on campus and had been searching for a position within KU. I browsed KU’s website for months waiting for something that seemed fitting.  When I saw the posting for the Administrative Associate position at Spencer, I knew I would be able to use past job skills to excel given my strong background in customer service. I also knew the position would be a step in the right direction considering I plan to attend a master’s program in museum studies. 

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

Currently the thing I find most interesting is a book we have by Joseph LeConte that was printed in 1895: Evolution and Its Relation to Religious Thought (Call Number: B17361). We also have a first edition of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (Call Number: Ellis Aves B108). It’s very worn and well-loved but super cool to look at. Along with the first edition, we have a copy from 1909 (Call Number: B17375) that is, interestingly enough, Volume 11 in The Harvard Classics. Per Wikipedia, the collection “is a 50-volume series of classic works of world literature, important speeches, and historical documents compiled and edited by Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot.” There are a lot of other really cool books in Special Collections that relate back to my undergraduate classes (including works by Darwin, LeConte, and Charles Lyell) that I’m super excited to work with.

I also find the children’s book collection quite interesting. Older book covers are very unique and colorful. They’re fun to look at without even opening the books. I love browsing the stacks and reading the different titles of the books and seeing the illustrations. The content of children’s books has definitely changed quite a bit over time.

I’m convinced there’s something for everyone in our collections.

What part of your job do you like best?

I would say one of my favorite things about my job is listening to the curators and librarians talk to patrons about things they’re passionate about. You can really hear the joy and excitement in their voices when they get to talk about their work. I would also say I enjoy working with the students and giving them opportunities to grow both professionally and individually. Most importantly, I love how the collection is seemingly never-ending. Every time I go into the stacks, I find new things that interest me.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I enjoy being outside (I go birding with my younger brother), spending time with my cats, and quilting. I also try to spend time with family since I don’t see them as much since moving. I start graduate school in January 2023, so I’m sure most of my time will be spent on homework (which I really don’t mind).

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Similar to what others have said in their “Meet the KSRL Staff” profiles, use your resources. The collections are massive, and talking to the people who work here can really improve your findings and experience. The library alone is a great resource, but the people who help build and maintain the collections have a wealth of knowledge that can really take your research to the next level.

Tiffany McIntosh
Administrative Associate

Meet the KSRL Staff: Molly James

October 27th, 2022

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 Molly James, who joined Spencer Research Library in 2022 as a Manuscripts Processor.

Headshot of a young woman in front of green foliage.
Manuscripts Processor Molly James. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I’m from Kansas! I was born in Wichita, then lived for a brief time in Salina before my family moved to Eudora, a small town just outside of Lawrence. After graduating high school, I moved to Manhattan, obtaining both my bachelor’s and Master of Arts in English before returning to the Eudora-Lawrence area.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I process incoming collections for Spencer’s various collecting areas. This includes maintaining the original order that the materials’ donor or creator had them in, or creating an order that makes sense if there wasn’t one before, and then creating a finding aid to make these collections easily searchable online. Sometimes it also means identifying and sending a damaged item to Conservation and Preservation to stop something from deteriorating so it can be referenced in the future.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

Before working at Spencer, I spent six years with the Eudora Community Library, first as a volunteer then as a circulation assistant. Then, while I was working on completing my undergraduate degree, I was briefly introduced to Library Science by a K-Stater who was going to Simmons University to complete their Master of Library Science degree. Before this, I hadn’t known there was an entire field dedicated to library science and spent some time researching it. This exploration led me to learn about archives and libraries in a broader sense, so when I graduated with my master’s, I knew I wanted to return to a library to keep learning about how libraries and archives operate. I’m incredibly lucky to be here with the Spencer Research Library!

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

While I haven’t interacted with a terribly large number of collections, the most interesting thing I’ve come across so far is a lock of hair in a baby book from 1919. I wasn’t expecting it! Otherwise, the most interesting thing that I’ve seen (but didn’t process) is the Hugo Award currently on display in the North Gallery.

What part of your job do you like best?

I feel like I learn something new every day – either about how libraries and archives work or history! I consider myself a lifelong learner, so having constant interactions with a continuously growing knowledge resource is fantastic.

What do you have on your desk?

I’ve got a small assortment of companions to help with processing – notably Gander the Magnetic Goose who holds on to the paperclips I find. Additionally, I’ve got both Calcifer the Fire Demon and Howl’s Heart from Howl’s Moving Castle, a magnetic Totoro, and a good luck tribble, if tribbles can be good luck signs.

Five small items in front of a sign that reads "Inking Station; No Original Materials on This Surface!"
Items on Molly’s desk. From left to right: Gander the Magnetic Goose, Howl’s Heart, a tribble, Calcifer the Fire Demon, and Totoro. Click image to enlarge.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I enjoy reading – primarily science fiction and fantasy – when I’m not at work. I’m currently trying to work my way through a rather large to-be-read pile that I had started before pursuing my undergraduate degree. Besides reading, I enjoy spending time with my dogs, writing, and playing board and card games.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Sometimes unexpected connections between collections appear, and when they do, don’t be afraid to explore those opportunities! They might be the key to expanding your research horizons or unlocking something previously unknown.

Molly James
Manuscripts Processor

Meet the KSRL Staff: Jaime Groetsema Saifi

October 4th, 2022

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 Jaime Groetsema Saifi, who joined Spencer Research Library in 2022 as Assistant Librarian and Special Collections Cataloging Coordinator.

Young woman standing in front of trees, bushes, pink flowers, and a black wrought-iron fence.
Special Collections Cataloging Coordinator Jaime Groetsema Saifi. Click image to enlarge.

How did you come to work in Special Collections?

At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I studied in the Visual & Critical Studies department and engaged with theories in art history, social theory, and aesthetics that brought into question the meaning of visual objects. As a student worker in the John M. Flaxman Library, I learned about the importance of special collections and research libraries, like the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, then run by the great Doro Boehme, and the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.

After graduating, I started my library career at the Newberry Library, an independent research library dedicated to the humanities. This experience gave me a firm grounding in what it means to work with unique, rare, and scarce materials; to engage with an international scholarly community; and to consider the ethical responsibilities librarians and archivists have to the public in supporting access to these materials.

Since then, I’ve continued working with special collections materials and archives at libraries in Chicago, Denver, and Boulder. I am excited to continue to work with special collections materials in Lawrence at the Spencer Research Library!

What does your job at Spencer entail?

As the Special Collections Cataloging Coordinator, I support a team of four rare materials catalogers and manage workflows for our Special Collections Cataloging Unit. I enjoy working across the Spencer Research Library with Curators and colleagues in Conservation and Public Services, to ensure our collections are well-described and accessible.

A row of book shelves; many have books or archival boxes on them.
Collection materials at Spencer Research Library waiting to be processed and cataloged. Click on image to enlarge.

What is your research about?

My research focuses on the epistemological intersections of materiality, artifact, and environment and is concerned with the ways that (visual) evidence and language work together to transmute meaning. I am most interested in how pairings and double-meanings shape and question memory. To that end, I work with materials from antiquity through the contemporary period that come out of counter-cultural movements, very broadly defined.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I love to play pinball, draw, drink coffee, watch art films, and read.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

My advice to a researcher visiting Spencer Research Library for the first time is to take a stroll through the North Gallery and Exhibit Space to view our permanent and rotating exhibitions. They will give you a small glimpse into the expansive, important, and complex collections, both new and old, that the Spencer Research Library provides public access to. On your way out, pick up a Spencer 50th Anniversary exhibit catalog to learn more and celebrate your visit.

Jaime Groetsema Saifi
Special Collections Cataloging Coordinator

Meet the KSRL Staff: Charissa Pincock

June 1st, 2021

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 Charissa Pincock, who joined the Spencer Research Library processing unit in February as a Processing Archivist.

A woman in front of a row of shelves storing books and gray boxes.
Processing Archivist Charissa Pincock. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I grew up in the Peoria, Illinois, area aka the corn parts of Illinois. I have also lived in states such as Texas, Nevada, Utah, and most recently Massachusetts before coming here to Lawrence, Kansas.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I help researchers find and access collections! As collections come to the Spencer, I make sure collections are arranged in a way that follows the collection creator’s intended arrangement, or if there is no original intended order, arrange the collection in a way that is accessible for researchers and patrons. I then describe collections through creating metadata and finding aids. Researchers can then more easily discover exactly what they are looking for by searching through and using these finding aids and collection descriptions.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I pursued a history degree for my undergrad, and while talking about career possibilities with a professor, she talked about her experiences working at a special collections early in her career. It was not for her, but many of the reasons she listed out for not personally wanting to work at a special collections/archives appealed to me, and so, my career in archives begun! I processed archival collections at a few different institutions before pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science at Simmons University with an Archives Management concentration. I officially finished my program this past May, and I am ready to have free time again. I have always enjoyed working in academic special libraries and archives, and I am happy to be here at Spencer!

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

Even though I am fairly new, I have already come across so many interesting collections! It is hard to narrow it down to just one! I will say that there are some great collections created by speculative fiction writers at Spencer and seeing their drafts and writing notes and correspondence with other writers in the field has been a fascinating look into the more behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating these creative works.

What part of your job do you like best?

Every day is different! I get to see and read about the stories and experiences of people from many different communities and times. No collection is exactly the same. And with discovering these collections, I love being part of a team that helps the broader public discover these collections as well.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I always love getting outside, but while stuck inside during quarantine, I have cycled through a few hobbies. My new current pastime is trying to follow along with Bob Ross painting tutorials. You also can never go wrong with a good board game!

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Ask questions! The Spencer Research Library has many amazing collections, and we want to let everyone know about them. Researching in a special collections or archive can be intimidating, but we have a great Public Services team that is happy to help. We have seen and heard it all, and no genuine request or question will be turned away!

Charissa Pincock
Processing Archivist

Meet the KSRL Staff: Molly Herring

June 3rd, 2020

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 Molly Herring, who joined Spencer in February as the Associate Archivist in University Archives.

Photograph of Associate Archivist Molly Herring
Associate Archivist Molly Herring. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I was born in the Kansas City area, but I moved around a lot growing up. My father was a Chaplin in the Army, and over the past twenty-five years I’ve lived in eleven states and fifteen cities, and I even spent three years living in Germany. However, I spent my senior year of high school in Kansas and went to college at KU, so Kansas really feels like my home state.

How did you come to work in archives?

I had always planned on going to library school after teaching for a few years (I got my bachelor’s degree in Secondary English education), although at that point I was thinking more along the lines of working in a public library. While researching programs, I began to learn more about the field of archives and decided it was the place for me! I decided to go to graduate school immediately after college, got my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree with a specialization in Archives and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017, and then spent a couple of years working at the Indiana State Archives. I jumped at the opportunity to work in the University Archives, being a KU graduate myself as well as a fifth-generation Jayhawk.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

As the Associate Archivist, I appraise, accession, process, and manage records in all formats transferred to the custody of the University Archives. I answer research questions submitted by both on- and off-site patrons, participate in outreach services (such as exhibits, blog posts, etc.), work with donors who wish to give materials to the Archives, and collaborate with Digital Initiatives and Processing on digital collections management. Over the past couple months, as I’ve worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have devoted much time to working with Digital Initiatives and other Spencer Library staff on the University’s web archives.

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

There are so many interesting items in the Archives its hard to pick one! One of my favorite things to tell people we have is a vial of uranium from the Manhattan Project. Another object I love is a wooden Jayhawk that was carved by a German POW who was sent to Kansas during World War II. On a more personal note I found some wonderful information on my great-great grandmother. She was the Women’s Student Government President in 1913 and, as an alumna, helped start KU’s chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, which I was a member of while at KU.

What part of your job do you like best?

My job entails a lot of different parts, which is something I really enjoy! I learn something new every day, and one day is never like the other. Also, although it’s a small part of my job, I really enjoy working on exhibits. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the collections and learn more about KU’s history.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I enjoy working on embroidery projects, baking, being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and of course reading (sci-fi and fantasy in particular).

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and as many as you need to! Researching in special collections and archives can feel daunting, but we’re here to help!

Molly Herring
Associate Archivist, University Archives