Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Color Our Collections – Round 2!

February 6th, 2019

Color Our Collections logo, 2019

Color Our Collections is back! Started by the New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016, Color Our Collections is a week of coloring craziness where libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world share free coloring pages featuring their collection materials.

KU Libraries participated for the first time last year, and this year we have another coloring book to share! Featuring materials at the Spencer Research Library, this year’s book even includes two pages celebrating the Spencer’s 50th anniversary. You can download and print the book via the Color Our collections website. While you are there, be sure to check out the submissions from our colleagues at other institutions!

As a preview, here are three pages from the book.

Spencer Research Library image in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Spencer Chemical and P&M advertisement in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Kelmscott Chaucer image in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Happy coloring, everyone!

Emily Beran
Public Services

Spring 2019 Exhibit: “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences”

February 5th, 2019

Who was Kenneth Spencer, the namesake of Spencer Research Library? Why is the library named after him? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions and wondered about the library’s origins, be sure to visit and explore its current exhibit, “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences.”

Kenneth and Helen Spencer in their garden, 1959

Kenneth and Helen Spencer with their dog Topper in the garden of their home at
2900 Verona Road in Mission Hills, Kansas, spring 1959.
Helen Foresman Spencer Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 542. Click image to enlarge.

The exhibit provides a personal look at the lives of Kenneth Spencer and his wife Helen, including:

  • their childhoods growing up in southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri
  • their relationship and marriage
  • their hobbies and interests
  • Kenneth’s work as an engineer and accomplishments as a business leader in Kansas City
  • the creation of Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Additionally, the exhibit examines the Spencers’ significant philanthropic work, particularly Helen’s dynamic leadership of the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation after her husband’s death in 1960. The foundation provided funds for major construction projects at many institutions throughout the Kansas City area, including KU’s Lawrence campus. For example, gifts from the Foundation and from Helen personally ensured the construction of Spencer Research Library as well as the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

Photograph of the installation of wall labels for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

Installing wall labels can be a messy business. Shown here is a
timeline of the early history of Spencer Research Library
in the context of KU’s history in the 1960s, part of the new
“Meet the Spencers” exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the installation of items for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

The installation of items for the “Meet the Spencers” exhibit.
Library staff try not to open the heavy glass case covers too frequently.
In 1968, Helen Spencer selected and purchased the five large German-made
display cases now located in the Exhibit Space. Click image to enlarge.

The opening reception for “Meet the Spencers” will be held this Thursday, February 7, 2019. The exhibition will be installed in the third-floor Exhibit Space through June 2019 as part of ongoing celebrations for Spencer Research Library’s fiftieth anniversary. It is free and open to the public.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Throwback Thursday: Snyder Book Collecting Contest Edition, Part II

January 31st, 2019

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Book lovers, it’s that magical time of year! The competition for the 63rd Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest is officially open. KU students should enter their collections by February 24, 2019 to win cash prizes as well as a gift card from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink (more on the prizes below…).

Not only will the winners earn prizes, bragging rights, and a place in KU history, but they might even set themselves off on a future career. The picture below from the 1960 competition holds a special place in our hearts here at KU Libraries. The first place winner in that year’s contest was Ann Hyde (d. 2014), who would eventually go on to become Spencer Research Library’s longtime manuscripts librarian.

Ann Hyde (1960 Emily Taylor Book Collecting Contest winner), with second place winner E. Bruce Holmes (left), and KU libraries Assistant Director, Robert L. Quinsey (center)

Ann Hyde (right), 1960 winner of what was then called the Taylor Book Collection Contest,
with second place winner E. Bruce Holmes (left) and KU libraries Assistant Director
Robert L. Quinsey (center). University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/40 1960:
University of Kansas Libraries: Book Contests (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

In recent years, Snyder Book Collecting Contest winners have achieved national recognition for their bibliophilia. First place winners in KU’s undergraduate and graduate divisions are eligible to enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Since 2014, KU students have won prizes at the national level three (!) times, including last year’s graduate student winner Paul T. Schwennesen, who placed second in the 2018 national competition, with his collection “Borderlands — A Manifesto on Overlap.”

Picture of 2018 Graduate Student Category winner, Paul T. Schwennesen, with his collection titled "Borderlands — A Manifesto of Overlap."

Throwback to the recent past! Graduate student Paul T. Schwennesen
(Department of History) with his collection at the 2018 Snyder Book Collecting Contest.
Schwennesen placed first in the graduate student category and then took second place
at the national contest in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of KU Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

Want to join in the fun? Start reviewing your bookshelves and enter this year’s competition! Winners of the 2019 (63rd Annual) Snyder Book Collecting Contest will be selected in both the graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

First Prize: $500
Second Prize: $350
Honorable Mention: $100

Each winner will also receive a gift card in the following amounts from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink, a division of the KU Bookstore:

First Prize: $100
Second Prize: $50
Honorable Mention: $25

As noted above, the first place winners in each division may enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

To learn more about the Snyder Book Collecting Contest and how to enter, please visit the contest page on the KU Libraries website. There you will find the contest rules, a handy FAQ, as well as selected essays, bibliographies, and a sample collection to help you on your way.

Whether the subject of your collecting passion is Writings from the Black Revolution, Science Fiction as a Space for Feminist Discourse, Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone, or Vintage Textbooks of the Natural and Physical Sciences, start thinking (and writing!) about your collection. Contest entries are due by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Library: The Third Visit from Image Permanence Institute

December 12th, 2018

KU Libraries recently hosted Christopher Cameron and Kelly Krish, consultants from Image Permanence Institute (IPI), for their third and final visit as part of the planning grant we were awarded from the National Endowment for the Humanities, under the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program. The purpose of the grant is to work with our environmental consultants to study the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in Spencer Research Library in order to more sustainably preserve our collections.

On December 4-5, 2018, Chris and Kelly met with members of the KU team representing Facilities Services, Campus Operations, KU Libraries, and Facilities Planning and Development. We first met to discuss building and mechanical system updates since their visit in April, such as the opening of a new conservation lab and work on windows in Spencer Library’s North Gallery. In addition, we talked about weather conditions in Lawrence, Kansas, during the spring, summer, and fall.

As in past visits, the consultants collected data from dataloggers placed in the mechanical system, vents in the collections stacks, and in open spaces in the stacks. They then spent time analyzing the data and searching for anomalies that should be addressed.

Consultants checking air flow in Spencer Research Library

Chris Cameron and Kelly Krish check for air flow from a vent in the new conservation lab.

On the second day, the consultants met with the KU grant team to discuss the conclusions that resulted from a year of studying Spencer Research Library. Chris and Kelly referred to climate data gathered over a year’s time in eClimate Notebook. We also discussed ways to improve the sustainability of our system, which currently consumes too much energy. The consultants showed us architectural drawings for the airflow throughout the building in order to ponder how our HVAC system might be updated to provide separate zones for collections and people.

Consultant discussing architectural drawings of Spencer Library's ductwork

Chris Cameron shows us how air travels from the air handling unit through two underground channels, which provide air to the east and west sides of the buildings.

It has been a pleasure to work with Chris and Kelly from the Image Permanence Institute. We have learned so much about the idiosyncrasies of our building and have some short-term action items to help its systems operate more efficiently. We will receive a final report from the consultants early next year and will then make plans for next steps.

Consultants discussing temperature and relative humidity graphs from Spencer Research Library

Chris Cameron and Kelly Krish discuss temperature and relative humidity data for a space in Spencer Library.

Many thanks also to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the grant reviewers who deemed our project worthy of funding. We are most appreciative.

Whitney Baker, Head
Conservation Services

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Research Library” has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections.

Celebrating Fifty Years of Spencer Research Library

November 28th, 2018

This week’s post is a slightly revised version of remarks given by Beth M. Whittaker, Associate Dean for Distinctive Collections and Director of Spencer Research Library, at the library’s fiftieth anniversary celebration on November 8th.

Photograph of event programs at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Event programs at Spencer Research Library’s fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

It was not long after I returned to Kansas that I realized that the 50th anniversary of Spencer Research Library was impending; it seemed a long way off and we spent a lot of time thinking about how we would mark this occasion. Looking back at the many celebrations Spencer has commemorated, there were so many possible ways to go. The dedication of the building in 1968 was an august affair. Lord C. P. Snow spoke on the topic of “Kinds of Excellence” and if you’re interested you can read the remarks recently added to KU’s Scholar Works repository.

The 25th anniversary included a signature exhibit and catalog that we still reference today; other anniversaries have come and gone more quietly, many of them witnessed by people still here with us.

Photograph of a guest exploring the "50 for 50" exhibit at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

A guest exploring the “50 for 50” exhibit at the
fiftieth anniversary celebration, November 8, 2018.
Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

But what we really wanted to do for an exhibit was not to talk about the collections ourselves, as we so often do, but to get the stories from people who had used them for study or research. That, after all, is why we are here, and why this building has stood for fifty years and will stand for the future. Many of our friends and supporters answered our call, and the exhibit currently on display is the result. Although the word has become watered down by trendiness, this exhibit is actually “curated” by everyone who submitted a suggestion, took a walk down memory lane, or sent an email, and it is a reflection of the value of these items and these collections. It will live on in the gorgeous exhibit book we produced which is also available electronically. It is my hope that this exhibit stands the test of time for another fifty years.

Of course, this exhibit is not the whole story of the golden anniversary of the library. On February 7, 2019 we will celebrate our next exhibit “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences,” which will focus on this extraordinary couple and their philanthropy across the region. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us. For a sneak peek at the kind photographs and correspondence that will help shape this exhibit, make sure to check out the small exhibit cases on either entrance of the North Gallery on your next visit.

Photograph of Beth M. Whittaker speaking at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Beth M. Whittaker speaking at the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

It is traditional in these situations to talk about how much has changed, but I want to lead with what is the same. Every day, we welcome students (from KU to preschool and everything in between), researchers and the community into our beautiful spaces; we lead tours and classes; we support researchers both here and remotely; and we share the joy and wonder of original documents with everyone. As Associate Professor of English and stalwart friend of Spencer Library Laura Mielke said in her submission for the exhibit:

Every time my students and I come to the Spencer Research Library, we have a transformative moment. Eyes light up, hands reach out gently, smiles spread across faces.

This has been happening for fifty years, and will continue.

Photograph of attendees at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Attendees listening to remarks at the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

However, some things HAVE changed. New collections have sprung up and grown; new formats have emerged to convey information; researchers have asked new questions of our materials; and new classes have come through our doors. If we had asked the attendees of the dedication in 1968 what the research library would look like in 2018, I doubt any of them would have come close to predicting this future.

The building itself, of course, has also changed. Those of you who have been here before know that my passion for this building includes always looking for ways to make it better, so we looked at the 50th anniversary as a chance to do some “touch-ups” after years of significant renovation projects. After the creation of the Stokstad Reading room and the exhibit space that currently houses “50 for 50”; renovation to work spaces that make cataloging, digitization, and conservation easier and more efficient; and most significantly and gloriously, the renovation of the North Gallery, the 50th gave us an excuse to do things like freshen the classrooms, install new technology, and reupholster Mrs. Spencer’s specially selected furniture. Through it all, we have tried to honor the style and inspiration that Helen Spencer brought to the building. She did not want a “museum or a mausoleum.” She wanted this library it to be a useful and workable addition to academic life, and as that academic life has changed, so have we.

We have also used the occasion of the 50th anniversary to tackle some programmatic needs. Thanks to generous donors, our research grant program has been reinvigorated and we offer three grant programs to bring people to Lawrence to use our collections. In time for the 50th we instituted regular drop-in, staff-guided tours. If you haven’t yet come to one of our Friday afternoon tours, please do so and spread the word. We have kept busy.

Photograph of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery in snow during the fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery in snow during the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

This exhibit and our celebration on November 8th kept us even busier. I need to give my thanks to the exhibit team, who worked with me to refine my wild idea and shape it into something magical: Sherry Williams, Angela Andres, Meredith Huff, and Mary Ann Baker.

My colleagues in Spencer Public Services: Caitlin Klepper, Kathy Lafferty, Stacey Wiens, and the indomitable Meredith Huff and Emily Beran, who may finally be able to get back to their primary responsibilities without me interrupting them constantly with “50th” ideas and concerns.

Librarians and archivists Sherry Williams, Elspeth Healey, Karen Cook, Becky Schulte, Letha Johnson, and Deborah Dandridge, who helped select and provide context for items from the collections they curate. Catalogers, manuscripts processors, conservators, digitization experts and always changing brigade of student workers–I am especially grateful to the student workers.

Our colleagues in KU Libraries Office of Communication and Advancement: Nikki Pirch, whose beautiful graphics have enriched everything about the 50th, and Bayli Rindels, who supported me throughout the planning for the event, along with LeAnn Meyer, Leah Hallstrom and Courtney Foat, under the leadership of Christy McWard, who arrived at KU Libraries only to learn her new colleague had an ambitious plan already in place; she and her team jumped in with both feet.

Finally, I have to thank those who came before me in this role. Sandy Mason, who set and steered the course for decades; Bill Crowe, whose leadership and vision helped the library manage a time of extraordinary change; and Sherry Williams, who served in the interim and from whom I continue to learn something new every single day. As Jim Gunn, emeritus professor of English — and, dare I say lifetime support of this library — told me, “You walk in big shoes.”

Beth M. Whittaker
Associate Dean for Distinctive Collections
Director of Spencer Research Library