Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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

Celebrating the New Conservation Lab

September 11th, 2018

Earlier this summer, the Conservation Services Department completed a move from its former location in the basement of Watson Library to a new facility on the second floor of Spencer Research Library. After years of wishing and hoping, months of dreaming and planning, and some intense weeks of packing, hauling, unpacking, and arranging, we opened our doors to the new space in late July.

Working in this space has been everything we hoped it would be, and more. Here we are better situated to care for Spencer collections, while still providing service to all other campus libraries. Shortly after we opened, we held an open house for our Libraries colleagues. We were delighted that more than 50 people came to view the new space and share in our excitement. We three conservators – Whitney, Roberta, and myself – took turns offering tours of the lab to visitors. For those who were unable to attend, here is a quick look at some of what we love about this new lab.

Our new height-adjustable, wheeled workbenches and tables offer more flexibility to accommodate many types of treatments and projects – and even meetings, tours, and other activities. Each staff member can also configure their benches to the height and arrangement that is most comfortable for them.

Height-adjustable, wheeled workbenches and tables in the new lab space.

Adjustable workbenches and tables on casters in the new conservation lab (with windows!). Click image to enlarge.

We have a quarantine room for isolating and treating items affected by mold or pests. In addition to ample shelf space and our existing sub-zero freezer, this room houses a new biosafety cabinet which will allow us to mitigate the risks of handling and cleaning these vulnerable collection materials.

Quarantine room for isolating and treating items with mold or pests.

Inside the quarantine room: biosafety cabinet at left, shelving at right. Click image to enlarge.

The new wet lab will soon be equipped with a large sink in which we can treat oversize items, or do the messy work of preparing repair materials – such as lining cloth or paper – in a space that is easily cleaned up.

Wet lab within the new conservation lab for paper treatments and preparation of repair materials.

Wet treatment lab, for wet or messy work. Click image to enlarge.

We also have a dedicated area for photodocumentation just a few steps from our benches. This makes it so easy to quickly snap photographs of items before and after treatment.

Section of the new lab designated for photography of materials before and after treatments.

Photodocumentation area, with two different setups and a handy blackout curtain. Click image to enlarge.

A centrally located student work area is well placed to access all of the equipment and supplies. Like the staff workbenches, the students’ tables and chairs are on casters and are height-adjustable.

Student work spaces in the new lab.

Two groups of four student work tables occupy the center of the lab. Click image to enlarge.

We couldn’t be more pleased to be continuing our work caring for KU Libraries collections in this beautiful new conservation lab.

New Finding Aids, December 2017-June 2018

July 17th, 2018

Interested in what’s become recently available for research amongst the archival materials at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library? Then you’ve come to the right place! Below is the listing of finding aids newly published in the past several months.

For those of you of with an artistic or musical bent, here are a few images to whet your appetite:

A thank you poem from Leonard Bernstein, in the Joyce Castle collection

A thank you poem from Leonard Bernstein in the Joyce Castle collection.
Call Number: RH MS 1441, Box 1, Folder 30. Click image to enlarge.

Still image of Marya Ouspenskaya from an American Laboratory Theatre production (Three Sisters?) Photographer: Maurice Goldberg

Still image of Marya Ouspenskaya from an American Laboratory Theatre
production (Three Sisters?). Photographer: Maurice Goldberg.
American Laboratory Theatre Collection. Call Number: MS 338, Box 4, Folder 78.
Click image to enlarge.

First page of sheet music from Laurel Everette Anderson’s “Quartet in C Minor for Strings” (Fourth Movement, Introduction and Allegro)

First page of sheet music from Laurel Everette Anderson’s “Quartet in C Minor for Strings”
(Fourth Movement, Introduction and Allegro). Personal Papers of Laurel Anderson.
Call Number: PP 587, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

If that has piqued your interest, here is the full list of new finding aids:

Merrill Ross collection, approximately 1944-1977 (RH MS P558, RH MS-P P558)

University of Kansas publication photographs, 1970-1990 (RH PH 176)

African American World War II oral history collections, 1940s, 2010-2013 (RH MS 1439, RH MS-P 1439, KC AV 26, KC AV 29)

A River Running West literary archive, [before 2001] (RH MS 981, RH MS Q249, RH MS R201)

Denise Low papers, 1970-2013 (MS 334, MS Qa19)

American Laboratory Theatre records, 1923-1982 (bulk 1925-1930) (MS 338, MS Q73, MS Qa20, MS K33, MS E278)

Alexander L. Boyle artworks, 1965-1992 (PP 548)

Personal papers of John Macauley, 1960s-1980s (PP 464)

Community Mercantile oral history transcripts, 1996-2001 (RH MS 570)

Senator Fred Kerr papers, 1976-1992 (bulk 1988-1992) (RH MS 544)

Gordon Parks clippings and obituary materials, 1969, 1991, 2006 (RH MS P884, RH MS R277)

Personal papers of Laurel Anderson, circa 1935-1986 (PP 587)

Polly Lovitt biography, 2012 (PP 584, UA AV 1)

Personal papers of Russell Mesler, 1949-1992 (PP 582)

Personal papers of Glenn Parker, 1902-1955 (PP 586)

Personal papers of Ray J. Stanclift, Jr., 1941-1954, 1990 (PP 585)

J. Collins letter regarding the Pony Express route, September 10, 1951 (RH MS P703)

Ida Mae Newsom collection, 1930s-1980s (RH MS P593, RH MS-P 593)

Miscellaneous Kansas photographers collection, 1886, 1894, undated (RH PH 165)

Portraits and activities of African Americans in Kansas City, KS, approximately 1955-1988 (RH PH 174)

Photographic collection of portraits, landscapes, and buildings and structures, interiors, etc., approximately 1910-1950 (RH PH 11)

John Scoville collection, 1934, 1947, 1960, 1962-2003 (RH WL MS 48, RH WL MS Q6, RH WL MS R4)

William H. Morrison’s letters from the Nebraska Territory, 1864-1865 (RH MS P923)

Ole J. Olsen photographs, approximately 1900-1910? (RH PH 83)

Mrs. Oscar Polk photographs, approximately 1912-1919 (RH PH 102)

Nancy Porter photographs, approximately 1896-1958 (RH PH 62)

Seelander & Swanson Sign Company photographs, approximately 1940s-1960s? (RH PH 138)

David Stout’s ration book, October 1943 (RH MS P924)

Modern homes and other scenes of Lawrence, KS, 1970s? (KC AV 28)

Warner-Johnson Photographic Studio collection, 1893-1987 (RH MS 1440, RH MS-P 1440, RH MS-P 1440(f))

John C. Tibbetts portraits collection, 1981-2016 (MS Q74, MS Qa23)

Natural History Art and Illustration by D. D. Tyler, 1971-2014 (MS 337, MS Q72, MS Qa22, MS R19)

Personal papers of Roger Martin, 1980-2015 (PP 588, UA AV 2, UA AV 3)

Personal papers of Charles Stansifer, 1963-2012 (PP 589)

Personal papers of Jack Brooking (Beach), 1956-1974 (PP 590)

Warren Corman architectural drawings, bulk 1950s-1960s (PP 592)

Personal papers of Morton Green, 1939-2003 (PP 591)

John Lee papers, 1989-1996 (RH MS 1428, RH AD 11, RH MS R425)

O’Dell-Wilson family photographs, circa 1890-1930 (RH PH 63)

George Pollock photograph collection, approximately 1890s (RH PH P2821, RH PH 101)

Savage-Alford families photographs, approximately 1860-1916 (RH PH 59)

Geraldine Slater photograph collection, 1920s (RH PH P2830, RH PH 52)

Argentine River Improvement stock certificate, 1887 (RH MS P952)

Joyce Castle collection, 1843, 1903, 1953-2014 (RH MS 1441, RH MS Q434, KC AV 35)

Jane Wofford Malin collection, 1860s, 1890s-2016 (bulk 1926-2016) (RH MS 1444, RH MS R429, RH MS-P 1444, RH MS-P 1444(f), KC AV 44)

Jesse T. Roberts land certificate, 1854 (RH MS Q436)

David Samuels postcards collection, approximately 1900-1950s (RH PH 65, RH MS DK2)

Unidentified couple carte de visite, approximately 1880-1900 (RH PH P2829)

Moseley & Company photographs of Kansas City buildings, approximately 1920s-1969 (RH PH 135, RH PH 135(f))

H. Mulch collection, approximately 1908-1982 (RH PH 117, RH Cassette Tape 5)

Nebraska State Penitentiary photographs, approximately 1870 and 1910 (RH PH 129, RH PH 129(f))

Willard G. Ransom photographs, approximately 1900-1940 (RH PH 54)

Reuter Organ Company photographs, approximately 1917-1940s (RH PH 68)

Kenison family photographs, approximately 1890-1905 (RH PH 97)

Stanley Schmidt papers, 1976-2013 (MS 341)

Stanley, Kansas photograph album, approximately 1920s (RH PH 123)

Personal papers of Marlin D. Harmony, 1960-1998 (PP 593)

Personal papers of Roger L. Kaesler, 1961-2003 (PP 594)

Personal papers of Robert W. Wilson, 1937-2003 (PP 596)

Robert Hess collection, 1945-2013 (RH AD 10, RH MS 1415, RH MS R413)

Kansas State Seals collection, [not before 1867 – approximately 1900?] (RH MS Q428, RH MS R430)

Elizabeth Stephens collection, 1942-2002 (RH MS 1448, RH MS Q438, KC AV 47)

Vogel family collection, 1952-2015 (RH MS 1446, KC AV 46)

Hornbooks collection, 17 and 18th centuries (MS C315)

Melvin Landsberg papers: Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos, 1956-1970 (MS 342)

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Throwback Thursday: Snyder Book Collecting Contest Edition

February 8th, 2018

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!

Bibliophiles rejoice! It’s that time of year when KU students have the opportunity to translate their passion for collecting books into cold hard cash by entering the Snyder Book Collecting Contest.

Photograph of Elizabeth Snyder and Betty Ann Bush examining Bush's book collection at the Snyder Book Collecting Contest, 1969

Elizabeth M. Snyder (left) and Betty Ann Bush (right)
examining Bush’s winning collection, 1969.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/40 1969 Negatives:
University of Kansas Libraries: Book Contests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This week’s photo looks back to the 1969 competition and features Betty Ann Bush (right) with her winning collection, “Writings from the Black Revolution.” Also pictured is Elizabeth M. Snyder, who founded in the contest in 1957 to recognize and cultivate student interest in books and book collecting. At the time of the 1969 contest, first place garnered $100.

Earn your place in KU history by entering your collection in this year’s competition! Winners of the 2018 (62nd Annual) Snyder Book Collecting Contest will be selected in both graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

First Prize: $600
Second Prize: $400
Honorable Mention: $100

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

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

The first place winners in each division are eligible for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

Start scanning your shelves since entries to the Snyder Book Collecting Contest are due by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

To learn more about the 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.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian