Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

New Finding Aid Interface, Coming to a Device Near You!

March 13th, 2020

If you’ve done any research at Spencer Research Library in the past several years in our manuscript collections or records from the University Archives, then you’ve probably used our finding aids interface. This search screen might appear familiar:

Screenshot of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface
Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface. Click image to enlarge.

This interface is formed from encoded text documents created by manuscripts processing staff. This coding might also look familiar if you’ve ever worked with HTML:

Screenshot of the hard-coded version of a finding aid in Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface
The hard-coded version of a finding aid in Spencer Research Library’s current finding aid interface. Click image to enlarge.

This interface is operating on outdated technology that isn’t being updated. We also find the interface a little dated and a little static; you might find your wrist cramping from having to scroll through a really long finding aid to get to the box and folder you’re looking for. For these and many other reasons, KU Libraries are in the process of moving from our old interface to a new one:

Screenshot of the homepage for the system to which Spencer Research Library is moving
Ta-dah! This is the homepage for the system to which Spencer Research Library is moving. Click image to enlarge.

The data is the same, but the views are very different! This new interface has more refined searching capability (including by dates!), the ability to filter search results – including by subject headings and names of individuals or entities that might be involved in the collection you’re looking for – and different views once you’ve started looking through a specific finding aid for a specific collection.

Screenshot of the search results page in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
The search results page in Spencer Research Library’s new finding aid interface. Notice how users have filtering options down the right-hand side to narrow search results! Click image to enlarge.
Screenshot of three ways to access information about a collection in Spencer Research Library's new interface
The three buttons at the top of this screenshot – Collection Overview, Collection Organization, and Container Inventory – give you three different ways to access information about an individual collection. You also have a sidebar, still on the right-hand side, which allows you to click on individual pieces of a collection, as well as search keywords and dates within that collection. Click image to enlarge.

Another exciting aspect of the new interface is the capability to request collection items directly from this interface and send it to Aeon, the system patrons use to check items out at Spencer. Currently, users have to open a new browser tab or window, log in to Aeon, open a New Reading Room Request form, and type (or copy and paste) the information about the archival collection they want to see.

Screenshot of the Aeon request button in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
Just click on “Aeon Request” to log in to your Aeon account and create a request for the box or manuscript volume you want to view in the Reading Room! Click image to enlarge.

You can also see some of our digital objects in context within our finding aids, or browse and search them separately through this interface:

Screenshot of the digital object icon in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
You can see that this is a digital object, as well as that it’s a digital surrogate for the original paper item located in the Robert B. Riss collection. Click image to enlarge.

Please note that what is included here are only digitized manuscripts from our collections, a subset of what is available at KU’s Digital Collections website.

This new system is available for you to use right now! You can get to it from this link: https://archives.lib.ku.edu/ or, if you’re on the old interface, you’ll see a link to “Visit the preview of our new Finding Aids tool” at the top of the home search screen.

We need your help, in fact. We want people to start testing the system so we know what is working well, what doesn’t function the way it should, if you’re having issues with a particular component of the interface, or if something just doesn’t work the way you expect it to. Here are some questions you can think about to get you started: Are you not getting the search results you expected? Does the collection inventory look incomplete or like some information is missing? Does something just look weird? Let us know! At the bottom of every screen, in the right-hand corner, there is a link to “Send Feedback or Report a Problem.” Click on that and fill out the simple form that opens up with as much information as you can provide. We want to test the new interface as much as possible in the next few months before we transition to it fully and shut down the old finding aids interface.

Screenshot of the "send feedback" button in Spencer Research Library's new finding aid interface
This link is at the bottom of every screen in the new interface. Please let us know if you have any problems using the new system! Click image to enlarge.

Happy searching!

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

New Copy Request Process at Spencer Research Library

February 5th, 2020

I am pleased to announce major changes to our policies and procedures at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. We will no longer ask patrons to seek our permission before using copies of our collection materials. Spencer Research Library is doing more than ever to make it possible for people to use our materials with as few barriers as possible.

Screenshot of the new New Reproduction Request form in Aeon
A screenshot of the new New Reproduction Request form in Aeon. Click image to enlarge.

We recently enabled patrons to initiate the copy request process through our Aeon management system, streamlining the process for both staff and users. We decided to use this technological change as the impetus to fundamentally re-imagine our relationship with digital images of items from our collections. This approach is in keeping with KU Libraries’ emphasis on supporting open access and advocating for public accountability for the investments in public higher education.

For many years now, we have allowed users to make copies of much of our collection material themselves, using either an overhead scanner in the Reading Room or their own equipment. We also make copies available when an item’s condition or format requires special handling, for a modest charge. No matter whether patrons use their own equipment or our skilled staff do the copying, patrons will no longer be expected to complete a separate form asking for “permission to publish,” as was previously required when images from our collections were to be used in exhibits, publications, or other works.

Head of Public Services Caitlin Donnelly Klepper assisting a researcher with the overhead scanner in the Reading Room at Spencer Research Library
Head of Public Services Caitlin Donnelly Klepper assisting a researcher with the overhead scanner in the Reading Room at Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

We continue to inform users of their responsibilities to follow copyright law, and we provide enhanced guidance on how to do so. We also continue to honor restrictions on some specific collections necessitated by the condition of the material, donor restrictions, or other concerns. We are in the midst of revisiting our previously digitized collections to clearly indicate the copyright status (where known) and how the images can be used. Expecting researchers to seek our permission for fair use of materials smacks of what has been termed “copyfraud,” or claiming to possess rights one does not actually hold. We also realize that users have always been free to use images as they like, and that in effect, researchers who chose to follow our rules were punished with additional hurdles.

In the Reading Room, users will now experience a less complex process. If the material they are using for research can be safely copied by them, they simply need to be careful in their scanning and metadata creation. If library staff need to be involved, reference librarians will help them translate their Aeon checkout into a duplication request, and our copy services manager will take it from there.

Remote users will also see a different process. Instead of filling out a paper form and sending it to our copy services manager, they will use the Aeon system to complete their request. Then, the transaction will proceed as in the past, without the need to complete a permission to publish form.

Our website provides more guidance about these steps. We look forward to helping all our users learn our new processes and are happy to assist in any way.

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

Meet the KSRL Staff: Shelby Schellenger

January 7th, 2020

Today’s profile features Shelby Schellenger, who joined Spencer Research Library in October as the Reference Coordinator.

Photograph of Shelby Schellenger at Spencer's reference desk
Spencer’s new Reference Coordinator Shelby Schellenger where you’ll most frequently find him – at the reference desk. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I was born and grew up in a little town southeast of Wichita called Rose Hill. I’ve visited a number of places throughout the U.S., but have always lived in Kansas. I spent about ten years in Manhattan and five years in Topeka; I’m now working on a couple of years here in Lawrence.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My job at Spencer is the Reference Coordinator. In the main, this involves spending my day helping patrons at the reference desk or digitally to locate and use materials from Spencer. I need to develop a good overall knowledge of the collections (I can’t know everything in detail), use good research strategies, and communicate well with patrons and the staff and curators who have expert knowledge in the particular subjects they oversee.

How did you come to work in Public Services?

In kind of a strange and convoluted way. I started my undergraduate studies in Computer Science, switched to Business Administration, managed a comic book store, worked in retail, worked in customer service, got laid off, and realized that libraries are and have always been an important part of my life. I went on to get my Master of Library Science degree and worked my way up at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. When I saw this position at Kenneth Spencer Research Library I realized it would be focused on exactly the parts of librarianship I most enjoy and had to give it a shot.

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

One of the most interesting things I’ve come across in Spencer’s collections are the various literary awards. I read primarily in science fiction and fantasy and it was exciting to find out we have Theodore Sturgeon’s Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, International Fantasy Award, Nebula Award, Spectrum Award, and more! These awards mark stories I often add to my long, long to-be-read list. These are also the awards that inspire that “maybe one day” sort of feeling in me when I think about doing a little writing. It really brings home that Spencer’s collections contain more items and types of items than can be easily shared and explained. It is always worth checking if you think a little research is in order!

Photograph of a selection of science fiction awards in Spencer's collections
A selection of science fiction awards in Spencer’s collections. Click image to enlarge.

What part of your job do you like best?

I like being part of that moment when someone finds something that amazes them. Maybe it is a photograph from the 1800s that really connects someone to an unknown relative. Maybe it is a handwritten letter talking about not very much that brings home that people are much the same as they have always been. Maybe it is finding a copy of a student publication they helped with years ago and never expected to see again. That moment amazes me.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I am big into board games. I try and make it to a couple of events (or more) a month and have a collection that threatens my bookshelves and closet space. I tend to prefer strategy games at a medium to heavy complexity with some favorites ranging from space exploration to running a vineyard. I also have two dogs and am getting back into anime, something I have fallen a bit behind on.

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

If at all possible, take it slowly. Give yourself the time to absorb things and explore related items. The stories you will find may be worth it!

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Students’ Adventures in University Archives

June 25th, 2019

This week’s post was written by Hannah Scupham, an English 102 instructor and Doctoral Candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas.

“I feel like a detective!”

“I didn’t even know this stuff was here!”

“This is SO cool!”

These are just a few of the comments I heard as my English 102 students (mostly freshmen and sophomores) hunched over folders and boxes from the University Archives about past student life and organizations from the past 100 years at KU. For most of my students, this was their first experience in Spencer Research Library, and this experience with archival documents was new and exciting. Although most professors and graduate students use archives for their own research, undergraduate students are often unaware of why archives exist and how they operate. This past semester, I brought my English 102 students into Spencer Research Library and, with the help of University Archivist Becky Schulte, they got hands-on experience doing exciting research with primary sources from the University Archives.

Photograph of a CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall, 1964
A CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall (now the Watkins Museum of History), 1964. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1964 Negatives: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998
Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998. Photograph by R. Steve Dick for KU University Relations. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1998 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The goal of English 102 is to teach students how to become scholarly writers and researchers and to expose them to scholarly writing genres and research methods. For the past few years, I have always included a unit in my English 102 course that tackles debates and issues in higher education. I want my students to consider the point of their college education as well as learning about issues such as the adjunct crisis, student debt, academic freedom, and increasing administrative oversight. One of the major issues that my students enjoy debating and discussing is student activism. Many students hold the misconception that college campuses have recently become political spaces in just the past five years, yet after diving into the University Archives, we can see that universities and colleges have always been spaces that reflect and respond to the opinions, needs, desires, and politics of its students.

For this assignment, each student was responsible for learning about their chosen KU student organization through archival materials, and they shared their findings with their classmates through presentations that highlighted a particular object from the archive. By examining both the mundane documents of past student life organizations and the media coverage of former student activist groups, my students discovered the lives of past KU students.

Photograph of members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982
Members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/27 1982 Prints: Student Activities: Persons with Disabilities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of members of KU's Tau Sigma Dance Society, 1932
Members of KU’s Tau Sigma Dance Society next to Potter Lake, 1932. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 67/100 1932 Prints: Student Organizations: Tau Sigma (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Taking all of the student presentations as a whole, the University Archives depict KU’s rich and vibrant history featuring passionate, curious, and community-orientated students. The Archives detail the past lives and struggles of KU student activists like the members of CORE, who fought for desegregation in Lawrence. The archival information about groups such as the Black Student Union, the February Sisters, and Students Concerned with Disabilities also serve as a potent reminder of how students can agitate for change within the university. The University Archives also offers a glimpse into the types of communities from athletics (Tau Sigma [Dance] and Sasnak) to events (KU Medieval Society and KU Home Economics Club) to specialized studies organizations (Graduate Math Women and Wives and the Cosmopolitan Club) that students have made possible throughout KU’s history. My students finished their time in Spencer Research Library not only knowing the basics of how to use archival sources, but also having a larger sense of how their own time at KU will contribute to a long tradition of student life. Many of them noted how much they enjoyed working with primary documents and how they hoped they would be able to return to Spencer Research Library for work in their future classes! (Perhaps there will be a wave of new librarians and archivists in the next four years? Hopefully!)

Personally, I want to give a big thank you to everyone in Spencer Research Library who helped my English 102 students during this process, and a very special thank you for Becky Schulte, without whom these projects could not have happened.

Hannah Scupham, M.A.
University of Kansas Doctoral Candidate, English Literature
Chancellor’s Fellow
Lilly Graduate Fellow

On the Research Trail: World War II Prisoners of War in Kansas

May 4th, 2018

The diversity of the Spencer Research Library collections is explored through the description of a search process related to a research question or theme.

In my first months as an employee of the University of Kansas, I was curious about the history of the buildings on campus. In particular, the Danforth Chapel piqued my interest as I wondered what the connection might be between the Danforth for whom the chapel is named and the former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, my alma mater. I went to the University Archives page on the Spencer Research Library website and clicked on Campus Buildings to see what I could find out. I then clicked on Campus Buildings Directory.

Screenshot of the Campus Buildings page on the Spencer Research Library website

Click image to enlarge.

This took me to the KU Places Directory page. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the search box.

Screenshot of the KU places directory website

Screenshot of information about Danforth Chapel on the KU places directory website

Click images to enlarge.

I was surprised to learn that German prisoners of war (POWs) from a camp in Lawrence participated in the construction of the Danforth Chapel. My research path took a turn in pursuit of answers to new questions: When was this? Where was the Lawrence POW camp located? How had POWs become involved in a campus project? What was this experience like for those involved?

Knowing that most of the buildings on campus have files in the University Archives, I started my quest for answers by using the search interface for findings aids on the Spencer website. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the Search for field. I retrieved four results. The first item in the results list was the finding aid for the University of Kansas General Records. I clicked on this item.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search results page

Click image to enlarge.

Looking at the left side of the finding aid, I skimmed through the list of different types of general records to find and click on Buildings. In the Buildings section, I located Buildings Scrapbooks as well as Danforth Chapel.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for KU General Records at Spencer Research Library

Click image to enlarge.

Scrapbooks are collections of newspaper clippings and other relevant artifacts related to a particular topic that were gathered and organized by KU librarians up until approximately the 1960s. The scrapbooks for KU buildings are organized by date. Examining the records for a specific building first, before looking through the four volumes of scrapbooks, is useful because the files for a building often contain an index that points the researcher to the volume and page numbers of relevant items in the scrapbooks as well as to sources of other related information at Spencer.

Photograph of materials in the Danforth Chapel building file

Materials in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of pages in a KU buildings scrapbook

Pages in a KU buildings scrapbook. Call Number: SB 0/22 volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

I found an index in the Danforth Chapel box of records and looked at each page listed in the corresponding scrapbook volume. The clipped articles were about the role of the chapel, fundraising, opening ceremonies, etc., and did not answer my questions. I continued to look through the box of Danforth Chapel records which are organized by year. In the 1945 folder, I discovered photocopies of two newspaper articles about the role of German prisoners of war on campus.

Photograph of folders in the Danforth Chapel building file

Photograph of newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file

Folders and newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click images to enlarge.

One of the photocopies did not include the source information for the article. It was evident from the surrounding information on the page that it was from the KU newspaper, the University Daily Kansan (UDK), but I wanted to know the date it was published. Inferring the date range from the second photocopied article, which did have source information, I located the appropriate roll of microfilm on the UDK shelf in the Spencer Reading Room. I loaded it on the microfilm reader and found the article in the June 4, 1945, issue. I put that date in context by a quick check online to confirm that June 1945 was one month after the surrender of German forces in the European theater of World War II.

Photograph of the microfilm reader in the Reading Room

From the first article, entitled “Fifteen German Prisoners Detailed to Campus to Work on Danforth Chapel and Grounds,” I learned that the POW camp in Lawrence was located near the Santa Fe railroad station. The POWs were paid contract workers and had been brought into the area to meet labor shortages in agriculture and industry.

The second article (shown below) provided me with some insights into how the relationship between the prisoners, their guards, and the KU community was governed by a set of rules.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel article in the University Daily Kansan, 1945

Article about German POWs in the University Daily Kansan,
August 5, 1945. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

I wondered if there are items in the collections of the Spencer Research Library that might provide information about World War II prisoner of war camps in Lawrence and other parts of Kansas. I went to the Spencer website and clicked on Search KU Libraries Catalog. To search only in the Spencer Research Library holdings, I clicked on Set Other Search Limits. (Note: This is an alternative to the search method described in my previous blog post.)

Screenshot of the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

I then selected Spencer Research Library as the Location and clicked on Set Limits.

Screenshot of the search limits page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

In the Advanced Search interface, I typed in “prisoner of war camp Kansas” (with no quotation marks) and “prisoners of war Kansas” in two of the Search for fields. I clicked on Or in between the two fields to search for either of the two keyword phrases. (Note: You can leave out the word of when entering the keyword phrases.)

Screenshot of the advanced search page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

This search retrieved eighteen results. Since I did not specify World War II or German prisoners, some of the results were related to other wars or other groups of prisoners. Scanning through the list of items, I found six that appeared to be relevant to my research questions. The items included a curriculum for courses taught at the camps in Kansas, oral histories of prisoners and community members, and a book providing a comprehensive overview of the POW camps in Kansas at the end of World War II.

Screenshot of a search results page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

Pursuit of answers to my research questions was well-supported by utilization of the collections at Spencer Research Library. I found materials to address my initial questions and a wide variety of additional sources to allow for deeper investigation of the topic of POW camps in Kansas.

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services