Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Meet the KSRL Staff: Stacey Wiens

November 10th, 2017

This is the twelfth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in October 2017, Stacey Wiens is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Reference Specialist in Public Services.

Photograph of Stacey Wiens

Where are you from?

I moved to Kansas from California (the state where I was born), but I have also lived in Texas, Colorado, and Missouri.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My job is about helping users of the library to access the materials and find the resources that best meet their needs. I am still in the training phase for my position, but I will eventually assist researchers in person at the Spencer Reading Room and also respond to off-site researchers through email and phone.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I am coming to the library field as a second career after having been a teacher for several years.

I graduated with my master’s in library science in May 2017. While I was in the MLS program, I found that I was drawn to the issues related to special collections and archives such as how to provide access but also protect these materials over time. I completed a graduate certificate in archival management along with my master’s degree.

While in graduate school, I was working as a librarian at a public library in California and lived in an area where opportunities to work in archival institutions are limited. When I had the chance to apply for the Reference Specialist position at Spencer Research Library, I saw it as opportunity to apply my past experience as a reference librarian and educator while being exposed to work in a special collections and archives setting.

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

Three recent interactions with materials stand out:

  1. The John Gould materials in the Ellis Ornithology Collection are a treat to view. Products from the entire lithography printing process can be examined, i.e., the beginning pencil sketches, inked and painted masters, rubbed transfer images, stone printing plates, and vibrantly-colored final prints. I highly recommend visiting the exhibit in the North Gallery of Spencer Research Library to learn more about John Gould, the artists who worked with him, and the lithography process. Also, check out a 2014 blog post by Special Collections Librarian Karen Cook.
  2. I saw drawings from the Kansas City Terminal Railway that are plans for building a train trestle (a supportive structure over a low place in the landscape). These drawings were from a time before calculations and schematics could be produced by computers. I was struck by the knowledge and skills that are represented by the intricately-detailed drawings with load-bearing information included for each support.
  3. While looking through some of the early KU yearbooks, I found them to be entertaining and revealing of perspectives from a particular point in time. For example, in 1884, the KU departmental classifications were listed as Science, Literature, and Art; Elementary Instruction; Law; Music; and Normal. In the 1903 yearbook, the member lists for a Bachelor’s Club and an Old Maid’s Club were included. Advertisements in yearbooks also offer insights into daily life of a particular time. In 1884, ads revealed that pianos, organs, and sewing machines were often sold in the same store. An ad from 1903 purported that purchasing granulated opium is the best choice for making tinctures.

What part of your job do you like best?

I enjoy helping researchers discover and use the tools they need to feel confident in their search processes. I like the problem-solving aspects of maintaining awareness of our resources and how best to match our resources to a research question. Watching classes of students interact with Spencer materials, especially when they can’t help but show their excitement, is another fun part of my job.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Being out in beautiful natural settings, exploring places that are new to me, creating art, playing tennis, and watching sports with my husband are some of my favorite activities when not working.

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

Don’t be intimidated by the process at Spencer. Although it is a different research experience in that you don’t have access to browse the shelves of materials, the request process is fairly straightforward, and the staff is eager to assist you as needed. Allow yourself plenty of time to interact with Spencer’s rich and intriguing materials. Sometimes, using primary source documents, for example, can require some extra time to determine if the items contain what you need.

It’s a great idea to acquaint yourself with the Spencer Research Library website before visiting. The Aeon system for requesting materials, the KU Libraries catalog, and Spencer finding aids are available online. Feel free to contact the Spencer Public Services staff if you have questions before you visit. We look forward to seeing you at Spencer!

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Happy Halloween from Spencer Research Library

October 31st, 2017

Spencer Research Library houses the records and films of the Centron Corporation, a production company that specialized in industrial and educational films from the 1940s through the 1990s. Childhood friends and aspiring filmmakers Russell Mosser and Arthur Wolf started working in films together while they were attending the University of Kansas. Their first film was “Sewing Simple Seams,” a one-reel sewing lesson. The rights for this film were purchased by a large instructional film company, and soon Centron grew to be a successful, independent film production company, nationally known in the field. Their most successful film was “Leo Beuerman,” nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary short of 1969.

For your Halloween preparation and enjoyment, here, compliments of Internet Archive, is Centron’s film “Halloween Safety,” produced in 1977 and now in the public domain. This film was directed by Herk Harvey, who would go on to direct “Carnival of Souls,” another excellent film to watch in preparation of Halloween. Be safe out there, little trick-or-treaters!

Image of "Halloween Safety" Film title sequence.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Authors’ Rights and the Relativity of Luckombe’s Plagiarism

January 23rd, 2017

Public Services Student Assistant Megan Fox considers printing history and changing notions of authorship in a favorite volume from the stacks.

Philip Luckombe, an eighteenth-century English printer and author, compiled the information in his book The History and Art of Printing with the express intention for it to be a reference to the general public about the history of printing from 1400 to roughly 1660 and the basic processes of historic printing. As he states in the introduction, “The entire motive which induces the Editor to this publication, is to promote the Theory and Practice of the Art of Printing… books on this subject are extremely scarce.”  Luckombe’s book contains many interesting features beyond its content, including an ornamental border on all the pages and numerous examples of typefaces. Additionally, Luckcombe includes illustrations printed by letterpress, rather than metal engravings, which were common at the time but which use a different printing technique. Luckcombe observes, “As this work treats of the Letter-Press only, we think it needless to apologize for not decorating it with Copper-Plates [engravings], judging it not pertinent in work of this kind to make use of the workmanship of any other authors than compositors.” However, a previous owner of the Spencer Research Library’s copy of The History and Art of Printing may have wished Luckombe had included more illustrations; he or she has pasted an extra illustration of printers in the printshop the end of the text.

Title page of Luckcombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771) To the public from Luckcombe's History and Art of Printing (1771)

Left: The title page of Philip Luckombe’s The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlardand J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1 Right: The beginning of Luckombe’s “To the Public” preface. Click images to enlarge.

Luckombe describes all of this in his introductory “To The Public” note before the body of the text. In doing so, he also explains that the majority of the content is not actually his own, but rather “from whole works we have made copious extracts, several of which are in the author’s own words, though not pointed out as such.” As a college student, this line in the introduction struck me as ridiculous. If I tried to copy huge sections of others’ work in one of my papers with only a short note in the introduction stating I am doing so – and without even naming all of the authors from whom I am borrowing – plagiarism identification software such as SafeAssign would flag it immediately.  I would get a zero on the assignment and perhaps fail the class; I might even face university sanctions. In the twenty-first century a huge emphasis is placed on the value of authorship, and citing your work is paramount to good writing and scholarship. However, as Luckombe demonstrates, this was not always the case. Plagiarism, it seems, used to be acceptable.

Caslon's Specimen of Printing Types from Luckombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771)

Section title to Luckombe’s reproduction of William Caslon’s typefaces. Caslon is one of the few people Luckombe credits in his compilation of information about the history of printing.

Luckcombe’s use of others’ work brings to the forefront the interesting question of authorship and copyright in the eighteenth century. The idea that authors “own” their words after publication and distribution was developed through European print culture, which separated the idea of owning a physical copy of a book and owning said book’s intellectual or artistic content in order to establish author’s “rights” (Feather 520-21). It was only in the eighteenth century that the idea of an ‘author’ as a career became feasible in Britain – periodicals and novels began to be produced for the general literate public, and writers no longer necessarily needed a patron to live off their writing (Hammerschmidt 1). As authorship became a plausible career, copyright protections began to be codified into law, making it harder for contemporary works to be copied the way Luckcombe copies large sections of historical texts. One example is the Statute of Anne in 1710, which allowed authors to sell their copyright to publishers for a 14 year term, with the option of renewal. These laws were also enacted to protect publishers and their arrangements to sell artistic and intellectual content, but as a result of this a greater appreciation of authorship developed.

Luckombe was capitalizing on the fact that the works he was borrowing from, mostly published between 1440 and 1600, fell outside of copyright. Luckombe does not detail how he gained access to these works and was able to reprint them, but the mere fact of their inclusion, largely without attribution, demonstrates the difference between eighteenth-century and modern-day understandings of authorship and plagiarism. Some of Luckcombe’s contemporaries may have disapproved of this, but his compilation of other authors’ original writings still indicates how the general mindset of the culture viewed it as acceptable.

In addition to their fascinating content, older books such as The History and Art of Printing also can offer us a powerful reminder that nothing in society is static. The mindsets we regard as unalterable now may be perceived as simply a twenty-first century oddity by future generations. Concepts of plagiarism and authorial property were not the same in Luckombe’s time as they are today, and they will continue to evolve in the future.

Megan Fox
Public Services Student Assistant

Works Cited

Feather, John. “Copyright and the Creation of Literary Property.” Companion to the History of the Book. Eds. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 520-530. Print.

Hammerschmidt, Soren. “Introduction: Between Geniuses and Brain-Suckers. Problematic Professionalism in Eighteenth-Century Authorship.” Authorship Vol 4.1 (2015) p 1-4.

Luckombe, Philip. The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlard and J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1


Meet the KSRL Staff: Emily Beran

September 20th, 2016

This is the ninth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in July 2016, Emily Beran is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Library Assistant for Public Services.

Emily Beran, Library Assistant for Public Services

Where are you from?

I’m from Claflin, this little town in central Kansas.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I’m primarily responsible for running reception and assisting with the day-to-day running of things at the Spencer (helping with schedule, office inventory, working with students, etc.). I’m also learning more about the collection right now so that soon I can page materials for patrons and help with research questions.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I actually worked for KU Libraries for three years as an undergrad (Watson Cataloging Department). When I saw there was an opening at the Spencer for a library assistant, I knew I had to apply! Not only did the position bring me back to KU but it also gave me the opportunity to work in an environment that really prizes research and accessibility to the amazing resources available here.

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

Narrowing this down is so hard! Right now I’m really excited about the facsimiles of The St Alban’s Psalter and The Relics of St Cuthbert that I stumbled upon just the other day! Those are at the top of my list of items to check out!

What part of your job do you like best?

Learning more about the collection! I can’t wait to explore more!

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I love to read – something I can do for fun again now that I’m done with my master’s. I also watch a ridiculous amount of Netlfix. Oh and I’m working on learning French!

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

Never be afraid to ask questions! It’s the best way to learn!

Emily Beran
Library Assistant
Public Services


New Spencer Resource for National History Day

July 1st, 2016

The staff of Spencer Research Library is pleased to announce the addition of an online resource dedicated to aiding students and teachers with National History Day (NHD) projects. Our hope is that this new web page will not only direct NHD researchers to the resources of our library, but will also make valuable connections between students, teachers, and our knowledgeable librarians, curators, and archivists.

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Spencer Research Library’s new online resource for students and teachers
participating in National History Day. Click images to enlarge.

NHD began in 1974 as a small competition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for students in sixth through twelfth grade. The program proved to be a great success, and it grew until it included not only Ohio, but the surrounding Midwestern states. Developing into a national organization by 1980, NHD moved its headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area in 1992. NHD now conducts year-round programs across the country and holds an annual national contest at the University of Maryland.

National History Day has grown from 129 students in 1974 to more than half a million students in forty-eight states today. Entering competition through their local schools, students develop entries individually or in groups. Choosing from one of five categories (Documentary, Exhibit, Paper, Performance, or Website), they compete in a series of competitions beginning at the local level; winners in each category advance to the regional, state, and national contests.

NHD’s stated mission is to provide students with a chance to study historical content, resulting in the development of research, critical thinking and improved communication skills through the study of history, and to provide educators with resources and training to enhance classroom teaching. The staff of Spencer Research Library hopes that this new web resource will provide a valuable research tool to assist with that mission.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services