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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!