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

Meet the KSRL Staff: Chris Banuelos

January 9th, 2017

This is the eleventh installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Chris Banuelos is the Audiovisual Preservation Specialist for Conservation Services at the University of Kansas Libraries.

Chris Banuelos, Audiovisual Preservation Specialist, Spencer Research Library.
Chris relaxing in the lounge at Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Where are you from?

I grew up in and around Greater Los Angeles, or the Southland, as they call it. I have lived in the San Gabriel Valley, OC, Inland Empire (specifically the Pomona Valley), and Gateway Cities regions.

What does your job at KU Libraries and Spencer Research Library entail?

Officially, I am the Audiovisual Preservation Specialist. As such, I am responsible for the care, maintenance, and potential reformatting of the A/V materials housed here within the various collections at Spencer. The care and maintenance component involves adhering to the best practices and standards for the handling and storage of the myriad A/V formats living at the library (which runs the gamut from motion picture film to tape-based material to digital files), including the machines necessary to play back the content.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

For a brief time, a job listing for the position had been floating around the list-serv of the graduate program I attended at NYU. On a whim I applied and through a stroke of luck, participated in a series of interviews that lead to acquiring the job.

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

By far, my favorite part of the library is the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements. In particular, there is a VHS tape I really want to watch called Demon U.F.O.s. Because the only thing worse than a demon OR a u.f.o. is a combination demon u.f.o.

What part of your job do you like best?

The paycheck! No, but really, having the opportunity to create an A/V infrastructure that works in tandem with the extant (and wildly successful) Conservation Department is a fantastically noble challenge. The university houses some really great content that is begging for further study and I am rather excited to be a part of its discovery. Um, and the paycheck.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I don’t know that I have a pastime. I try to at least talk, if not Skype with my daughter every day. She’s eight and is absolutely hilarious.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask for anything. Everyone that works in Spencer is extremely accommodating to patron requests and is willing to go the extra mile to obtain whatever it is that is being asked for.

Chris Banuelos
Audiovisual Preservation Specialist
Conservation Services

Meet the KSRL Staff: Karen Cook

November 14th, 2016

This is the tenth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Karen Cook is the Special Collections Librarian responsible for curating rare books and manuscripts from Continental Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia.

Karen Cook, Special Collections Librarian, Spencer Research Library.
Karen Cook, Special Collections Librarian,
Spencer Research Library.

Where are you from?

Although I was born in New York City, my hometown is Cooperstown, a small village located in at the foot of Otsego Lake in the lovely Appalachian foothills of upstate New York. It was founded by James Fenimore Cooper’s father in 1786 but is best known as the home of the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame (founded 1939).

What does your job at Spencer entail?

As a Special Collections Librarian in Kenneth Spencer Research Library (KSRL), I curate rare books and manuscripts from Continental Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia. My subject specialties are the graphic arts, maps, and the history of science. My main responsibilities are collection development, reference, instruction, and exhibitions.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

My academic background is in art history (BA) and geography (specializing in maps and their history) (MS & PhD). My first career was as a cartographer, but a move to London, England led to work as a librarian in the British Library Map Library. After a decade there, I returned to the USA in 1996 and came to KU, intending to learn computer mapping and return to my earlier career. At the same time, though, I began working part-time in KSRL, where the staff were so welcoming and the work so interesting that I decided to enroll in the library science graduate program program at Emporia State University (ESU). During three years of part-time graduate study at ESU I worked as the Operations Manager of the T.R. Smith Map Collection in Anschutz Library. Just as I finished the ESU program in 2001, a librarian position opened up in KSRL’s Special Collections, and I’ve been here ever since.

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

The Consolidator, a satirical fantasy written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1705, criticizes the evils of life on Earth by contrasting it with an imaginary utopian civilization of Moon dwellers. The English narrator travels to China and thence by rocket ship to the Moon, where a Lunar philosopher shows him warfare and famine happening on Earth through magic glasses. The Lunarians debate how to depict this information and decide to produce a separate thematic map of each of these phenomena. This narrative, written a century before thematic maps would become common, has led me to research Defoe’s sources of information about mapmaking.

What part of your job do you like best?

The best part of my job is the variety of interesting tasks that I do, all centered around the history of books (and maps).

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Research and writing about the history of cartography is a major interest. Less academic pastimes are gardening and botanical illustration.

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

Register and go into the reading room. Tell the librarian/archivist on duty what you are interested in and ask for suggestions or a referral to someone who handles that subject specialty.

Karen Cook
Special Collections Librarian
Special Collections

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

 

Meet the KSRL Staff: Letha Johnson

July 11th, 2016

This is the eighth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Letha Johnson is the Assistant Archivist for Spencer Research Library’s University Archives.

Letha Johnson, Assistant Archivist for the University Archives

Letha Johnson in front of Jayhawker Yearbooks which are part of the University Archives
reference collection found in the Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room at Spencer Research Library.

Where are you from?

Salina, KS.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I am responsible for overseeing the appraisal, processing, management, and accessibility of records in the University archives regardless of physical format.  I work towards expanding the archives responsibility of the University’s electronic records and provide records management, reference, and outreach services across campus and beyond. I also ensure space is allocated for proper storage and order of collections in all formats and that knowledge of locations is maintained. By utilizing recognized standards and methodologies in managing digital collections and electronic records and media, I work towards expanding the availability of digital collections on the library website.

How did you come to work in archives? 

I wanted to do something in the history field besides teaching in secondary education.

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

KU’s first account ledger from 1864 to 1867.  It has the names of prominent figures in KU, Lawrence, and Kansas history.

What part of your job do you like best?

There’s a great deal of variety in my job, so it’s always interesting. I learn something new almost every day.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Reading and hanging out with my family and friends.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask questions in general.  The staff is here to help.

Letha Johnson
Assistant Archivist
University Archives