Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.
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:
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:
This interface is operating on outdated technology that isn’t being updated.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:
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.
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.
You can also see some of our digital objects in context within our finding aids, or browse and search them separately through this interface:
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.
Marcella Huggard Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator
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.
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.
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
Late August marks the one year anniversary of the launch of Aeon at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Aeon is an online researcher account system that replaces the library’s old paper registration cards and call slips. All researchers who want to view materials in Spencer’s reading room should create an Aeon researcher account and use it to submit item requests.
Getting started is easier than ever. The library now has two new video tutorials that will help you navigate creating your Aeon account and submitting paging requests.
Aeon offers several advantages to you as a researcher:
Aeon enables you to have a lasting record of all items you view in our reading room (click on the “All requests” link on the main page of your Aeon Account). This is particularly handy when you want to look at a book or manuscript collection that you’ve examined in the past, but whose precise title or call number you can no longer remember. Gone are the days of “I remember that it was a big blue book with gold ornaments…” Now you can simply login to your account and review what you requested the last time you were here.
Aeon allows you to submit paging requests from the comfort of your own home. In fact, you can even “auto-populate” requests through KU’s online catalog. Simply click on the “Get at Spencer Link” next to the location field in the online catalog record (see image below), and you will be prompted to login to your Aeon account. Once you do, Aeon will automatically transfer information, such as the title and call number, from the catalog record to an item request. All you have to do then is scroll down and click “submit.” Once you arrive on site in our Reading Room and show a photo ID, we will page your request.
Your Aeon account is not tied to your KU online ID, which means that researchers not affiliated with KU can create accounts and that KU faculty and students are able to retain their accounts (and continue to access them!) after they leave KU.
Above: Online catalog record with the “Get at Spencer” link circled in yellow
The system is a great example of how new technology can help facilitate the delightfully hands-on work of conducting research with archives, rare books, and manuscripts. Happy first anniversary, Aeon!