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This interface is operating on outdated technology that isn’t being updated.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 Finding Aids, July-December 2018

January 15th, 2019

If you have conducted research at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the past, then perhaps you already know about some of the collections listed here as having “new” finding aids. The library has been in physical existence for 50 years, and KU Libraries started collecting archival and manuscript materials long before there was a separate building to house them. However, KSRL has only been producing online finding aids for 20 years. This means that over those same 20 years, manuscripts processing staff have added information about legacy collections online as time and resources permit.

We added several legacy collection finding aids in the last six months of 2018 that you will see on this list, but we also worked on new collections!  Whether you want to know more about how basketball came to China, the Lawrence, Kansas literary scene, or prominent African American families of Kansas, we have something for everyone at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Photograph of the 1928 Tientsin Civilian Basketball Team, from the volume Tientsin Civilian Basketball Team Season 1927-28 Records 1926-28 in the personal papers of Charles A. Siler

Photograph of the 1928 Tientsin Civilian Basketball Team,
from the volume Tientsin Civilian Basketball Team
Season 1927-28 Records 1926-28 in the personal papers
of Charles A. Siler. Call #: PP 595, box 1 folder 30.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of a concrete poem that begins "Progress / Today Yesterday [...]" in the collection of John Fowler

Concrete poem by John Fowler, from his collection.
Call #: MS 344 box 1 folder 11.
Click image to enlarge.


Image of a page from the passport of Annabelle Sawyer, revealng stamps from France and the Consulate of Lebanon in New York.

A page from Annabelle Sawyer’s passport;
she served as a missionary in Sierra Leone as well as
traveled for pleasure. Nathaniel Sawyer family papers.
Call #: RH MS 1460, box 1 folder 47. Click image to enlarge.  


Finding aids newly published online in July-December 2018:

“Frozen in Time” J. J. Pennell exhibit photos, 1896-1922 (RH PH 48)

Photographs of Oklahoma scenes, approximately 1901-1903 (RH PH 150)

Josea M. Tyler collection, 1972-2014 (RH MS 1456, RH MS Q442)

Reese-Hanlon family photographs, approximately 1890-1967 (bulk 1890s-1940s), RH PH 181

Personal papers of James E. Dykes, 1960-1966 (PP 598)

Personal papers of F. Allan Hanson, 1961-1963 (PP 597)

Personal papers of Charles A. Siler, 1890-1982 (PP 595)

Glen Kappelman World War II photographs collection, 1944-1945, 1999, 2000 (bulk 1944-1945) (RH PH 533, RH PH 533(f))

Douglas County Genealogical Society records, 1975-2002 (RH MS 1450)

Edward Everett Hale letter, May 14, 1854 (RH MS P960)

Lawrence Memorial Hospital architectural records, 1933-1996 (RH AD 12, RH MS 1451)

Typescript of Destiny’s Road by Larry Niven, September 1996 (MS 343)

Personal papers of John B. Bremner, 1930-1986 (PP 600)

“Visualizing Muscles” scrapbook, 1995 (PP 599)

Papers of Arla Jones & Kimberly Kreicker, 1980s-2009 (RH MS 1452, RH MS S57)

President Obama’s Kansas Heritage oral history project, 2009-2017 (RH MS 1462, KC AV 55)

C.Y. Thomas collection, 1887-1981 (bulk 1940s-1970s) (RH MS 539, RH MS Q437, RH MF 192)

Nathaniel Sawyer family papers, circa 1880-2012 (bulk 1950s-1990s) (RH MS 1460, RH MS-P 1460, RH MS R437)

John Fowler collection, 1965-2015 (MS 344, MS Q76)

Personal papers of David Guth, 2013-2015 (PP 603, UA AV 5)

Personal papers of Margaret L. Anderson, 1963-1972 (PP 602)

Personal papers of Richard Dyer MacCann, May 1999 (PP 601)

Harold Covington collection, 1980-2011 (RH WL MS 52)

Funeral service programs from the Topeka, Kansas-based African American community, 1956, 1962, 1964 (RH MS P961)

Hutchinson, KS NAACP collection, 1982-2017 (RH MS 1457, RH MS-P 1457(ff))

Rhoda Louise Meredith’s “Book of Stunts and Frolics,” circa 1929-1937, 1977 (RH MS BK8)

“Shawnee Indian History, 1688-1832” manuscript, undated [not before 1832] (RH MS P385)

Richard B. Sheridan papers, 1906-2005 (RH MS 1468, RH MS-P 1468, RH MS-P 1468(f), RH MS R439)

Voth, Unruh, & Banman families collection, 1865-2009 (RH MS 1455, RH MS-P 1455, RH MS-P 1455(f), RH MS Q441, RH MS R434, RH MS R435)

North family papers, approximately 1250-1856 (bulk 1500-1797) (MS 240A, MS D128, MS Q5, MS Q17, MS Q75, MS Qa1:5-6, MS Qa14)

Personal papers of Arthur Binion Amerson, Jr., 1961-1962 (PP 605)

Personal papers of Kristine McCusker, 1990s (PP 604)

Post by
Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

New Finding Aids, December 2017-June 2018

July 17th, 2018

Interested in what’s become recently available for research amongst the archival materials at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library? Then you’ve come to the right place! Below is the listing of finding aids newly published in the past several months.

For those of you of with an artistic or musical bent, here are a few images to whet your appetite:

A thank you poem from Leonard Bernstein, in the Joyce Castle collection

A thank you poem from Leonard Bernstein in the Joyce Castle collection.
Call Number: RH MS 1441, Box 1, Folder 30. Click image to enlarge.

Still image of Marya Ouspenskaya from an American Laboratory Theatre production (Three Sisters?) Photographer: Maurice Goldberg

Still image of Marya Ouspenskaya from an American Laboratory Theatre
production (Three Sisters?). Photographer: Maurice Goldberg.
American Laboratory Theatre Collection. Call Number: MS 338, Box 4, Folder 78.
Click image to enlarge.

First page of sheet music from Laurel Everette Anderson’s “Quartet in C Minor for Strings” (Fourth Movement, Introduction and Allegro)

First page of sheet music from Laurel Everette Anderson’s “Quartet in C Minor for Strings”
(Fourth Movement, Introduction and Allegro). Personal Papers of Laurel Anderson.
Call Number: PP 587, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

If that has piqued your interest, here is the full list of new finding aids:

Merrill Ross collection, approximately 1944-1977 (RH MS P558, RH MS-P P558)

University of Kansas publication photographs, 1970-1990 (RH PH 176)

African American World War II oral history collections, 1940s, 2010-2013 (RH MS 1439, RH MS-P 1439, KC AV 26, KC AV 29)

A River Running West literary archive, [before 2001] (RH MS 981, RH MS Q249, RH MS R201)

Denise Low papers, 1970-2013 (MS 334, MS Qa19)

American Laboratory Theatre records, 1923-1982 (bulk 1925-1930) (MS 338, MS Q73, MS Qa20, MS K33, MS E278)

Alexander L. Boyle artworks, 1965-1992 (PP 548)

Personal papers of John Macauley, 1960s-1980s (PP 464)

Community Mercantile oral history transcripts, 1996-2001 (RH MS 570)

Senator Fred Kerr papers, 1976-1992 (bulk 1988-1992) (RH MS 544)

Gordon Parks clippings and obituary materials, 1969, 1991, 2006 (RH MS P884, RH MS R277)

Personal papers of Laurel Anderson, circa 1935-1986 (PP 587)

Polly Lovitt biography, 2012 (PP 584, UA AV 1)

Personal papers of Russell Mesler, 1949-1992 (PP 582)

Personal papers of Glenn Parker, 1902-1955 (PP 586)

Personal papers of Ray J. Stanclift, Jr., 1941-1954, 1990 (PP 585)

J. Collins letter regarding the Pony Express route, September 10, 1951 (RH MS P703)

Ida Mae Newsom collection, 1930s-1980s (RH MS P593, RH MS-P 593)

Miscellaneous Kansas photographers collection, 1886, 1894, undated (RH PH 165)

Portraits and activities of African Americans in Kansas City, KS, approximately 1955-1988 (RH PH 174)

Photographic collection of portraits, landscapes, and buildings and structures, interiors, etc., approximately 1910-1950 (RH PH 11)

John Scoville collection, 1934, 1947, 1960, 1962-2003 (RH WL MS 48, RH WL MS Q6, RH WL MS R4)

William H. Morrison’s letters from the Nebraska Territory, 1864-1865 (RH MS P923)

Ole J. Olsen photographs, approximately 1900-1910? (RH PH 83)

Mrs. Oscar Polk photographs, approximately 1912-1919 (RH PH 102)

Nancy Porter photographs, approximately 1896-1958 (RH PH 62)

Seelander & Swanson Sign Company photographs, approximately 1940s-1960s? (RH PH 138)

David Stout’s ration book, October 1943 (RH MS P924)

Modern homes and other scenes of Lawrence, KS, 1970s? (KC AV 28)

Warner-Johnson Photographic Studio collection, 1893-1987 (RH MS 1440, RH MS-P 1440, RH MS-P 1440(f))

John C. Tibbetts portraits collection, 1981-2016 (MS Q74, MS Qa23)

Natural History Art and Illustration by D. D. Tyler, 1971-2014 (MS 337, MS Q72, MS Qa22, MS R19)

Personal papers of Roger Martin, 1980-2015 (PP 588, UA AV 2, UA AV 3)

Personal papers of Charles Stansifer, 1963-2012 (PP 589)

Personal papers of Jack Brooking (Beach), 1956-1974 (PP 590)

Warren Corman architectural drawings, bulk 1950s-1960s (PP 592)

Personal papers of Morton Green, 1939-2003 (PP 591)

John Lee papers, 1989-1996 (RH MS 1428, RH AD 11, RH MS R425)

O’Dell-Wilson family photographs, circa 1890-1930 (RH PH 63)

George Pollock photograph collection, approximately 1890s (RH PH P2821, RH PH 101)

Savage-Alford families photographs, approximately 1860-1916 (RH PH 59)

Geraldine Slater photograph collection, 1920s (RH PH P2830, RH PH 52)

Argentine River Improvement stock certificate, 1887 (RH MS P952)

Joyce Castle collection, 1843, 1903, 1953-2014 (RH MS 1441, RH MS Q434, KC AV 35)

Jane Wofford Malin collection, 1860s, 1890s-2016 (bulk 1926-2016) (RH MS 1444, RH MS R429, RH MS-P 1444, RH MS-P 1444(f), KC AV 44)

Jesse T. Roberts land certificate, 1854 (RH MS Q436)

David Samuels postcards collection, approximately 1900-1950s (RH PH 65, RH MS DK2)

Unidentified couple carte de visite, approximately 1880-1900 (RH PH P2829)

Moseley & Company photographs of Kansas City buildings, approximately 1920s-1969 (RH PH 135, RH PH 135(f))

H. Mulch collection, approximately 1908-1982 (RH PH 117, RH Cassette Tape 5)

Nebraska State Penitentiary photographs, approximately 1870 and 1910 (RH PH 129, RH PH 129(f))

Willard G. Ransom photographs, approximately 1900-1940 (RH PH 54)

Reuter Organ Company photographs, approximately 1917-1940s (RH PH 68)

Kenison family photographs, approximately 1890-1905 (RH PH 97)

Stanley Schmidt papers, 1976-2013 (MS 341)

Stanley, Kansas photograph album, approximately 1920s (RH PH 123)

Personal papers of Marlin D. Harmony, 1960-1998 (PP 593)

Personal papers of Roger L. Kaesler, 1961-2003 (PP 594)

Personal papers of Robert W. Wilson, 1937-2003 (PP 596)

Robert Hess collection, 1945-2013 (RH AD 10, RH MS 1415, RH MS R413)

Kansas State Seals collection, [not before 1867 – approximately 1900?] (RH MS Q428, RH MS R430)

Elizabeth Stephens collection, 1942-2002 (RH MS 1448, RH MS Q438, KC AV 47)

Vogel family collection, 1952-2015 (RH MS 1446, KC AV 46)

Hornbooks collection, 17 and 18th centuries (MS C315)

Melvin Landsberg papers: Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos, 1956-1970 (MS 342)

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

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

On the Research Trail: Blue Books

March 30th, 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.

After having two encounters with items called “blue books” in as many days, I wondered what the origin of the term blue book is. I turned to a resource found in the Reference section of the Spencer Reading Room, i.e., the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language. According to this edition published in 1959, a blue book is defined as follows:

  1. In England, a parliamentary publication, so called from its blue paper covers; in some other countries, any similar official publication. Hence, also, an authoritative report or manual issued by a department, organization, or party.
  2. Colloq., U.S. a A register or directory of persons of social prominence. b In certain colleges, a blue-covered booklet used for writing examinations.
  3. [caps.] Trade-mark for a guidebook entitled Official Automobile Blue Book, showing roads, routes, etc., esp. for automobile tourists; also [sometimes not caps.], the guidebook itself. U.S.

Would it be possible to find an example of each type of blue book described in the dictionary definition by looking solely in the collections available at the Spencer Library? I wanted to find out.

I started with a search online at the KU Libraries website. First, I clicked on the Advanced Search button below the Quick Search box because I wanted to limit my search to the Spencer Research Library.

Screenshot of the Primo search box on the KU Libraries homepage

Click image to enlarge.

I typed in “blue book” (without quotation marks) in the first box to find items that contain those keywords. Next, I selected Library from the dropdown menu and typed in “Spencer” (without quotation marks) in the next box to limit the search to items showing Spencer Research Library as the location.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This led to 2,476 results. In a quick scan of my first few pages of search results, I did not immediately find irrelevant items, i.e., those that might contain the word blue and the word book somewhere in the catalog record but not together. (Note: selecting is exact from the dropdown menu instead of contains has the same effect as using quotation marks around the words blue book. The system searches for both words together as a phrase, bringing the search results down to 2,370 results.)

Definition 1: Official Publications and Authoritative Reports

As I scanned through my search results, I looked for items that might be examples of official or authoritative publications. Several of the items in the list were from the Little Blue Book series published by the Haldeman-Julius Press from 1919 to 1951.

Image of the cover of a Little Blue Book, "How to Find What You Want in a Library," 1929

Cover of How to Find What You Want in a Library
by Lloyd E. Smith, 1929. Call Number: RH H-J 1473 Little.
You can learn more about Little Blue Books in
Spencer’s North Gallery exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I decided to filter my search results to remove all or most of the Little Blue Books in order to identify more easily other types of blue books in the list. On the left side of KU Libraries’ page, next to the search results, I found the Narrow My Results heading. As shown in the screenshots below, I clicked on More options under Author/Creator. Then, I selected to “Exclude” the Haldeman-Julius Company and some of the authors who contributed to the Little Blue Book series. After I clicked on Continue, my search results were reduced to 159 items.

Screenshot of the "Author/Creator" option on the KU Libraries advanced search page Screenshot of the "Exclude" function on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click images to enlarge.

The example shown below is an additional authoritative or official blue book selected from my search results.

Image of the cover of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917 Image of the title page of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917

Cover (left) and title page (right) of “The Blue Book”; Woman Suffrage, History,
Arguments and Results
, 1917. Call Number: Howey B2835. Click images to enlarge.

In an attempt to find a British parliamentary blue book, I went back to the top of the search results page and added the word parliament to my search terms.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This resulted in four search results including The Parliamentary Register, an eighteenth-century history of the proceedings and debates of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, shown below.

Image of the cover of the Parliamentary Register, 1779 Image of pages of the Parliamentary Register, 1779

Although it has faded, the cover of The Parliamentary Register (1779) is blue.
The KU Libraries catalog record explains that the volumes are “as issued,” i.e., “unopened,
in printed blue paper wrappers.” See in the image above how the pages
have not been cut open at the top. Call Number: Bond C291.

Definition 2a: Directory of Persons of Social Prominence

Having found examples of blue books from the 18th and 20th centuries, I hoped to find a social register from the 19th century. I went back to my list of 159 search results and narrowed my results again, this time by date. I typed in a date range of 1800 to 1899.

Screenshot of the date filter option on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

I found the blue book shown below which was published in 1898.

Image of the cover of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898Image of the title page of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898

The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898. Call Number: RH B30. Click image to enlarge.

Definition 2b: Booklet for Exams

I determined that a good place to look for an example of a blue book used for a college exam would be in a collection of unpublished, personal papers. I started my search online using the search interface for finding aids on the Spencer website. I typed “blue book” (with quotation marks to search for both words together as a phrase) into the Search for field. I retrieved nineteen results.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

The third item in the results list seemed to be the type of blue book I was hoping to find.

Screenshot of a result on the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

I clicked on this item and viewed the finding aid which further confirmed that the blue book was from course work in 1937 and identified in which box and folder I would find it.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for the Cowell family papers

Click image to enlarge.

The exam blue book is shown below.

Image of the cover of a blue book from the Ellen Cowell School Papers, 1937

Cover of Pauline Rawlings’s blue examination book, 1937.
Ellen Cowell School Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1337.
Click image to enlarge.

Definition 3: Automobile Guide

Going back to the KU Libraries’ search results list of 159 items, I was able to locate a fascinating example of an automobile blue book, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1923, shown below.

Image of the title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923

Title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923.
At the time, not all roads were paved or marked.
Getting from one city to another sometimes meant paying close attention
to the mileage from one turn or fork in the road to the next.
Call Number: C11263. Click image to enlarge.

My search process was a success! In the Spencer Research Library collections, I was able to locate examples of each type of blue book that is described in the dictionary definition. Often, research leads to more questions. I found myself wondering about the choice of blue paper for the covers of the British parliamentary publications. Why blue? Sounds like a great topic for a new search and another blog post!

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services