Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

National Librarian Day: Remembering Carrie Watson (1857-1943)

April 15th, 2022

April 16th is “National Librarian Day.” In honor of all library faculty and staff on KU’s campuses, here is a look back at Carrie Watson, a librarian at the University of Kansas from 1878 to 1921.

Caroline “Carrie” Morehouse Watson was born in Amenia, New York, on March 31, 1957. The following year, her family moved to Lawrence, Kansas Territory. They did so, like the abolitionist settlers who came before them, to ensure that Kansas would enter the Union as a free state. When she was five, Confederate guerilla chief William Quantrill and his band of men raided Lawrence, killing approximately 200 men and boys. Carrie attended survivor reunions and can be seen in group photographs.

Sepia-toned headshot photograph of a young woman. Her hair is pulled up, and she is wearing large earrings and a white ruffle collar.
Carrie Watson about the time she graduated from KU, circa 1877. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Carrie graduated from the University of Kansas in 1877. Several months later, Chancellor James A. Marvin (whose tenure lasted from 1874 to 1883) appointed her Assistant to the Librarian of the University. At that time, the position of “Librarian” was held by a faculty member chosen annually by the chancellor. The holdings of the library consisted of about 2,500 books – mostly government documents – housed in a room in old Fraser Hall (located roughly where modern Fraser Hall currently stands).

Black-and-white photograph of male and female students sitting and reading at long wooden tables. Lamps hang from the tall ceilings, and bookcases line the two visible walls.
The student reading room in Old Fraser Hall, 1886. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/0 1886: University of Kansas Libraries (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Carrie earned the title of Librarian in 1887, under Chancellor Joshua Lippincott (1883-1889). She had taken courses in librarianship as she could, mostly over summer breaks, and traveled to the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Library, and Boston Public Library to gain additional training. KU’s new library building was ready in 1894, and the holdings were moved from Fraser Hall to Spooner Library (now Spooner Hall).

Black-and-white photograph of male and female students sitting and reading at wooden tables arranged in two rows with a cleared aisle in the middle.
The Reading Room at Spooner Library, 1895. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/0 1895: University of Kansas Libraries (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Throughout her career at KU, Carrie oversaw the expansion of holdings such that when she retired in 1921 the library had about 140,000 volumes, 1,185 periodicals, and 121 newspapers. After her retirement, Carrie continued to serve in the KU Library, mostly as an unpaid volunteer.

Sepia-toned photograph of two women sitting at a roll-top desk.
Carrie Watson consulting with a colleague, undated. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Thirty years after moving into Spooner, the library, again, had outgrown its space. A new building was approved by the Kansas Legislature. It was completed in 1924 and named Watson Library, forever honoring KU’s first true librarian.

In a December 1943 article for The Graduate Magazine, author Margaret Lynn wrote:

What Miss Watson had inherited of pioneer spirit went into the library. She did not merely take what was put into her hands and make a temporary best of it. She saw the needs of a University library and fought for them, sometimes with authorities who did not see what an investment a library should be. She faced regents and chancellors and professors. She carried on with a staff too small, and quite untrained except in what she taught it. She managed with inadequate or crude equipment. When in 1894 the library was moved from the rooms in Fraser Hall to the new building, the gift of W.B. Spooner, it was a great day. At last there was enough space! But not one assistant had been added to the small staff. Miss Watson had a share in the development of her state also. She was a pioneer in state library work. She was ready to carry what she had learned to those who were still at the beginning. She assisted in state organizations. She was on state committees. She spoke at conferences. She helped librarians-to-be with fundamental instruction. She lectured [to] high school libraries, to education classes in the University. She lectured on bibliography to history classes. She had not only a task but a mission….The three institutions which in childhood she saw beginning – the State, the University, the Library – she lived to see established and developed. She could not have guessed how important a part she was to have in them.

Black-and-white photograph of a woman sitting at a desk reading a book.
Carrie Watson at her desk, 1939. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Pole Vault Edition

May 27th, 2021

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Congratulations to the KU men’s and women’s track and field teams competing at the NCAA West Preliminary this week. Three Jayhawks – including two in the pole vault event – have already earned bids to the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Rock Chalk!

Photograph of an athlete at mid-height of a pole vault, 1965
An athlete at mid-height of a pole vault at Memorial Stadium, April 16, 1965. Dyche Hall and Old Fraser Hall – which was razed about four months after this photo was taken – can be seen in the background. Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG LJW 66/19 1965 April 16 Negatives: Athletic Department: Track (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Klepper
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Socially-Distanced Get-Together Edition

April 1st, 2021

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of two KU students sitting on a "No Crossing" bar, 1900-1909
Two students on campus, 1900-1909. Behind them – in the middle of the photo – is Old Fraser Hall, which sat roughly where the current Fraser Hall is now located. Behind the students to the right is Old Snow Hall, which sat approximately in front of Watson Library after the latter building opened in 1924. The students are sitting on or adjacent to what is now Jayhawk Boulevard. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/0 1910s Prints: Student Activities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Klepper
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Inauguration Edition

January 21st, 2021

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Who spent part of their day yesterday watching the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris?

Photograph of the inauguration procession of Chancellor Frank Strong, October 17, 1902
Inauguration procession of KU Chancellor Frank Strong, October 17, 1902. The group is standing on the steps of Old Fraser Hall. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/8 1902: Chancellors: Frank Strong (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The group in the photo includes, from left to right,

The Lawrence Daily World reported on the inaugural events the following day (October 18, 1902) in multiple articles, as seen below. The newspaper praised all aspects of the inauguration, arguing that overall it was “the most successful event ever consummated in this town” and “one that will live in university history as the greatest educational event in the west up to this time.” Humorously, the newspaper also noted that “while the programme [sic] was long it had to be so. Chancellor Strong has much to say and could not have outlined his policy in fewer words.”

Article, "A New Head at Lawrence," Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902
Article, "Merry Banquetters," Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902
Article, "It Was Great," Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902
Article, "It Was Great," Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902
Article, "The Inaugural," Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902
Articles about Chancellor Strong’s inauguration in the Lawrence Daily World, October 18, 1902. Images via Newspapers.com. Click images to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Old Fraser Hall Edition

November 12th, 2020

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of University (Old Fraser) Hall, 1870s
KU’s “New Building” (later called University and Old Fraser Hall), 1870s. The structure was located approximately where modern Fraser Hall now stands. Note the lack of trees and relatively few other buildings. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/24 1870s Prints: Campus: Buildings: Fraser Hall Old (Photos). This image is a copy of a photograph held in the Robert Benecke Collection at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Opened in 1872, the “New Building” was KU’s second building. According to an article on the KU History website, “when John Fraser, KU’s second chancellor, took office in 1868, he found the school’s 122 students crammed into a single, 11-room building [North College] with no central heating, although each room did have its own stove.” North College does not appear to be visible in the above photo.

By comparison, the majestic “New Building” boasted the most modern of nineteenth-century amenities:

The entire structure, noted the Fort Scott Daily Monitor on June 6, 1872, “will be heated with steam and lighted with gas, and every room will be supplied with water.” And although electric lights did not appear at KU until 1888, the building featured electrically powered clocks in each room. In addition, mechanically inclined students would also be able to work with steam-driven engines, lathes and other machinery. Being 300 feet long, 100 feet wide, and rising four stories, it was spacious enough to house the entire University: departmental and administrative offices, laboratories, classrooms, the library, a student reading room, even a large, second-floor auditorium.

“New Building” became officially known as University Hall in 1879. KU changed the name of the building to Fraser Hall in 1897 to honor John Fraser, the building’s champion. “Old” Fraser Hall was razed in August 1965 to make way for the “New” Fraser Hall that stands on Mount Oread today.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services