The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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.

Community Outreach: Preschool Bookbinding Activity

March 20th, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to combine business and pleasure when my son’s preschool teachers put a call out to parents interested in being “Mystery Visitors” to the classroom. Parents were invited to join the class at group time to read a story, lead an activity, or share a hobby or interest. I knew that my colleagues in Conservation Services had taught workshops in the past for school-age and preschool children, which sounded like fun to me. I was excited for the chance to test my skills at communicating some basic concepts of my job to a young audience, and of course to see the (hopefully pleasantly) surprised look on my son’s face!

After talking a bit with the teachers to get a sense of the kids’ skill levels, I planned to try sewing a three-hole pamphlet with the class. The teachers felt that the kids would be able to handle the simple folding and sewing, with the three of us and an aide on hand to guide them. The class supply closet had plenty of paper for text blocks and covers, and I provided colorful plastic needles and lengths of yarn from my stash at home. From the lab, I assembled some other tools and supplies: a piercing jig made of scrap binder’s board, a few bone folders, and a chunky, blunt awl that punched the perfect, extra-large holes for small hands wielding big needles. I also made a sample book to show the class.

Pamphlet making supplies

Ready, set, sew!: pamphlet-making supplies. Click image to enlarge.

On the day of my visit, I arrived at the time of the afternoon when the class normally has “large group” time. My son’s initial bewilderment gave way to excitement when the teachers announced me as the Mystery Visitor, and I was soon swarmed with kids wanting to know what I had brought to share. The teachers and I decided to do the activity in small groups by turns, while the rest of the children played at other activities around the room. I set up at a small table and, assisted by one of the teachers, helped groups of 3 to 5 kids at a time make their own pamphlet-sewn book. I was really impressed by their folding, sewing, and especially listening skills! They were a very eager and engaged group, and it was sweet to see how proudly they displayed their finished books to their parents as they arrived for pick-up time.

The school’s privacy policy prevents me from sharing photos of children other than my own, and in any case the afternoon was a bit too energetic and fast-paced for me to take any good pictures. However, I did manage to snap a quick shot of my boy with his book as we were loading up to head home. He was quite pleased with his creation, which he began filling up with a story as soon as we got home!

Child holding finished pamphlet

Pamphlet completed and ready for stories! Click image to enlarge.


Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

The Littlest Researchers

May 23rd, 2013

For the last two years, I’ve had the joy of leading a tour for a group of very energetic library users, a group that will not need to create Aeon accounts, but does need to be reminded to use their walking feet. I’m talking about the Lawrence Community Nursery School, a cooperative preschool that has existed since the 1940s. In addition to being the school where my children attend(ed) preschool, LCNS has another special relationship with the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Like many community and civic organizations, the co-op gives their historical archives to the Kansas Collection. In fact, during the school’s last parent work day, I picked up a new accession of records that will soon be added to our collection (RH MS 616).

Lawrence Community Nursery School visit

Students from the Lawrence Community Nursery School examine historic
photograph albums from the Kansas Collection.

It’s always exciting, when giving a tour of the building, to see what holds a particular group’s attention. This is even more the case when the group in question has an average age of 4.5 years old. This year, fewer children wanted to touch the 4000 year old clay tablets than to page through the photo albums to see what the playground used to look like. The horn books, which generally elicit audible squeals once their purpose is understood, seemed strangely uninteresting this time around. And, of course, the 100 Years of Jayhawks: 1912-2012 exhibit, complete with cardboard Jayhawks, was hard to compete with.

I always remind our visitors that the collections we hold are theirs to use. And in some cases, such as the many community groups with which we work to document their essential work, the collections would not be possible without them in the first place. Looking at the faces of these eager children as they examine photographs of their beloved school from decades past, it’s hard not to feel excited about the future of our mission.

Beth M. Whittaker
Assistant Dean for Distinctive Collections and Director of Kenneth Spencer Research Library