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.
Supply chain issues and lower staffing levels have continued to affect our ability to process new collections in the first half of 2022, but despite this we have continued to process and describe new materials. We’ve also been able to return to a project that has long languished, in which we are inventorying and describing the official records of the University of Kansas, including creating finding aids for record groups that were previously undescribed in an easily accessible, online way. Look for updates to our record group listings throughout the rest of this year and beyond!
You’ll see some newly described record groups in the list below, amongst our other newly processed collections.
The global pandemic continues in myriad ways to affect our ability to process new collections and provide descriptive access to new collections online—but we are still doing what we can! And in the meantime, we have continued to enhance existing online description and provide online description for collections we’ve held for decades that previously had little to no exposure online, so that more of our researchers can find more of our holdings.
If you want to pleasantly surprise your guests, think over everything to the smallest detail: how the registration goes, who greets the participants and in what form, what kind of music plays, whether you have an interesting photo corner, how your presentations plan a large-scale event are designed and the team is dressed, what breaks are filled with. For example, during registration, you can provide participants with the opportunity to attend a short workshop, play games or watch informative videos. Try to surprise people and create a wow effect, exceed their expectations in the most ordinary things. This is what creates the atmosphere of the event.
Despite the challenges of hybrid schedules, lower staffing levels, supply chain issues affecting our ability to get archival supplies, and the many other issues we’ve been facing, we have finished processing several collections in the past 18 months. You can see the list of new finding aids below.
This is the first installment in a new series of posts introducing readers to student employees who make important contributions to the work of Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features student assistant Mileiny Hermosillo, who started working in Spencer’s manuscript processing unit in Fall 2018.Mileiny is an undergraduate majoring in English with a minor in business; she is graduating from KU in December 2021.
What does your job at Spencer entail?
My job as a manuscript processor involves getting collections ready for researchers to use and creating finding aids so researchers can access the information.
Why did you want to work at Spencer Research Library?
During high school I worked at a public library as a page and, later, a circulation manager. I loved the atmosphere (especially the quietness), but my favorite aspect of the job was the organizational element. When the day was slow, I would head over to the shelves and alphabetize books. It was a fun way to explore the library’s selection of books and discover titles I never would have thought of reading.
When I was searching for a job at KU, I sought out library positions because of my experience. The role of a manuscript processor seemed intriguing. I genuinely did not know what type of materials I would be working with, but it turned out to be an amazing experience.
What has been most interesting to you about your work?
Every project is like a puzzle, especially the larger collections. At the start of each project, it is hard to see the connections. With each document and photograph I slowly understand the intricate details of an artist’s work or the special moments of a person’s life. I feel a connection to each project because I catch a glimpse of past personal lives and experiences.
What piece of advice would you offer other students thinking about working at Spencer Research Library?
I recommend applying because getting to work with the collections is rewarding. I get to process photographs from photography studios, documents of people’s personal lives, and even records of KU professors. Working at Spencer does not seem like a job. It is a place to discover stories from KU, Kansas, and the Midwest.
This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Charissa Pincock, who joined the Spencer Research Library processing unit in February as a Processing Archivist.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Peoria, Illinois, area aka the corn parts of Illinois. I have also lived in states such as Texas, Nevada, Utah, and most recently Massachusetts before coming here to Lawrence, Kansas.
What does your job at Spencer entail?
I help researchers find and access collections! As collections come to the Spencer, I make sure collections are arranged in a way that follows the collection creator’s intended arrangement, or if there is no original intended order, arrange the collection in a way that is accessible for researchers and patrons. I then describe collections through creating metadata and finding aids. Researchers can then more easily discover exactly what they are looking for by searching through and using these finding aids and collection descriptions.
How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?
I pursued a history degree for my undergrad, and while talking about career possibilities with a professor, she talked about her experiences working at a special collections early in her career. It was not for her, but many of the reasons she listed out for not personally wanting to work at a special collections/archives appealed to me, and so, my career in archives begun! I processed archival collections at a few different institutions before pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science at Simmons University with an Archives Management concentration. I officially finished my program this past May, and I am ready to have free time again. I have always enjoyed working in academic special libraries and archives, and I am happy to be here at Spencer!
What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
Even though I am fairly new, I have already come across so many interesting collections! It is hard to narrow it down to just one! I will say that there are some great collections created by speculative fiction writers at Spencer and seeing their drafts and writing notes and correspondence with other writers in the field has been a fascinating look into the more behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating these creative works.
What part of your job do you like best?
Every day is different! I get to see and read about the stories and experiences of people from many different communities and times. No collection is exactly the same. And with discovering these collections, I love being part of a team that helps the broader public discover these collections as well.
What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I always love getting outside, but while stuck inside during quarantine, I have cycled through a few hobbies. My new current pastime is trying to follow along with Bob Ross painting tutorials. You also can never go wrong with a good board game!
What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
Ask questions! The Spencer Research Library has many amazing collections, and we want to let everyone know about them. Researching in a special collections or archive can be intimidating, but we have a great Public Services team that is happy to help. We have seen and heard it all, and no genuine request or question will be turned away!
Our listing of new finding aids for the first six months of 2020 might look a little sparse compared to previous lists. As my colleague Lynn Ward wrote about last month, since mid-March processing staff have had limited or no access to our unprocessed collections and so did not have much opportunity during the last few months to process new collections.
As we prepare to reopen Spencer for researchers, starting in a limited fashion, we are also starting to return to processing new collections. In the meantime, our finding aids are available online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week so you can begin your investigations from home.
Some collections we completed processing before the pandemic include this visually interesting collection of postcards of Lithuanian towns and the countryside:
For researchers interested in researching 20th-century right-wing conservative movements, the Willis Carto collection may have some interest:
Oscar Stark collected several late 19th- and early 20th-century photographic prints of African Americans, many of whom were photographed in Kansas and Missouri:
Burton Marvin served as dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas from 1948 to 1965, and his papers at Spencer include a variety of materials related to his work with KU and to his personal life in the Lawrence community:
Please read further to see what other new and legacy collections we finished creating online finding aids for before March 2020!
Douglas County records, 1855-1989 (RH MS 261, RH MS 451, RH MF 196, DCR, 1990-1995 accessions, 1997-1998 accessions, 2000-2001 accessions)