Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Meet the KSRL Staff: Stacey Wiens

November 10th, 2017

This is the twelfth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in October 2017, Stacey Wiens is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Reference Specialist in Public Services.

Photograph of Stacey Wiens

Where are you from?

I moved to Kansas from California (the state where I was born), but I have also lived in Texas, Colorado, and Missouri.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My job is about helping users of the library to access the materials and find the resources that best meet their needs. I am still in the training phase for my position, but I will eventually assist researchers in person at the Spencer Reading Room and also respond to off-site researchers through email and phone.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I am coming to the library field as a second career after having been a teacher for several years.

I graduated with my master’s in library science in May 2017. While I was in the MLS program, I found that I was drawn to the issues related to special collections and archives such as how to provide access but also protect these materials over time. I completed a graduate certificate in archival management along with my master’s degree.

While in graduate school, I was working as a librarian at a public library in California and lived in an area where opportunities to work in archival institutions are limited. When I had the chance to apply for the Reference Specialist position at Spencer Research Library, I saw it as opportunity to apply my past experience as a reference librarian and educator while being exposed to work in a special collections and archives setting.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

Three recent interactions with materials stand out:

  1. The John Gould materials in the Ellis Ornithology Collection are a treat to view. Products from the entire lithography printing process can be examined, i.e., the beginning pencil sketches, inked and painted masters, rubbed transfer images, stone printing plates, and vibrantly-colored final prints. I highly recommend visiting the exhibit in the North Gallery of Spencer Research Library to learn more about John Gould, the artists who worked with him, and the lithography process. Also, check out a 2014 blog post by Special Collections Librarian Karen Cook.
  2. I saw drawings from the Kansas City Terminal Railway that are plans for building a train trestle (a supportive structure over a low place in the landscape). These drawings were from a time before calculations and schematics could be produced by computers. I was struck by the knowledge and skills that are represented by the intricately-detailed drawings with load-bearing information included for each support.
  3. While looking through some of the early KU yearbooks, I found them to be entertaining and revealing of perspectives from a particular point in time. For example, in 1884, the KU departmental classifications were listed as Science, Literature, and Art; Elementary Instruction; Law; Music; and Normal. In the 1903 yearbook, the member lists for a Bachelor’s Club and an Old Maid’s Club were included. Advertisements in yearbooks also offer insights into daily life of a particular time. In 1884, ads revealed that pianos, organs, and sewing machines were often sold in the same store. An ad from 1903 purported that purchasing granulated opium is the best choice for making tinctures.

What part of your job do you like best?

I enjoy helping researchers discover and use the tools they need to feel confident in their search processes. I like the problem-solving aspects of maintaining awareness of our resources and how best to match our resources to a research question. Watching classes of students interact with Spencer materials, especially when they can’t help but show their excitement, is another fun part of my job.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Being out in beautiful natural settings, exploring places that are new to me, creating art, playing tennis, and watching sports with my husband are some of my favorite activities when not working.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Don’t be intimidated by the process at Spencer. Although it is a different research experience in that you don’t have access to browse the shelves of materials, the request process is fairly straightforward, and the staff is eager to assist you as needed. Allow yourself plenty of time to interact with Spencer’s rich and intriguing materials. Sometimes, using primary source documents, for example, can require some extra time to determine if the items contain what you need.

It’s a great idea to acquaint yourself with the Spencer Research Library website before visiting. The Aeon system for requesting materials, the KU Libraries catalog, and Spencer finding aids are available online. Feel free to contact the Spencer Public Services staff if you have questions before you visit. We look forward to seeing you at Spencer!

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Meet the KSRL Staff: Emily Beran

September 20th, 2016

This is the ninth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in July 2016, Emily Beran is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Library Assistant for Public Services.

Emily Beran, Library Assistant for Public Services

Where are you from?

I’m from Claflin, this little town in central Kansas.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I’m primarily responsible for running reception and assisting with the day-to-day running of things at the Spencer (helping with schedule, office inventory, working with students, etc.). I’m also learning more about the collection right now so that soon I can page materials for patrons and help with research questions.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I actually worked for KU Libraries for three years as an undergrad (Watson Cataloging Department). When I saw there was an opening at the Spencer for a library assistant, I knew I had to apply! Not only did the position bring me back to KU but it also gave me the opportunity to work in an environment that really prizes research and accessibility to the amazing resources available here.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

Narrowing this down is so hard! Right now I’m really excited about the facsimiles of The St Alban’s Psalter and The Relics of St Cuthbert that I stumbled upon just the other day! Those are at the top of my list of items to check out!

What part of your job do you like best?

Learning more about the collection! I can’t wait to explore more!

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I love to read – something I can do for fun again now that I’m done with my master’s. I also watch a ridiculous amount of Netlfix. Oh and I’m working on learning French!

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Never be afraid to ask questions! It’s the best way to learn!

Emily Beran
Library Assistant
Public Services

 

New Spencer Resource for National History Day

July 1st, 2016

The staff of Spencer Research Library is pleased to announce the addition of an online resource dedicated to aiding students and teachers with National History Day (NHD) projects. Our hope is that this new web page will not only direct NHD researchers to the resources of our library, but will also make valuable connections between students, teachers, and our knowledgeable librarians, curators, and archivists.

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Image of KSRL History Day online resource

Spencer Research Library’s new online resource for students and teachers
participating in National History Day. Click images to enlarge.

NHD began in 1974 as a small competition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for students in sixth through twelfth grade. The program proved to be a great success, and it grew until it included not only Ohio, but the surrounding Midwestern states. Developing into a national organization by 1980, NHD moved its headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area in 1992. NHD now conducts year-round programs across the country and holds an annual national contest at the University of Maryland.

National History Day has grown from 129 students in 1974 to more than half a million students in forty-eight states today. Entering competition through their local schools, students develop entries individually or in groups. Choosing from one of five categories (Documentary, Exhibit, Paper, Performance, or Website), they compete in a series of competitions beginning at the local level; winners in each category advance to the regional, state, and national contests.

NHD’s stated mission is to provide students with a chance to study historical content, resulting in the development of research, critical thinking and improved communication skills through the study of history, and to provide educators with resources and training to enhance classroom teaching. The staff of Spencer Research Library hopes that this new web resource will provide a valuable research tool to assist with that mission.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Meet the KSRL Staff: Kathy Lafferty

May 17th, 2016

This is the seventh installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Kathy Lafferty is the Copy Services Manager at Spencer Research Library.

Kathy Lafferty, Copy Services Manager, Public Services, Spencer Research Library.

Kathy Lafferty, Library Coordinator/Copy Services Manager
for Spencer Research Library’s Public Services Department

Where are you from?

Both sides of my family are from Ohio. My father joined the Navy shortly before my parents married, and I was born in San Diego, California. For most of my childhood I lived in Pennsylvania.  I’ve also lived in Ohio, New York and Tennessee.  However now, when people ask me where I’m from, I say Kansas.  I’ve lived here since 1983.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My title is “Library Coordinator.” As a member of the Public Services staff, my main job is to manage and process the reproduction requests that come to Spencer. In addition, I serve on the reference desk and answer email reference inquiries.  I also assist with classes and tours.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I started working at KU in June of 1984. My first job title was “Secretary.” I’ve served in the Engineering School, the Communications Studies Department, the Vice Chancellor for Information Services office, and have held several positions in Spencer Research Library. My first job in Spencer started in May of 1990, as secretary for the Kansas Collection.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

I can’t think of anything “strange,” but there are things that I’m fond of, such as the Kansas City Monarchs baseball caps, Quantrill’s letters to his mother, the Cuneiform tablets, the fore-edge books, the “retired” KU mascot costumes, and the photograph collections.

What part of your job do you like the most?

I get great satisfaction from helping people find the information they need and from seeing them in awe over the materials we have. This includes the full range of our patrons, from preschool students to seasoned academic researchers.  I also enjoy selecting materials for our students to see and watching their reactions.

What are your favorite pastimes?

My favorite way to spend free time is to be with my granddaughters.  I love being a Grandma! I also enjoy trying to stay physically fit (so I can keep up with them) by walking and taking yoga, weight training and cycling classes. I like working on home projects, like cooking, gardening and decorating. And I watch a lot of old movies.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

I would advise a first time user to take advantage of the availability of KSRL subject specialists. This would be true for both on-site and remote patrons. Talk to our librarians and archivists to gain a deeper insight into our holdings and how they might be useful for you.

Kathy Lafferty
Library Coordinator/Copy Services Manager
Public Services
Spencer Research Library

Hidden Treasure Found in the Stacks

April 15th, 2015

Working at Spencer for the past two years, I’ve discovered many amazing manuscripts and old novels that I never dreamed of getting the chance to actually work with. An even more far-fetched idea, however, was finding books that I read when I was a kid and had completely forgotten about.

Yet I did.

It started off as any other day: reshelving books within the stacks. I pushed my book cart, complete with its squeaky wheels, down the rows as I returned the books back to their homes on the shelves. Walking around the perimeter of the stacks, I found a section of books that I hadn’t noticed before. They stood out amongst the old, leather bound covers of books published before the 1700s. Instead, these spines were cloth and colorful, rich in design and detail.

And they looked eerily familiar.

Image of the cover of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty, 1888

The cover of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by J. Schönberb. London: Blackie, 1888.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B805. Click image to enlarge.

Leaving my book cart behind me, I walked up to take a closer look, disbelief forming in the back of my mind. No, these couldn’t be the same books I read in middle school, I thought. There was no chance. Upon closer inspection, my gut was proven to be right: I had discovered a treasure trove of books by British author George Alfred (G. A.) Henty. Shelves upon shelves were lined by his masterpieces, a series of adventure books that I’d barely scratched the surface of, reading them in my youth.

Instantly, I was transported back home, as an eleven-year-old, acne-riddled, glasses wearing middle-schooler, standing in my public library. I discovered a book by accident: it had a simple red cover that was torn on the sides. The title read In the Reign of Terror: The Adventures of a Westminster Boy by G. A. Henty. I have never heard of him before, but I decided to take the book home with me and give it a try.

I finished it within the week.

Henty was a mastermind of writing stories threaded within historical events. In the Reign of Terror was about a boy named Harry Sandwith, who was sent to live with the Marquis de St. Caux during the French Revolution, in a time when political stresses tore the country apart during the reign of King Louis XVI. Even though his novels were written in the late nineteenth century and intended for a young male audience (he always started off his tales with a letter to his audience, addressed to his “Dear Lads…”), I still found them to be enlightening, enjoyable and one heck of a political and historical ride.

And I had completely forgotten about Henty and his tales.

Image of the cover of St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

The cover of St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by H. J. Draper. London: Blackie, 1894.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Since being reunited, I have been reminded of the books that I raided when I was a kid. After reading Reign, I quickly went through our library’s collection back home, which consisted of six titles. My favorite I’ve read is St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which is a tale of the Huguenot Wars.

Illustration in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

An illustration in St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by H. J. Draper. London: Blackie, 1894.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Image of preface in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894 Image of preface in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

The preface of St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty, addressed to “my dead lads.” Illustrated by H. J. Draper.
London: Blackie, 1894. Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Now that I have rediscovered Henty, I’ve been looking into him again and trying to decide which book to read next in order to get back into reading him. Yet I also realized that there are plenty of controversies surrounding the author I’d accidentally discovered. While these stories are advertised as stories of adventures for young boys, they were also criticized – both during the time of publication and especially since then – as being xenophobic towards anything that wasn’t part of British culture and nationalism. His books were also labeled as strong propaganda towards British imperialism, raising the question of if there was another purpose behind Henty’s agenda for writing these novels.

None of this political scandal was noticed by me as a young reader, but recognizing it now, I think it would be interesting to go back and reread some of his stories, or pick up a brand new one. Rediscovering one of my favorite childhood authors was something I definitely didn’t expect to happen while working within the stacks. It was an experience that made me feel like I went back in time, while at the same time, opened a door to learning more about this controversial, yet very popular, late-nineteenth-century author.

It just goes to show that no matter what you’re doing in a library – working, researching or just simply browsing – the treasures waiting to be discovered are endless.

Nicole Evans
Public Services Student Assistant