Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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

Meet the KSRL Staff: Mindy Babarskis

January 21st, 2015

This is the second installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in October 2014, Mindy Babarskis is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s a Public Services Library Assistant and the Supply Coordinator for the library.

Photograph of Mindy Babarskis at the Spencer reception desk

Library Assistant Mindy Babarskis where you’ll find her most often: Spencer’s reception desk.

Where are you from?
I’m from Berkley, Michigan, but I was living in Tallahassee, Florida, before I moved to Lawrence.

What does your job at Spencer entail?
I oversee the reception desk at Spencer. This means I am the first point of contact for patrons and visitors. I make sure they feel welcome and help them register to enter the Reading Room. Besides reception, I’m also responsible for ordering office supplies for the library and maintaining the staff schedule for reference desk duty. Also, I’m currently being trained on providing reference assistance to researchers in the Reading Room.

How did you come to work in special collections and archives?
I have my Master of Library and Information Science degree, and I’ve previously worked in public and academic libraries. I also have a bachelor’s in history, so this library and its collections fascinated me. Therefore, I applied for this position and they decided to hire me!

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
There are a lot of interesting items in Spencer, but one of the strangest to me is an open letter written to President Ronald Reagan from our Wilcox Collection. In this letter the author is berating Reagan for being too old and falling asleep during Cabinet meetings. I just found that to be an odd reason to be angry at Reagan.

What part of your job do you like best?
I love interacting with visitors and discovering where they’re from and what brought them to Spencer Library. Some people have fascinating stories! Two of my favorite patrons were a couple of researchers from Mexico City who were using our Griffith collection and specifically studying our documents from Guatemala. They were here for two weeks during the winter and got to experience snow for the first time! It was wonderful to see how invaluable our collections are to people around the world.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I’m a voracious reader. Lately, I’ve been heading back to my roots and catching up on science fiction and fantasy classics. I also love to bake and garden, although unfortunately I’m without a garden right now.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you give yourself enough time for research. I think most people underestimate the research process and how time-intensive it is. Luckily, there is always a reference librarian at the desk to help you navigate the process, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.

Mindy Babarskis
Library Assistant and Supply Coordinator