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.

Student Spotlight: Alex Williams

July 7th, 2022

This is the second installment in a 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 Alex Williams, who started working in Spencer’s Public Services unit in Spring 2019. Alex is an undergraduate majoring in creative writing with a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies; she is graduating from KU in Spring 2023.

Young woman standing in front of floor-to-ceiling shelves of books, gesturing to a booktruck of materials.
Public Services student assistant Alex Williams. Click image to enlarge.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I am a Public Services student employee, so my job consists of retrieving materials from our stacks to bring to patrons using the Reading Room, manning the reception desk, and returning or shifting materials in the stacks.

Why did you want to work at Spencer Research Library?

A few years ago, my first-year seminar class took a tour of Spencer Research Library. The curator leading our tour, Elspeth Healey, mentioned the library would be hiring soon and I left my name and contact information. I worked as a library aid in high school and was intrigued by the variety of materials held at Spencer. 

What has been most interesting to you about your work?

The variety of patrons that come into the library and hearing about their research projects. We get people who are local to Lawrence looking at regional history and then we’ll have someone from another country looking for Special Collections materials. There is always a chance to learn something new about Spencer when new patrons come in.

What part of your job do you like best?

I love working in the stacks. It’s fun the browse through the stacks and look at the different materials we have. Whether it’s putting back items or moving in newly processed materials, I just find it really fun to see everything. Occasionally, after I have completed all my work, I’ll make a little scavenger hunt game for myself and see how many different editions of Moby Dick or Sherlock Holmes I can find in Special Collections. The science fiction collection is another area I frequently investigate. I may even be doing my own research project with the sci-fi materials in the future.

What piece of advice would you offer other students thinking about working at Spencer Research Library?

This seems like a very basic piece of advice: ASK QUESTIONS. I don’t mean just to the supervisors. Ask the patrons about they’re research projects. Ask the curators about classes, exhibits, or collection areas. Not only does it help you engage with the collections, but it creates community. I think that’s why I enjoy Public Services so much because I get to interact not only with the Spencer’s materials but the individuals who utilize them.

Alex Williams
Public Services Student Assistant

Student Spotlight: Mileiny Hermosillo

November 9th, 2021

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.

Young woman sitting at a table and holding up a sepia-toned headshot photograph of a woman in profile.
Manuscripts processing student assistant Mileiny Hermosillo working with glass plate negatives, Spring 2021. Click image to enlarge.

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 part of your job do you like best?

One of the most satisfying parts about my job is completing a collection project and feeling invested in the final results. One of my favorite projects was collaborating with a staff member on the Leonard Hollmann photograph collection. I sorted through over a thousand cabinet cards and stereoviews (also known as stereographs) of towns, settlements, and people across Kansas. It was such a large collection that it took me two semesters to finish! Later I got a chance to help put some of the photos on exhibit in a temporary display case in the North Gallery. Seeing each photograph was like seeing an old friend.

Young woman standing behind a large table covered with stacks of stereoviews, which are turned upside down.
Mileiny sorted thousands of cabinet cards and stereoviews by photographer name for a collections project in February 2019. Here are the sorted stereoviews! Click image to enlarge.

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.

Mileiny Hermosillo
Manuscripts Processing Student Assistant