Elizabeth Snyder never attended Kansas University, but for 36 years she has been encouraging KU students to become book collectors as sponsor of the university's Snyder Book Collecting Contest.
This year's contest, for which entries now are being accepted, will culminate in an awards ceremony March 30 at the Kansas Union, which this year also will include a special anniversary reunion for former winners.
A resident of Mission Hills, Mrs. Snyder said in an interview last week that the contest aimed "to give young people the opportunity to show what they had been collecting not necessarily what they were majoring in."
She said she was "just a complete stranger" to KU when she met then-KU Chancellor Franklin Murphy at a party and chatted with him about her H.L. Mencken collection. Mencken was an American journalist, essayist and iconoclast known as "the great debunker" who died in the 1950s.
THE DAY AFTER she talked with Murphy, she said, then-director of KU libraries Bob Vosper called her about her collection. Vosper also expressed his interest to her "in starting a book collecting contest for undergraduates, to interest them in collecting books."
As a consequence, in 1957 KU launched the Taylor Book Collecting Contest, which was Mrs. Snyder's name then. It became the Snyder contest 25 years ago, after she and Joseph A. Snyder were married.
Interest among graduate students prompted the addition of a graduate division in 1970, and in recent years, the Oread Book Shop in the Kansas Union has given further support to the contest.
Mrs. Snyder said that over the years students had entered collections on a diverse array of subjects, ranging from global warfare to fairy tales including L. Frank Baum's Oz works.
There was even an H.L. Mencken collection entered in 1983 that earned then-undergraduate Andrew deValpine a second place.
OTHER COLLECTIONS entered over the years have centered on such topics as medieval life, ornithology, motion picture comedy during the silent screen era, modern Chinese history, Egyptology, Kansas, women's heroes and African-American history and literature.
Many students who do not win on their first attempt re-enter the contest, Mrs. Snyder said, building their collections in the interim and working harder on their essays. The extra effort, she said, has turned them into winners.
Often, contestants "come to school with something already that they are collecting," she added.
Individual entries are limited to 25 to 50 books, which must be owned and collected by the student. The books must be submitted with a bibliography, at least part of which must be annotated, and a two- to eight-page ``statement of purpose'' that includes information on how the collection was built and plans for its future development.
MRS. SNYDER meets most of the winning students and sees the winning collections at the contest's annual awards presentations on campus.
Among past winners still in the area are Lawrence attorney Bonita Yoder, who won first place in the 1977 graduate division with her collection on ventriloquism and magic.
"I like books and I thought I had something a little bit different," she said, noting 1977 proved quite a winning year for her in terms of contests as she won an American Law School essay contest as well.
Yoder used her Snyder contest prize money to buy more books on magic and continues today to build her collection.
Another local attorney, Jonathan Paretsky, won first place in the 1978 undergraduate division for another magic collection "Source Books for Sorcery." He used his prize money to buy more books as well.
Paretsky, who is a lawyer for the Kansas-National Education Assn. in Topeka, said entering and winning the Snyder contest helped him recognize what he was doing as a book collector, particularly "viewing (his) books as part of a coherent whole."
WINNING the Snyder contest also encouraged Paretsky to add to his collections, which include German language comics books and Yiddish language books as well. The magic collection, he noted, is now twice the size it was in 1978.
Nicolette Bromberg, photo archivist for the Kansas Collection in KU's Kenneth Spencer Research Library, won the contest's 1988 graduate division with a subsection of her collection of photography books.
She said the entry focused on photography in connection to landscape, which she defined as land that has been marked in some way by people in contrast to wilderness.
Working on her entry, she said, increased her understanding of how different photographers relate to landscape as they attempt to capture the "layering of history" there.
Bromberg said her father taught her to read when she was 4, and she had her own library card by the time she was 5.
"I ALWAYS collected books," she said. "This subject evolved as I got into photography."
She didn't stop there, though. Bromberg also collects architecture books, illustrated children books, most of which are fairy tales, and "on-the-road" books like "Blue Highway" by William Least Heat-Moon.
Jane Albright won first place in 1977 in the Snyder contest's undergraduate division with her childhood Oz collection. She since has become involved in working to establish a permanent Oz museum in Kansas.
Now employed by the Ambassador Division of Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Albright said being able to display her collection for the Snyder contest inspired her to continue sharing it with others.
Among several subsequent exhibits, she said, was one at Kansas City's Crown Center in 1989 in connection with the 50th anniversary of MGM's "Wizard of Oz" film.
ALBRIGHT put her Oz items together with a friend's for that display, which drew 23,000 people and earned the shopping center a special award.
"It was just extraordinary," she said. "I don't know if I would have thought of it without the Snyder experience."
She said she now was looking forward to the Oz books' 100th anniversary, due in the year 2000, and hoped the museum materialized by then.
"Suddenly," she said, "I'm seeing museum potential in things that I've enjoyed my whole life."
Albright added that because she won the Snyder competition, she also received the "rarest piece" in her entire collection a copy of Baum's "Wuggle Bug" book, which was not widely distributed. After she won the Snyder award, the book came to her as a gift from a family friend who earlier had given her other Oz books.
KU students interested in learning more about this year's contest, which has a March 20 entry deadline, should contact Rebecca Schulte in the Kansas Collection, Spencer Library, 864-4274, Richard W. Clement in Special Collections, Spencer, 864-4334, or Gaele Gillespie in the Serials Department, Watson Library, 864-3535.