Lawrence Journal-World editors recently shared thoughts regarding plans for the North Gallery of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library (“Donor Wishes,” July 26), and I would like to provide a bit of context for this conversation.
The word “iconic” is often overused, but I believe it describes, better than any other word, the power of the Spencer Library’s North Gallery. The exposed shelving of the North Gallery has housed outstanding items from Special Collections since the opening of the library in 1968. Its visual and intellectual appeal cannot be overstated. It not only houses books, like a section of the larger Summerfield Collection volumes, for example, but intriguing artifacts like several horn books and the jumbled writs of habeus corpus that fascinate visitors every day.
However, as the editorial writer noted, the space still remains relatively hidden. As such, I recently sought feedback from the campus and scholarly communities regarding how we might raise the profile of this beautiful, scholarly space.
With the consolidation of the public spaces of Special Collections, Kansas Collection and University Archives, and the continuing desire to provide a more interpretive context for our collections in general, we are considering how best to program this stunning space as a true gallery. Bringing diversity and experience into the space through an interesting array of physical and virtual exhibit stations will allow the North Gallery, and by extension, the library itself, to become even more of a destination on campus.
The intent of the Spencer gift remains our guiding principle. When the building was dedicated more than 40 years ago, it was noted: “A university library is the custodian of the world’s actual knowledge and the reservoir of its potential. It preserves and makes available the results of previous human seeking; it makes possible the fruitful continuation of research. It will live as a monument to the meaningful life of a creative man, and also to learning, as it continues to produce new knowledge and understanding.”
Today, those words still ring true, thanks not only to the generosity of Mrs. Spencer, but also because of the stewards whose vision has helped it grow. We look forward to charting a future worthy of this incredible campus resource.