What We Collect

A hand turning the page of an elaborately and colorfully decorated and illuminated medieval manuscript.
Detail of a page in an ornately decorated copy of the Book of Hours created in France, circa 1470. The volume is known as the "Vosper Hours" - named in honor of Robert Vosper (1913-1994), a former director of KU Libraries. Call Number: MS Pryce C1.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library is the home of rare and unique collections at the University of Kansas Libraries, including:

  • Rare books, distinguished by their age, relative importance, or scarcity. They may be collected for physical characteristics peculiar to a particular copy as much as, or more, than their actual content.
  • Manuscripts, or original handwritten or typed documents. They can include letters, drafts of literary works, or historical documents.
  • Archives, which are the records of an organization or institution preserved because of their enduring value, after they have served their original purpose.

Spencer Research Library’s mission is to collect and preserve distinctive resources and make them available to the campus, the community, and the world.

Our mission includes enabling teaching and research grounded in primary documentary sources that can be difficult or uncomfortable to encounter. Our collections document challenging and problematic situations and beliefs. We also purposefully collect materials that document divergent or controversial views, without endorsing those views.

All materials in Spencer Research Library’s collections reflect the society and environment in which they were produced, specifically language that was used by the people and organizations that created the material. As a result, collection items may include insensitive wording and overt expressions of bigotry or bias as well as outdated cultural or geographical references and stereotypes. They may contain language and imagery that are offensive because of content relating to ability, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality/sexual orientation, and other characteristics. This problematic language does not reflect the values of Spencer Library or KU Libraries.

To understand more about what we collect and why, please consult our specific collection development policies (linked below) or direct questions to ksrlref@ku.edu for a conversation.

Collection Development Policies

  • Kansas Collection

    Resources in the Kansas Collection enable the study of the rich history of Kansas and the region from the 1850s to the present. The collection's emphasis is documenting Kansans’ everyday lives and experiences.

  • Special Collections

    Special Collections consist of rare books and manuscripts from around the world. The collections span 4000 years – from writing’s origins on ancient cuneiform tablets to volumes of poetry produced within the last year.

  • University Archives

    University Archives collects, preserves, and makes available materials that document the activities and recollections of the University of Kansas from its beginnings in the 1860s to the present.

  • Wilcox Collection

    The Wilcox Collection is one of the country’s largest assemblages of American left- and right-wing materials. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s to the present and is national in its coverage.

  • Removing/Deaccessioning Materials

    This policy provides guidance regarding when the Kenneth Spencer Research Library director and curators may choose to deaccession, or permanently remove, materials from the Library’s holdings.