Bring Classes

As part of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s mission to promote learning, discovery, and scholarship, staff members are eager to collaborate with instructors and introduce students to collections that relate to their coursework and research projects. We welcome undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Kansas as well as students at area colleges, universities, and K-12 schools.
Students sitting in Spencer's lounge listening to a Spencer librarian.
Two students examine collection materials.

Why Bring Students to Spencer Research Library

The rich and diverse collections at Spencer connect to a broad range of disciplines and areas of study in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and STEM.

In each instruction session, we hope to:

  • Familiarize students with Spencer’s location, building, collections, and procedures, which may be unfamiliar.
  • Introduce students to our helpful and friendly staff members.
  • Provide an overview of the library’s holdings and services.
  • Inspire and encourage students to utilize Spencer Research Library for more in-depth research and projects.

Students who visit Spencer Research Library engage directly with physical collection materials including books, maps, newspapers, photographs, letters, and diaries – many of which are rare or unique. These materials enrich students’ classroom experiences by providing them with the opportunity to:

  • Touch and closely examine original documents of the human experience.
  • Read personal accounts that tell the stories of diverse people from KU, Lawrence, Kansas, and beyond.
  • Draw upon their own background, experience, and knowledge to ask questions and think critically about documents.
  • Examine the physical and artifactual characteristics of materials and consider the technologies used to create them.
  • Use what they observe and learn about a document to inform their broader understanding of the context in which it was created.
  • Practice analyzing and interpreting documents through guided hands-on activities.
  • Discuss their findings with classmates, instructors, and librarians.

Spencer librarians can also cover information literacy topics such as:

  • An introduction to archives.
  • The differences between primary and secondary sources.
  • Strategies for conducting research in archives and special collections, at Spencer in particular and at other similar libraries more generally.

Examples of KU students' engagement with Spencer’s collections include the following:

Scheduling a Class Visit

Instruction sessions and field trips are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Scheduling is dependent on staff and classroom availability. Because of the high demand for class visits and the time needed to plan sessions, advance notice – generally at least two weeks – is required.

A class can visit the library once or multiple times during a semester.

Instructors are encouraged but not required to schedule an introductory instruction session if their students are using Spencer materials for class assignments and research projects. We strongly recommend that instructors confer with Spencer librarians and provide a copy of the assignment so Reading Room staff can provide the best possible experience for students.

There is no charge for instruction sessions or field trips.

While we generally work with classes of up to thirty students, we can accommodate larger classes and groups. KU survey classes can visit the library by discussion section.

If you are interested in having your class visit Spencer Research Library, please contact Caitlin Donnelly Klepper, Head of Public Services, at or 785-864-4456. You'll be paired with a librarian who can work with you to tailor the instruction session's focus to your course's subject matter and learning objectives.

Planning a Class Visit

Spencer staff members collaboratively plan and communicate with each instructor to develop a customized library visit for their students. This includes selecting a unique set of library materials that directly relates to topics covered in class and creating hands-on activities that meet the instructor’s goals and learning objectives.

We ask that instructors bringing their students to Spencer provide a copy of their syllabus to aid in planning the session.

In-person planning meetings are recommended, especially for instructors bringing their students to Spencer for the first time.

We have found that instruction sessions are most effective when they correlate with specific course assignments.

K-12 field trips to Spencer can be planned in conjunction with visits to other nearby cultural institutions. The library is within walking distance of the Spencer Museum of Art and the KU Natural History Museum. It is also a short drive from the Watkins Museum of History and the Dole Institute of Politics.

Preparing Students for a Visit

Students use collection materials carefully to help us maintain their long-term preservation and security, ensuring that they will be available to future generations. Instructors are strongly encouraged to review care and handling guidelines with students before a visit to Spencer, although this information will also be covered during the library visit.

KU instructors may also want to provide their students with information about the library’s location.

Utilizing Additional Spencer Resources

We strive to connect students with materials in Spencer’s collections, even if a class visit or field trip isn’t possible. Instructors are encouraged to make use of KU Libraries’ freely-available digital collections. We can also assist instructors by:

  • Scanning items that are not already part of the digital collections and providing high-quality digital surrogates that can be printed off and used in the classroom.
  • Collaborating to select materials that students can view in the Reading Room outside of class.
  • Visiting the students’ classroom (although we may be limited in our ability to bring physical collection materials).

Spencer staff members are also available to help individual students and project groups with their research.

Instructors who would like their students to receive an overview of Spencer Research Library are welcome to do a self-guided tour of the North Gallery. The space features a permanent exhibit that shares information about some of the library’s collections. The North Gallery is open to students and classes whenever the building is open.

Holding Semester-Long Courses at Spencer

KU instructors may apply to use one of Spencer Research Library's three seminar rooms as a regular classroom for a semester-long course. The use of Spencer classrooms for a full semester is limited to courses in which the library's collection materials will be utilized in the classroom during class sessions throughout the semester. To request to hold a semester-long class in one of Spencer’s seminar rooms, please review the following information and complete and submit the library’s Classroom Request Form.

Classroom capacities

Rooms 326 and 327 are each furnished with a large rectangular conference table that can accommodate sixteen or twelve people, respectively. The Johnson Room can accommodate up to thirty people around six rectangular tables in a u-shaped arrangement. None of the tables in the classrooms can be moved or rearranged.

Classroom technology

Each classroom has a computer with a large projection screen or wall-mounted monitor and an Internet connection. Instructors are welcome to bring and use personal laptops or thumb drives. There are a limited number of outlets in each classroom, so we recommend that instructors and students using personal laptops bring fully-charged batteries. Only the Johnson Room has DVD and VCR players. A dry-erase whiteboard is available upon request.

Spencer staff members are available to meet with instructors before the semester begins and review the technology in the classroom they will be using. Staff can provide limited technical support throughout the semester. We can work with IT to resolve more complex problems, although this process may take some time, as Spencer does not have IT staff on site.


A Spencer staff member will greet the class at its initial meeting and spend five to ten minutes welcoming the group, providing an overview of the library’s rules, and answering questions. Please let us know if you would also like us to provide more thorough information about Spencer (i.e. background, collections, and services) and/or a tour of the library's public spaces (Reading Room, Exhibit Space, and North Gallery) at the first class meeting or at a later time in the semester.

Students attending class at Spencer Research Library are expected to follow - and instructors are expected to enforce - the guidelines for using library collections outlined on the Use Collections page. Students need to place their personal items in library lockers during every class meeting, even when collection materials are not in use.