• Home
  • Using the Library
  • Bring Classes

We are excited to welcome you to Spencer Research Library. Please note that our hours have changed and that the Reading Room is open by appointment only. Learn more about what to expect in Spencer and in other KU library locations during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Bring Classes

Using Spencer Research Library

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.

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

Why bring students to Spencer Research Library

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 to Spencer

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 us at 785-864-4456 or ksrlref@ku.edu. We'll pair you 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 to Spencer

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.

Preparing students for a Spencer 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 Spencer resources in other ways

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’ digital collections, most of which are freely available. 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.

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.

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 Spencer 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 complete and submit the library’s online classroom request form.


Caitlin Donnelly Klepper
Head of Public Services

1.5 million visits a year at 7 library locations
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection
—American Library Association
KU ScholarWorks offers access to more than 13,000 items created by KU faculty and students
An international leader in the open access movement
Users check out nearly 300,000 items every year
Users access more than 3.3 million articles online each year
More than 111,000 scores, books, sound recordings, and other volumes in Music & Dance Library
Anschutz Library serves as KU’s 24-hour study facility for students
More than 700 Vosper Society members support the mission of KU Libraries
KU Today