University of Kansas Libraries will host an exhibition featuring celebrated librarian and former KU Libraries director Robert Vosper commemorating the centennial of his birth last month. The exhibit, “Robert Gordon Vosper: A Force for Libraries,” will open July 12 at the Library Gallery in Watson Library as part of a celebration recognizing the former director’s accomplishments and leadership.
During his career at KU (1952-1961), Vosper led an era of incredible growth for the libraries and contributed heavily to the field of librarianship. Under Vosper, the collections at KU Libraries developed at an astounding pace. Vosper established the department of Special Collections in 1953 and worked to acquire two of the Libraries’ greatest assets: the O’Hegarty Collection of Irish literature and the Ellis Collection of zoological illustrations and publications. During the nine years he served as director, Vosper estimated that the library gained “almost as many volumes as were accumulated in the previous 85 years of its existence.”
In addition to building library collections, Vosper was known for promoting intellectual freedom and unwavering access to library resources. During the height of the McCarthy era, the library hosted an exhibition on banned books that received international acclaim. Along with the exhibition, a corresponding catalog of banned literature from across the world was published by the library and more than 20,000 copies were distributed. Later in his career, Vosper described a library as an “open sanctuary” devoted to “individual intellectual inquiry and contemplation … with access to it always guaranteed.” This dedication to access and scholastic liberty is a standard set by Vosper that has continued to resonate at KU Libraries.
The opening reception for “Robert Gordon Vosper: A Force for Libraries” will begin at 3 p.m. in the Library Gallery on the third floor of Watson Library. The exhibition includes photographs and publications from Vosper’s career, as well as letters and correspondence from Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy and others. Speakers will include past and current library faculty, as well as a member of the Vosper family, and William J. "Bill" Crowe, former dean of KU Libraries, will lead the proceedings. The event is open to the public, and light refreshments and snacks will be provided.
One of the top 50 libraries in the Association of Research Libraries by volumes held, and the largest library system in Kansas, KU Libraries advance discovery, innovation and learning for KU, the state and a rapidly expanding community of world scholars.