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KU English graduate student Megan Jones places second in National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Megan Jones, a master’s student in the Department of English at the University of Kansas, was awarded second place in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest for her collection titled, “The Life and Times of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

On October 14, Jones traveled to Washington D.C. to receive her award at the Library of Congress, including a $1,000 cash prize for Jones and $500 for KU Libraries.

The national contest aims to encourage young collectors to become bibliophiles. Established in 2005, the contest is supported by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, the Grolier Club and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division with major support from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation.

Jones submitted her collection to the national contest after placing first in the Snyder Book Collecting Contest graduate division last spring, hosted by KU Libraries. 2016 was the 60th annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest at the libraries, remaining one of the oldest collection contests in the country.  

“Even in a technological age, the love of books and reading is at the heart of learning for many disciplines,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries. “We are delighted to support this love with the Snyder Book Collecting Contest and are very pleased that Megan’s collection, which exemplifies the diverse and varied interests of KU students, placed so highly in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.”

Jones’ collection centers on the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Massachusetts in 1927. There is still debate as to whether or not the men were actually guilty of the crimes they were executed for, piquing interest in the case around the world. Her collection includes primary accounts of individual involved, political context, Sacco and Vanzetti letters, fictional works inspired by the case and secondary retellings.

Sacco and Vanzetti were first introduced to Jones in her high school history textbook and, upon further investigation, Jones’ teacher told her “not to worry about it.”

“Naturally, I became more intrigued,” explains Jones.

In college, Jones came across original correspondence of Sacco and Vanzetti in the archives at Indiana University Bloomington. She purchased her first book that day and has since remained committed to expanding her unique collection.  

From there, Jones sought out materials about the controversial case at random bookshops. “I did find one of the books at the Brattle’s book store while visiting Boston. It’s a book store that’s over 100 years old,” Jones said.

One of her most prized items in her collection was gifted from the late Professor Emeritus Melvin Lansberg.

“I received a call from Dr. Lansberg’s friend who managed his estate, notifying me that they had located a rare copy of the John Dos Passos’ pamphlet, Facing the Chair,” said Jones. “It’s one of my more prized possessions in the collection.” 

Jones continues exploring new ways to grow her collection and new ways to incorporate Sacco and Vanzetti into her graduate work.

The 2017 Snyder Book Collecting Contest at KU Libraries will launch in December 2016. See for details. 

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