Snyder History & Past Winners

History of the Snyder Book Collecting Contest

Elizabeth Snyder viewing a collection, 1968. University Archives photos.
Elizabeth Snyder viewing a collection, 1968. University Archives photos.

The origins of the Snyder Book Collecting Contest are found in correspondence between Elizabeth Morrison Snyder (then Elizabeth Taylor) of Kansas City and Robert Vosper, then Director of the KU Libraries.  In late 1956, Vosper wrote to Mrs. Snyder about his idea for encouraging young people “to buy or collect their own books…and begin to learn something of the pleasure of having interesting private collections of books at home. No one will know better than you how much pleasure and excitement this can bring."

Mrs. Snyder replied that "your idea for developing a student's interest in books and book collecting is basically so sound and full of fruitful thought that I couldn't help but be interested," and immediately offered financial support for the contest.

The first contest in 1957 attracted twenty entrants. The $75 first prize was awarded to J. Knox Jones, a graduate student, for his collection on mammals of North America.  The $25 second prize went to Bryan Burrage, a freshman, who entered a general natural history collection. Other great collections have been winners over the years. Laird Wilcox won in 1964 with a collection of over 8,000 pieces on radical political movements. This collection is now part of the Kansas Collection in the Spencer Research Library.

Although Mrs. Snyder claimed that she was "really not much of a collector," she built many remarkable collections, including one she started in high school on A.A. Milne, best known as the creator of Winnie‑the‑Pooh. Her H.L. Mencken collection includes inscribed first editions, letters written by Mencken, and periodicals Mencken edited. The Milne and Mencken collections are part of a series of generous donations that Mrs. Snyder made to the KU Libraries over the years. “To have what I have collected be used for research is what is important,” Mrs. Snyder said, “I feel it should be where it can be enjoyed by many.”

Mrs. Snyder later established an endowment through the KU Endowment Association to provide permanent funding for the competition. Until her death in 2004, Mrs. Snyder attended the awards ceremony to share her enthusiasm for book collecting.

The KU Libraries have sponsored the Snyder contest since 1957 with Jayhawk Ink, a division of the KU Bookstore in the Kansas Union, joining as a co-sponsor in 1974.

Snyder Book Collecting Contest Resources

Snyder Contacts

Contest Entry Information

Christin Monts


Media & Publicity

Christy McWard


Jayhawk Ink, a division of KU Bookstore

Rachel Barnes


Past Winners

2023 winners

John Lubianetsky of Kansas City, Missouri, won first prize in the undergraduate division for his collection, “Utterly Free Books: A Collection of Books Found for Free Across Four Universities.” Second place in the undergraduate division went to Zac Kitay from Stamford, Connecticut for “The Revolutions from Music: What Storytelling Can Teach Us.” Weston Curnow from Olathe, Kansas received Honorable Mention in the undergraduate division for “The American Sublime: A Mereological Exploration.”

In the graduate division, Tiffani Hagan from Spartanburg, South Carolina, received first place for the collection, “Shakespeare & Early Modern Occult Theatre.” Second place in the graduate division was awarded to Brynn Fitzsimmons from Johnson Creek, Wisconsin for the collection “Abolitionist Worlds.” Hazlet Henderson from Lawrence, Kansas was awarded Honorable Mention for “Touching on Trash: Finding books in dumpsters and wondering about how they got there.”

2022 winners

Christian Due, of Gardner, Kansas, with the collection "Rosello: An Exploration of Identity and Heritage," took first place in the undergraduate division. Second place was awarded to Robert Ward, of Lawrence for "A Herculean Labor of Love." Joan Doweny, of Shawnee, Kansas, was selected as honorable mention for "Discworld: A Fantastical Social Commentary."

In the graduate division, Eleni Leventopoulos, of Chicago, placed first with their collection "The Little Grey Cells of Hercule Poirot."

2019 winners

Elizabeth Wenger, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the collection "Notes on Sontag," took first place in the undergraduate division. Second place was awarded to Haseop Shin, of Seoul, South Korea, for "A Record of Doubt and a Hope for Optimism: A Personal Enquiry Concerning the Objectivity of Knowledge." Sarah Shorter, of Kansas City, was selected as honorable mention for "Who Run the World? Girls! Female-driven stories across literary genres."

2018 winners

Alex Houston, of Lawrence, with the collection “Exploration and Conservation: Uniting Outdoor Recreation and Environmentalism Through Rock Climbing,” took first place in the undergraduate division. Second place was awarded to Madeline York, of Lawrence, for “Stepping into Wild Territory.” Kyndall Delph, North Little Rock, Arkansas, was selected as honorable mention for “Navigating the Black Identity.”

In the graduate division, Paul Schwennesen, of Weston, Missouri, placed first with his collection titled “Borderlands — A Manifesto of Overlap.” Kelsey Johnson, of Cincinnati, won second place for “Electrifying Edo Entertainment: A Collection of Books about Japanese Popular Culture during the Edo Period.” Finally, Emily Foltz was selected as honorable mention for “The Oboe: Its Past, Performance, and Pedagogy.”

2017 winners

Elizabeth Wenger, with her collection “Defeating Isolation Through Queer Literature,” placed first in the undergraduate division. Second place was awarded to the collection prepared by Reece Rogers, titled “American Socialist Literature and Printed Ephemera.” Aubrey Burgess received honorable mention for her collection, “Design Hunger.”

In the graduate division, Austin Charron won first place with his collection “A Medal Upon the Chest of Planet Earth: Crimea and the Crimean Tatars.” David Snyder placed second with “Infinity and the Unsolvable: Selections in mathematical beauty.” Honorable mention was given to Silvia Sánchez for “Ethnographies: A gateway to people and cultures of the world.”

2016 winners

In the undergraduate division, Sarah McCall from Lawrence won first place for her collection “Monsters on My Bookshelf: A Collection of Scary Stories.” Joshua Gathright from Bridge City, Texas took second place with “World War II: An Explosive, and Multifaceted View of the Deadliest War of All Time”, and Luke Schletzbaum from Overland Park won Honorable Mention for “Diversity of Flight: A Collection of Man’s Mastery of the Air.” 

In the graduate division, Megan Jones from Olathe won first place with her collection “The Life and Times of Sacco and Vanzetti.” Danny Caine from Cleveland, Ohio received second place for “Rust Belt Splendor: Hustle, Music, and Identity in the Post-Industrial Midwest.” Honorable mention in the graduate division went to Christopher Watson from Austin, Texas for his collection “Greek Myth on the Athenian Stage and Beyond.” ​

2015 winners

In the undergraduate division, Alyssa Denneler of Lawrence won first place for her collection “Plotting my Archaeological Trajectory: A Journey Marked by Literary Exploration.” Daniel O’Keefe of Dubuque, Iowa took second place with “Star Wars’ Expanded Universe: From a 121 Minute Movie to 154 Books,” and Aubrie Schartz of Abilene, Kansas won honorable mention for her collection “Pressed Between Pages: The Therapy of Returning to the Past.”

In the graduate division, Clarissa Nemeth of Gatlinburg, Tennessee won first place with her collection “Southern Appalachia: Historic and Imagined.”

2014 winners

In the undergraduate division, Emma Fahrlander from Overland Park won first place for her collection “A Decade of Yarncraft.” Nicole Evans from Gardner took second place with “There and Back Again: Transforming a Polite Interest into an Intense Obsession”, and Lacey Daniels from Pittsburg won Honorable Mention for “The John Lange Collection.”

In the graduate division, Katya Soll from St. Louis, Missouri won first place with her collection “Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone.” Melinda Landeck from Littleton, Colorado received second place for “Tea Time: Textual Explorations of Chanoyu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony.” Honorable mention in the graduate division went to Crystal A. Maier from Woodbridge, New Jersey for her collection “A Blossoming at the Intersection of Art and Science: Technique and Tradition in Botanical Illustration.”

2013 winners

In the undergraduate division, Meagan Kane, an English major from Overland Park, won first place with her collection, “Who is Tiptree, What is She?: An Examination of a SF Legend.” Jennifer Salva, a journalism and media studies major from Sugar Creek, Missouri, took second place with “Czech & Slovak Tradition: Return to my Roots.”

In the graduate division, Baiba Sedriks, a Lawrence native and graduate student in English education, took first place with “Discovering Hollywood's Mysteries: Juvenile Literature from Cinema's Golden Age.” Chris Robinson, an American studies graduate student from Hayden, Idaho, received second place for “Feather's Nest: A Collection Exemplifying the Diverse and Prolific Career of Jazz Authority Leonard Feather.” An honorable mention was given to Liam Oliver Lair, a doctoral student in women, gender and sexuality studies from Chicago, for his collection "Trans* Life, 1901-2013: Celebrating over 100 years of Trans* People and Communities."

National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest Winners

The first place winners in each division are eligible for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

In 2018, Paul Schwennesen won second place for his collection, “Borderlands — A Manifesto of Overlap” and received a $1,000 prize.

In 2016, Megan Jones won second place for her collection, "The Life and Times of Sacco and Vanzetti" and received a $1,000 prize. 

In 2014, Katya Soll won first place for her collection, “Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone” and received a $2,500 prize.