by Amanda Miano
Kathryn Kuntz always knew she wanted to work in history, but she did not feel suited to K-12 education which was the primary path for those attending Black Hills State University. People would ask her, “Well, what are you going to do then?” It was not until she took a course entitled “Introduction to Public History” that her perspective changed, and she realized just how many unique opportunities there were for someone with a passion for history. After interning at various institutions in Deadwood, South Dakota, Kathryn realized she had developed a passion for cataloguing, and considered pursuing a degree in Museum Studies.
While researching different archival schools across the country, she discovered the wonderful world of Library Science. She ultimately decided to attend Indiana University, as they offered a master’s degree in Library Science, with an emphasis on rare books and manuscripts. While in school she managed to hold down three or four jobs at the same time, including several internships. Kathryn’s mindset has always been one of giving back within the library profession. This has sometimes meant doing work whether she was being paid for it or not. This really speaks to how much Kathryn appreciates all that goes into making things run right, especially within a Special Collections.
After graduating, Kathryn worked at her hometown public library, and in November 2017 she accepted her current position as Supervisor of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. Kathryn takes great pride in stating her full job title, emphasizing the name of the department, as it came about because of a large monetary donation on the part of Alice Richardson-Sloane and Loren Ted Sloane in 1999, which led to an entirely redone space for the special collections.
Through all her experiences, perhaps the most important lesson Kathryn has learned, and was generous enough to pass on to an archivist-in-training, is that “Communication is key.” Kathryn’s view is that to properly reach ones’ community and promote those outreach events that are so vital for drawing attention to the various library departments, it is important that all staff members know what is happening in the various departments, ensuring that they can accurately tell patrons about the events being offered. In that way, the entire library staff, and not merely the small, but mighty, staff Kathryn has under her supervision, can be advocating for the Special Collections and the work they are doing.
Along with communication, Kathryn also believes that connections are just as essential, going so far as to say that “Advocacy and outreach … is about building those connections [with the people who make up the community you have been tasked with serving], and making people excited about it,” and in that way, “Public Library Special Collections have that unique job of being community builders” (Kuntz, K.). After attending a “Museum Crawl” in Iowa City, an event which capitalized on this idea of establishing connections amongst various archival institutions in the community, Kathryn says that she was inspired and wanted to find a way to hold a similar event in the Quad Cities, as a way of highlighting, and therefore advocating for, the Special Collections and its holdings. Unfortunately, the first event was not the success Kathryn had hoped it would be, and so she went back to the drawing board, considering how she could best get her specific audience interested in an event such as this one. The answer came in the form of an Archives Fair. The Special Collections, partnering with other local repositories, hosted this event which invited patrons of all ages and demographics to come and learn all about local institutions by visiting various booths, promoting one-on-one interactions between patrons and staff members of the various participating repositories. Kathryn says that she was pleasantly surprised with the turn out for this second event and looks forward to putting on the next one.
Kathryn is quick to assert that she is incredibly pleased with the outreach efforts that have taken place during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Kathryn even took it upon herself, working in conjunction with one of the library’s reference librarians, “. . . to encourage people to write down their stories from this time … and submit them” to the Special Collections (Kuntz, K.). The program was entitled QC Life in the New Normal. In this way, and in many others, Kathryn is seeking to preserve history, a subject she has cared about from the very beginning. Kathryn has proven that there are many things that can be done in the field of history if one has the right amount of passion and appreciation for it.
European Studies Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (2018).
[Image of Kathryn Kuntz]. Retrieved March 30, 2021 from https://ess.lib.byu.edu/newsletters/wess-newsletter-archive/wess-newsletter-spring-2018/2018-spring-personal-institutional-news/
Kuntz, K. and Miano A. (2021, March 25). Interview with Kathryn Kuntz. Zoom video meeting.