Mason, Alexandra

Year Inducted: 
Alexandra Mason
  • 1975-1999: Head of Special Collections (Rare Books) for Spencer Research Library
  • 1990: Recipient of very first Chancellor’s Distinguished Librarianship Award
  • Member of group of heads of major rare books libraries in North America, the Folger Group
  • Chair of Resources and Technology Services Division of the American Library Association
  • Chair of the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries

Former Head of Special Collections (Rare Books) for Spencer Research Library, Alexandra Mason, was a rare gift to the University of Kansas.  Without Ms. Mason’s 40+ years of selfless work, the Spencer Research Library would not be home to such an extraordinary, internationally recognized collection.

Ms. Mason graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1952 with an AB in Greek.  She earned her Masters of Library Sciences in 1955 from the Carnegie Library School, and also did some post-graduate work at Durham University in Durham, England and the famed Bodleian Library at Oxford University in Oxford, England, where she taught some courses as well as some at the University of Oklahoma.  After serving as reference librarian for the World Book Encyclopedia in Chicago for one year, she came to the University of Kansas in 1957.  As of 1975, she had been a member of the graduate faculty and spent time as a Courtesy Professor of English I.  Among many other University committees she devoted herself to, she served as a mentor in the University Scholars program.

Ms. Mason became Head of Rare Books at the Kenneth R. Spencer Library when it opened  in 1975.  Through her “unusual combination of intellect, diplomatic and administrative skills, devotion and uncommon capacity for work”, the Library came to amass over 350,000 historical artifacts.  Her knack of identifying the strengths of the existing collections and building upon them has made the Research Library one of the premier facilities of its kind.  It has also garnered her an international reputation, but this has been a by-product of her love and dedication to her work.  As Bill Mitchell, Assistant Head, explained, “Sandy has an intense, selfless loyalty to this institution, and to the profession itself.”

Besides local societies, Ms. Mason is a member of many national organizations including the American Association of University Professors, the Bibliographical Society of America, the Mediaeval Academy of America, Renaissance Society of America, and the elite Grolier Club of New York.  She is a member of the American Library Association, and has headed that organization’s Resources and Technology Services Division.  She served as Chair of the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries and on their Board of Directors.  She also belongs to the officially nameless and informal group of the heads of major rare books libraries in North America, sometimes known as the Folger Group.

In 1990, Ms. Mason received the very first Chancellor’s Distinguished Librarianship Award, after having been nominated numerous times for the Distinguished Service Citation by her colleagues.  Chancellor Gene Budig justified the unique honor by proclaiming, “Alexandra Mason is a superb librarian, an outstanding choice for this first award.  She also is a dedicated and accomplished teacher and scholar.  We are very fortunate to have her on our faculty.”  By that time, she was the co-author or author of 4 books, 17 articles, and over a dozen scholarly papers.

Alexandra Mason retired in 1999 after 42 wonderful years with the University of Kansas.  A fund for the Library was named in her honor.  As one friend noted on her legacy, “She has ever been an active and highly effective participant in many good and moral causes, for example, women’s rights and intellectual freedom… she simply live her beliefs and convinces others of their rectitude by her example.”

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