Sherlock Holmes would have a run for his money if he encountered Dr. Lisa Speer, special collections librarian responsible for the University Archives, the Regional History Collections and Rare Books and Manuscripts at Southeast. Since January 2001, Speer has spent the majority of her days scouring historical documents and helping students learn how to use Kent Library’s resources. She works regularly with historic preservation students and she even taught an independent study course during the fall semester on identifying and interpreting photographs. Although classroom lecturing is not a daily routine for Speer, the style of teaching she uses every day is more experiential learning focused with hands-on experiences.
“I chose librarianship, which, in itself, is a form of teaching, for the opportunity to assist people with meeting their informational and research needs,” Speer explains. “I chose archives, specifically, because this field allows me to use my academic background and interest in history to work with the rare and original documents used to create the history taught in the classroom.”
Speer’s love of southern and women’s history, and an influential college history professor, led her to pursue a graduate and doctoral degree in history from the University of Mississippi. After completing her degrees, Speer enrolled in a master of library science and information studies program at the University of Alabama. But it was while working on her doctorate that she found she enjoyed working in archives. During her time in Oxford, Speer worked as the interim curator of the Mississippi Collection, which included a world-class collection of materials on William Faulkner.
The opportunity to work with a second of one of the four major Faulkner Collections in the world was one reason Speer was drawn to Southeast.
Books are not the only infatuation in Speer’s busy schedule. She has lots of hobbies and activities she enjoys during her free time. She loves to cook and try out new recipes for friends and family. She is even working on a cookbook using recipes handed down from all the women in her family.
“My favorite way to spend leisure time is cooking,” says Speer. “I have collected hundreds of cookbooks and recipes, which I have cataloged in a database, and I am never more content than when I am testing a new recipe or having friends over for dinner.”
Speer loves traveling, and her current destination is Wyoming, where her significant other has a 4,000-plus acre ranch in the southeastern corner of the state.
“From the top of his drive, you can see about 20 miles in every direction,” says Speer. “You can’t understand the phrase ‘big sky country’ until you’ve seen it yourself.”
Speer would also like to travel to India. The culture of the people and the country fascinate her, and she would love the opportunity to see it all firsthand.
If she isn’t putting together a magnificent gourmet meal or taking in the breathtaking view of the Wyoming sky, she is happily curled up reading the latest mystery novel by Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich. Speer also likes to donate some of her free time to charitable events, and she recently inherited from her mother the responsibility as trustee for a philanthropic foundation in Arkansas. On weekends, you can find her volunteering at the Humane Society or working for local historical organizations.
Speer’s experiences and work with historical documents have provided her some strong
foundations for life. She believes in living life to the fullest because life is
short, and there is never enough time. Her best advice to students is to enjoy life
every day you live it, and if you aren’t having fun, then do something different.