As students enter the Undergraduate Library for late-night studying, they cannot take the stairs, wait for the elevator or walk through the first floor area without passing Ken Bawcom. His 6-foot frame, warm eyes and graying beard are filled with travels, culture and knowledge. Bawcom is more a renaissance man.

Sarah Royce
Librarian Ken Bawcom has traveled extensively, including multiple biking trips to the Yucatan Peninsula. Bawcom also lived in Iran and Venezuela as a child. (ALLISON GHAMAN/Daily)

Bawcom, a University alum, was a self-employed carpenter for 30 years. While managing a building on Oakland Avenue, he used the basement to build furniture for the U Club restaurant in the Michigan Union and for the Campus Inn.

When he developed rheumatoid arthritis, however, he couldn’t continue working. He started working for the University because it offered health insurance coverage, he said.

“I started working for the library on Nov. 22, 1999,” he said.

Bawcom said he remembered the date because it was the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

In his six and half years with the library, Bawcom has witnessed numerous late-night antics, like finding drunk students lying on the library’s bathroom floors.

But in a recent interview he did not want to tell more stories lest they give the University and students a bad reputation.

Bawcom is a traveling man. His father, an administrator in an oil company, moved his family to and from the oil-rich countries of the Middle East and Latin American.

Bawcom lived in Iran and Venezuela before settling in Mount Pleasant – an oil-rich area of Michigan – and attending the University.

Over the past 19 years, Bawcom has made sure to participate in local cultural events. At the Ann Arbor Film Festival, he has managed the hospitality room and helped with event programming.

He is also the official photographer for Dance Camp, in charge of the ride calendar for the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society and a worker at the Wheatland Music Festival and Blues and Jazz Festival.

Bawcom also goes on bicycle tours around the Yucatan Peninsula. His love for archeology and bicycling has compelled him to go back four times.

With all that action, Bawcom said he is too busy to take out books from library.

In his youth, however, Bawcom was a voracious reader. He said he would read one and half science fiction books per day on average and collected over $16,000 worth of Marvel Comic Books. Now, he is left with one – a signed issue of Captain Marvel.


– Know a campus character worthy of a profile? E-mail suggestions to

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *