Image of UCSB Library donor, Kenneth Karmiole

The UC Santa Barbara Library is excited to announce that it has recently received a gift from antiquarian bookseller and philanthropist Kenneth Karmiole ‘68 to establish The Kenneth Karmiole Annual Lecture Series on Religion in American Life. This is Karmiole’s third endowment established at the Library, following his Kenneth Karmiole Endowment for Rare Books and Manuscripts and the Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Research Fellowship. All three endowments support efforts to promote and develop special research collections.

Karmiole has been a book lover since he was an undergraduate at UCSB and won the Library’s Edwin Corle Memorial Book Collection Contest in 1968 with his entry “American Women of the 19th Century.” After graduating UCSB with a BA in History, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Nicaragua, after which he attended UCLA to obtain a Master of Library Science degree. Karmiole’s love of books and part-time job at the famous Heritage Bookshop in Los Angeles inspired him to start his own company, Kenneth Karmiole, Bookseller, Inc. in Santa Monica, which dealt exclusively in rare books. Karmiole ran his successful business on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade for over 45 years until his retirement in 2021. 

Since the 1970s Karmiole has served three terms on the National Board of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) and is a member of the American Antiquarian Society. In 2011, Karmiole received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the UCLA Library and Information Studies Alumni Association. Karmiole was elected a Director of The Book Club of California in 2015 and serves as the current chair of The Library Committee. In 2018, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia where he also created various endowments to support the study of rare books. 

The endowed lecture series was created to support the promotion, visibility and research potential of the American Religions Collection (ARC), a hallmark collection in the Library’s Special Research Collections containing more than 33,600 books, nearly 5,000 serials, and approximately 1,000 linear feet of manuscripts mainly relating to 20th century non-traditional religions and splinter groups of larger religious bodies in North America. The core of the collection, assembled by founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion J. Gordon Melton, includes major sections relating to Astrology, Buddhism, Christian Science, Evangelical Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Magick, Mormonism, the New Age Movement, Spiritualism, and Theosophy.

The Kenneth Karmiole Annual Lecture Series on Religion in American Life will feature researchers, authors and academics who are familiar with the ARC’s content and influence on religious studies scholarship in a public presentation at UCSB. David Gartrell, the longtime curator of ARC, says “it is my hope that with this new endowment and lecture series we can shine a bright light on the ARC, which is a rich and diverse collection. We are deeply grateful to Ken for recognizing this collection’s larger value and sharing our vision to expand its scholarly influence and development.”

Karmiole has established six similar endowments at UCLA and felt that this endowed lecture series at UCSB was the next obvious step for him in his philanthropic goals. “I am very happy to be able to support the UCSB Library,” remarks Karmiole. “I spent countless hours in the library, both studying and occasionally sleeping! It is the heart of UCSB’s campus life.”

“Ken has been a stalwart supporter of the Library’s efforts to make our special research materials accessible and visible to the wider scholarly community,” comments University Librarian Kristin Antelman. “We are honored to be the recipient of three Karmiole endowments and to further his legacy as a scholar and book lover.”