Indiana University’s Viking-in-residence is all in a Twitter about the arts in Bloomington

Lars Karlsson

One of Lars Karlsson’s favorite activities on the Indiana University campus is sailing around Showalter Fountain in his Viking vessel. | Courtesy photos

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Tori Lawhorn:

At Indiana University, the most frequent visitor to campus events isn’t a student; it’s a Viking.

Lars Karlsson, a small wooden Viking, is dedicated to learning about all the different programs IU Bloomington has to offer, according to his owner, Kristin Leaman.

“He discovers and shares what he learns on campus,” said Leaman, the special collections cataloger in the Lilly Library.

Lars Karlsson at the Lilly

The Lilly Library will always be Lars’ home at Indiana University.

Lars made his first appearance on Facebook a year ago and popped up on Twitter in February.

After receiving him from a friend, Leaman said she first displayed Lars “protecting” items in the Lilly Library.

From the Lilly Library, Lars then branched out to several other venues on campus, including the IU Art Museum and IU Cinema. Since then he has regularly attended exhibitions, rehearsals, receptions, talks and other events.

Last summer the little guy even attended Mini University.

Leaman said some of Lars’ biggest fans are in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

“Lars loves to go and see the sets and (get) tickets to the shows,” she said. Lars frequently takes selfies with the casts and uploads them to his Twitter and Facebook pages.

Lars’ growing fan base

Leaman said one word that best describes Lars is “approachable.”

“He has his own persona,” she said. “He can take things from a scholarly level and bring it to us. He calls everyone his friends. He’s a huge IU fan and loves to learn new things and meet new people. He’s promoting all the amazing things IU has to offer. He takes things and shares them in a different way, making them accessible to everyone.”

Lars fan mail

In October, Lars received a tiny piece of fan mail.

Leaman said she enjoys running Lars’ social media so his experiences can be shared with a mass audience.

“I do really love it,” she said. “I was a theater performance major at Purdue, so this feeds my creative energy. I love learning new things and creating. I work in library sciences, so this gives me a chance to expand my knowledge beyond the doors of the Lilly to see what’s going on around campus.”

Leaman said Lars has increased his fan base as he’s traveled around to more events on campus.

“I get contacted by people asking, ‘Would Lars like to come to this?’ It’s fun seeing their excitement when I start taking pictures with Lars. He is all inclusive when it comes to arts and education.”

Leaman said she has been told it’s a brilliant idea that’s fun, while it respects the institution.

Coming home to the Lilly Library

Lars at Mathers

Lars saw “Monsters!” at the Mathers Museum.

Though Lars loves to travel around campus, he always comes back to the Lilly Library.

“The Lilly will always be near and dear to his heart,” Leaman said. “I think his favorite thing in the Lilly would be the medieval manuscripts. However, he also likes to sail around Showalter Fountain.”

Leaman said Lars has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“He’ll keep going for a while,” she said. “There’s always something happening. IU is so rich and engaging. There’s always something new for Lars to discover.”

About the Lilly Library

The Lilly Library serves as the rare books, manuscripts and special collections library of the Indiana University Libraries. The Lilly Library holdings include about 400,000 books, more than 100,000 pieces of sheet music and more than 7.5 million manuscripts.

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