Shirley K. Baker has served as dean of Washington University Libraries since 1989 and vice chancellor for scholarly resources since 1995. She will retire June 30, 2012, after 23 years at Washington University in St. Louis.
Dean Baker manages the University’s main research library — the John M. Olin Library, seven school or departmental libraries on the Danforth Campus and the West Campus Library. She oversees more than 140 professional and support staff and an annual budget of $25 million.
During her tenure at Washington University, Dean Baker has led the University Libraries through a succession of transformative changes, always seeking to strengthen library services and staff; improve print and electronic collections; expand access to collections; and partner with other organizations both on campus and off.
Because the library has ever-growing collections and has gradually added staff, Dean Baker’s attention often has focused, by necessity, on facilities. The creation of West Campus Library in 1993 added much-needed room for expanding collections. It later provided space where some holdings and units could be relocated during the University Libraries’ single biggest facilities project — the expansion and comprehensive renovation of the John M. Olin Library.
This ambitious $38-million project was completed in 2004, greatly enhancing the function, efficiency, comfort, technological capacity and appearance of the central library. Today, eight years after renovation, Olin Library remains one of the busiest buildings on campus, fulfilling Dean Baker’s vision.
In the mid-2000s, Dean Baker guided the creation of the new Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library and the Rettner Earth & Planetary Sciences Library. And she oversaw improvements to facilities housing the other school and departmental libraries.
Throughout her career, Dean Baker has focused on the uses of technology to describe, promote, share and preserve library resources regionally, nationally and internationally.
She led the automation of the library’s card catalog back in 1990, making it searchable online. Under her leadership, the library established a new department — Digital Library Services — in 2006 to support digitization of library holdings and to partner with faculty members as well as other organizations to accomplish important collaborative projects.
Dean Baker has been instrumental as a local, regional, national and international collaborator, developing best practices for interlibrary loan and giving members of the University community easy 24/7 access to a wealth of materials extending far beyond the library’s limits as an individual organization.
Dean Baker played a crucial role in founding MOBIUS, a resource-sharing network of more than 60 Missouri libraries, and she has served two terms as its president. MOBIUS is designed to allow its member organizations to share library materials quickly and inexpensively. It now includes more than 23 million items, serving more than 750,000 people.
Dean Baker has been a board member and president of the Association of Research Libraries. She served on the Online Computer Library Center Members Council and on the boards of BioOne, the Center for Research Libraries, the U.S. National Institute of Health’s PubMed Central National Advisory Committee, and the National Information Standards Organization.
She served on the visiting committee of Brown and Carnegie Mellon university libraries, the University of Pennsylvania libraries, and most recently Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries.
Before coming to Washington University, Dean Baker worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries from 1982 to 1989 and at Johns Hopkins University’s Eisenhower Library from 1976 to 1982. She was a librarian at Northwestern University Libraries from 1974 to 1976.
Dean Baker earned two master’s degrees from the University of Chicago — one in library science and one in South Asian languages and civilizations — both awarded in 1974. She completed an undergraduate degree in economics at Muhlenberg College, in her home state of Pennsylvania, in 1965.
Between undergraduate and graduate school, Dean Baker worked in computing for AT&T and the L.E. Myers Co. of Chicago and then served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in India.
Her husband, book and paper conservator Richard Baker, is semi-retired. He was in private practice in St. Louis for the past 23 years. The Bakers live in Clayton, Missouri, and have two children, Nick and India.