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University Librarian Nancy Baker bids farewell after 13 years

BY ALISON CRISSMAN | JUNE 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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While most University of Iowa students may not realize it, University Librarian Nancy Baker has likely affected their education in one way or another.

During her 13 years at the UI, one of Baker’s main initiatives was the implementation and creation of the Digital Library Services, a library unit responsible for digital research services that serves as the coordinating unit for all digitization in the library.

In a time when most student research is done with the aid of a computer, her initiative has allowed much of the UI Libraries’ Special Collections to be accessed at the touch of a button.

“We realigned what we were doing in the library because this was the future, and we needed to embrace it,” Baker said.

In addition to digitizing the library’s special collections, Baker was also one of the driving forces behind the new Learning Commons being constructed on the first floor of the Main Library.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be here when it’s finished, but I will be back to see it,” Baker said. “It will transform the first floor of the Main Library.”

UI President Sally Mason said Baker’s dedication to students has allowed the library system to make important advances over the last decade.

“Under Nancy’s leadership, our libraries have made very impressive advances, such as the Digital Library Services and the current Learning Commons project,” Mason said in a statement. “… Nancy’s greatest strength was her intense focus on furthering the academic success of students and meeting the needs of faculty and staff during her 13 years at the University of Iowa.”

As university librarian, Baker not only oversees the Main Library on campus, but the art, music, sciences, business, engineering, and health sciences libraries as well.

As a result, when the 2008 flood came, Baker was busy.

“The most memorable event that I’ve had to deal with since I’ve been here is the flood of 2008,” she said. “We had to get a lot of books out of the basement one day when the forecast was pretty clear that we were going to have major flooding in Iowa City.”

After stepping down in retirement on July 5, Baker will be replaced by John Culshaw, the senior associate dean for library administration at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Culshaw will take the helm at the beginning of August, and the current associate university librarian for information technology, Paul Soderdahl, will serve as interim university librarian until Culshaw begins.

Soderdahl, who works closely with Baker as a member of the library’s administrative cabinet, said her contributions to the UI libraries have benefitted not only the university, but others as well.

“She focuses a lot on working collaboratively, not only on campus, but with other Big Ten university libraries, and that makes for a pleasant environment that I think we’ve sort of just come to take for granted,” he said.

Above all, Soderdahl said Baker’s presence will be missed at the UI Libraries.

“I’m going to miss working for Nancy … and I wish her well,” he said. “I’m excited about John coming in. The library is on really solid footing for the future, and I think a lot of that credit goes to Nancy.”


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