Member of the Week: Shirley K. Baker

Shirley Baker blogShirley K. Baker is Vice Chancellor for Scholarly Resources and Dean of University Libraries at Washington University in St. Louis. Shirley has been an ACRL member since 1985 and is your ACRL member of the week.

1. Describe yourself in three words: Energetic, frank, insightful.

2. What are you reading right now? On my Kindle, John Lennard’s superb critical work on the writings of Paul ScottThe Raj Quartet and Staying On.  In print, Adam Arenson’s The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil Wars.

I’ve been a Paul Scott fan since I discovered him after my Peace Corps service in India and getting my M.A. in things South Asian from the University of Chicago.  I was referred to Arenson’s work by our assistant archivist as I was trying to piece together connections in the 1880’s between our co-founder and third chancellor William Greenleaf Eliot and the Boston family that gave us the 3,000-volume collection that included 74 books from Thomas Jefferson’s retirement library.  In the process, I gained a much better understanding of the pre-Civil War period and the three-way tensions between the North, the South, and the West.

3. Describe ACRL in three words: Young, academic, open.

4. Why did you join ACRL? It was a place to interact with others with the same passions.

5. What do you value about academic or research librarianship? Dedication to preserving and sharing knowledge for those thirsting for it.

6. In your own words: For someone who went to college and never wanted to leave (but didn’t want to be a professor), librarianship has been the place to be.  When I was new to libraries, I imagined that I would spend my life buying books and helping others with their quests for knowledge in my chosen subject area — the history and culture of the Indian subcontinent.  But I quickly discovered that my pre-graduate school work (computing and supervision) gave me skills that were in short supply and much more widely needed than my subject expertise.  And my willingness to step forward to do what was needed led to advancement through four universities (Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, MIT, and now Washington University in St. Louis).

Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at for more information.