Librarian who treasured UConn experience makes bequest to support University library

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Grace Merritt

2 min read

For Nancy Baker ’72 (CLAS), going to college was a big deal. Her parents had wanted to go but never got the chance because they had come of age during the Great Depression. When she arrived in Storrs and began taking classes, she was truly captivated.

“For me, going to college really threw me into being in an environment of ideas. English, philosophy, and art history do that for you,” Baker says. “I remember thinking after I got to UConn, ‘Well, this isn’t like high school anymore.’ It was very special for me.”

So special that Baker devoted her career to higher education—as an academic librarian. And so treasured that she decided to put UConn in her will. She and her husband, Jim, are leaving a bequest that will benefit UConn’s libraries.

“Nancy and Jim know first-hand the library is an invaluable partner in the success of students, faculty, and researchers,” says Anne Langley, Dean of the UConn Library. “Donations like these make it possible for us to provide the services our community of learners needs.”

Baker, who grew up in Ohio, has fond memories of her days at UConn. 

“What I remember the most there is the quality of the classes, the interest from the faculty, and the intellectual environment in the place. I just loved it, and I made some good friends there. I was sad when it was over.”

Baker went on to spend her life working in libraries on college campuses all around the country. After earning a master’s in library science at the University of Michigan, she started her career at the SUNY Binghamton library. She moved on to work at Middlebury College, the University of Kentucky, and Washington State University, eventually moving up into more administrative library jobs.

She capped off her career at the University of Iowa, where she directed all the university’s libraries. She and her husband, an environmental lobbyist, retired about 10 years ago and now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

During her long career, Baker says she watched academic libraries evolve from being book repositories to bustling hubs that provide students with a sense of community and access to omnichannel digital resources. Recognizing this, she decided not to restrict her planned gift to a particular program or area to give UConn’s future librarians more flexibility.

“I want them to be able to use it in whatever way will be most pertinent to make the biggest difference to students and faculty at the University,” she says. “The library serves everybody, so if you give a gift to the library, whatever that library looks like in the future, you’re benefiting everybody,” she explains.

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