Sara Timby retires from Special Collections

March 26, 2014
Glynn Edwards

After more than 37 years of service to Stanford, Sara Timby will retire from Special Collections at the end of this month. Trained in anthropology and ethnobotany at UC-Berkeley, Sara joined the Stanford Libraries staff in 1976 as a Special Collections assistant, where her duties were various, including public service, technical processing, acquisition management, and paging. In 1979, she took a position in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives working initially for Maggie Kimball, former University Archivist. In those days, the department typically acquired less than 100 feet of manuscript materials. One of the first collections she processed was the Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis papers, 1920–1970.

In the mid-1980s, manuscripts intake volume increased exponentially with acquisition of the records of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and of the Southern Pacific Railroad with over 2,000 and 3,000 feet respectively. At this point the department began to reorganize, and Sara concentrated more fully on cataloging and new acquisitions. Fellow staff and curators have benefited from Sara’s remarkable dedication and collegiality, as well as her institutional memory that reaches back almost four decades. In Sara’s own words, "One of the things I liked best about my job was working with all the curators on their interesting acquisitions. It was a great privilege and I will miss it."

A longtime environmental activist, botanist, Jasper Ridge docent, and mountaineer who made numerous ascents in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Sara’s contributions to Stanford resources in these areas are numerous. They include a 1980 Stanford Oral History Project interview with Ira Loren Wiggins, Stanford Professor Emeritus of Botany, conducted with John Rawlings; authorship of “The Dudley Herbarium, Including a case study of Terman’s restructuring of the biology department,” a history of the herbarium accompanied by profiles the plant collectors associated with it, published in the fall 1998 issue of the Historical Society’s Sandstone & Tile; and The Orchid Observed: Five Centuries of Botanical Illustration, catalogue of the Libraries’ 1983 exhibition by the same name (now out of print). She was a contributor to Trees of Stanford and Environs by Ronald N. Bracewell, with a foreword by Donald Kennedy (Stanford Historical Society), and The Phantom Climber and Other Campfire Tales of the Sierra Nevada, a limited edition book produced by John Rawlings, based on stories she and John recorded in 1994.

Sara’s respect, knowledge, and informal stewardship of the flora, fauna, and geology of the Stanford campus and its surroundings are admired by her colleagues, whom she has educated by way of gentle comments, setting an example of treading lightly, and leading memorable small group tours of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Her “vacations” have included annual plant-specimen gathering forays to the Sonoran Desert.

While we are saddened by Sara’s departure from Special Collections, we are heartened that she will have more time to devote to her involvement with the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and the Peninsula Open Space Trust, among other environmentally significant activities. Sara’s last day in the Libraries will be the 27th of March; her summer plans include botanical field studies with the Jepson Herbarium on the Channel Islands, at Zion National Park, and in Idaho. We wish her all the best as she embarks on these adventures.