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February 23, 2018

Zachary Baker retires

Still from 2013 oral history with the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project

After a distinguished career spanning 42 years, 18 of which were at Stanford, Zachary Baker has retired.  It is difficult to truly articulate the impact Zachary has had at Stanford and far beyond, alas I shall try. 

From 1999 to 2017, Zachary contributed continuously and in exemplary fashion to the development first of the collections for which he was singularly responsible, Stanford’s Judaica and Hebraica Collections as the Reinhard Family Curator for Judaica and Hebraica Collections, and then in the past eleven years progressively in roles leading others in curatorial positions in each of their own assigned collection development responsibilities in the humanities and area studies, most recently the Assistant University Librarian for Collection Development.  At the time of his retirement, Zachary had developed strong relationships with the community and donors, and served as the steward of nearly 20 endowed funds either specific to Jewish Studies or general collection development.  

Zachary is responsible for bringing in several notable collections, not least the Samson-Copenhagen Judaica Collection or rarities from northern Europe.  Having come to Stanford with unimpeachable Diasporist credentials, Zachary quickly developed a rich collection of books and archival materials relating to Israel.  This effort sometimes found Zachary in many parts of the world, or just down the street in a Palo Alto garage, which resulting in unearthing runs of now-scarce Israeli children’s magazines dating back to the 1950s.  Zachary’s eye for these hidden treasures is as sharp as his intellect and knowledge, and the strength of our collections no doubt is the result of Zachary’s leadership. 

Zachary was recruited, as is usually the case, with the active participation of professors in the Center for Jewish Studies, and became an important member of the Center, often teaching sessions on the literature of Jewish studies and introducing students and faculty affiliated with the Center to the rarities and unique collections of images, posters, and media materials from Israel and the widespread foci of Jewish life. 

Zachary has been a prolific contributor to the scholarly and cultural literature of Jewish life, producing more than 70 publications, dozens of lectures, courses, and other presentations.  He has served on numerous boards, advised the National Library of Israel, and has been an elected leader in numerous organizations devoted to Jewish Studies.

Prof Steven Zipperstein provides the following comments about Zachary Baker’s career, with emphasis on the Stanford aspects thereof:

“Zachary Baker is widely seen the leading authority on Jewish libraries and archives in North America.  Former President of the Research and Special Libraries Division of the Association of Jewish Librarians, Board Member of the Association for Jewish Studies, Baker is a widely published specialist sought after by Jewish institutions worldwide.  I've heard from both the heads of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York and the National Yiddish Book Center at Amherst that Baker is as the most authoritative voice on Yiddish library matters someone they consult with regularly.  He has published widely in major publications in his field, and has helped in the training of graduate students at Stanford since his arrival two decades two decades.  A mark of his stature in the wider field of librarianship was his appointment in 2010 as Assistant University Librarian for Collection Development in addition to his position as Reinhard Family Curator of Judaica and Hebraica.  He is a leading authority who knows how to share his immense knowledge with modesty, consistent clarity and enthusiasm.”

On behalf of library colleagues and the faculty, staff and members of the community who were lucky enough to have crossed your path, Zachary, we salute you and wish you a wonderful, active retirement filled with all the merriment you deserve and have brought to all of us.  

--Michael A. Keller, University Librarian