Moffitt Library

The University Library: The mind and heart of Berkeley

In 1874, Berkeley’s fledgling library was housed first in South Hall, then moved to Bacon Hall in 1881. Yet as the collection continued to grow, so did the need for a bigger home. 

President Benjamin Ide Wheeler convinced Charles Franklin Doe, a San Francisco businessman and bibliophile, to bequeath funds to help pay for a new facility. Wrote Wheeler, “Until we have a great library, … we cannot have a great university.” The goals set forth by head librarian Joseph Rowell, who served for 45 years, included a central location, abundant light, rectangular rooms, and the “solidity and strength necessary to sustain great weight of books.”

Doe Library opened in 1911. Designed by campus architect John Galen Howard, the massive granite building resembles the Parthenon, reflecting Berkeley’s view of itself as the “Athens of the West.” It houses the Morrison Library and Heyns and North Reading Rooms and is connected to a four-story underground structure containing 52 miles of bookshelves.

Today Berkeley maintains over 20 subject-specialty libraries and nearly 13 million volumes. It has almost 100,000 active users and over 2.6 million online visitors. More than dry statistics, these numbers reveal how scholars and students use the library to further their studies, add to our collective knowledge, and help better the world.

View an illustrated history of Berkeley's library.

Explore Other Stories

Japanese Americans receiving honorary degrees from Berkeley

Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Strawberry Creek, UC Berkeley campus

Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek

A poem written and performed by José L. Rodríguez Nodal, a long-time staff member with deep family ties to UC Berkeley, for the university’s 150th birthday on March 23, 2018

The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Gilbreth: A master of human behavior and engineering

By today’s standards, Lillian Gilbreth 1900, M.A. 1902 was a superwoman. She studied literature at Berkeley in anticipation of becoming a teacher — and was the first woman to speak at a commencement ceremony — but her path took a dramatic turn. In 1915, she earned a Ph.D.

Trustees from the College of California at Founders Rock, 1860

Charter Day: A university is born

The University of California began on March 23, 1868, when Gov. Henry Haight signed an act catalyzing the audacious idea that California should have a great public university — one that would serve equally the children of immigrants and settlers, landowners and industrial barons.

Cal's emblem and colors

Cal’s blue, gold, and bear

The university colors of blue and gold were chosen in 1873 by a committee of representatives from each class. Blue was considered because it reflected the sky, student cadet uniforms, and Yale, from which many of the university’s founders and early administrators had graduated.