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 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

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

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.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain finds a home at Berkeley

If Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, had lived today, his nonstop outpouring of observations on American life might fit neatly on a medium-size hard drive.

David Blackwell

David Blackwell: A trailblazing statistician

“He had this great talent for making things appear simple. … That is the ultimate best thing in mathematics, if you have an insight that something seemingly complicated is really simple, but simple after the fact.”