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

Athena, Doe Library

May all who enter gain wisdom

Athena, patron of Athens and the goddess of war and wisdom, is often portrayed as a majestic woman with a beautiful, stern face.

Chang-Lin Tien addresses the crowd on Charter Day.

Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien: An unabashed cheerleader for Cal

In a Twitter thread sharing memories of Chang-Lin Tien, Berkeley’s chancellor from 1990-97, one person recalled him passing out cookies in the library and exhorting, “Study hard! Go, Bears!” Another remembers students mobbing him as he walked across campus — “like something out of A Hard Day’s Night” — and Tien always made time to shake hands or give hugs.

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