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Your Gifts at Work

Restoration of the North Reading Room and Heyns Reading Room
Free Speech Movement Cafe
Fiat Lux: Lighting the Library

Your gifts to the University Library create an enduring legacy treasured by generations of students, faculty, and other scholars. On this page, we take the opportunity to celebrate a few of the significant gifts that have helped make the University Library what is it today: one of the finest public university research libraries in the world, rich in history, rich in collections, and rich in the new discoveries nurtured within its walls.

While the major projects described below have had an obvious impact on the Library's services and offerings, no less important are the many annual donors whose gifts go towards acquisitions, special projects, preservation, and other essential activities and resources.

Restoration of the North Reading Room and Heyns Reading Room

North Reading Room

Designed and built in 1910 by Cal's renowned architect, John Galen Howard, the North Reading Room of Doe Library is one of the most dramatic spaces on campus. An extensive renovation project in 2004-05 returned it to its original glory.

Many Cal alumni remember this majestic, light-filled room as one of their favorite campus locations, but almost a century of use had taken its toll. The restoration project began by stripping the room down to bare walls and concrete floor. Paint on the walls was carefully removed down to the first layer, so the historic color could be matched.

The repair and refinishing of the handsome oak study tables and chairs highlighted the extraordinary quality of the original craftsmanship. The time-consuming technique of quartersawing the oak boards had been used in their construction, resulting in very stable furniture that boasts the prized "ray flecks" from the oak grain. A lacquer finish was used, rather than polyurethane.

The 1950s-era fluorescent trough lighting was replaced with study lamps custom-fabricated to match the originals, which were captured in archival 1930s photos from The Bancroft Library. New wiring was installed, as well as a protective slat to ensure that students don't help themselves to the expensive lightbulbs! All the improvements, such as new flooring, perimeter bookshelf lighting, and new shelving, were meticulously designed to be in keeping with the historic nature of the room.

Also on the second floor of Doe Library is the East Reading Room, which in 2006 was named for Berkeley's Chancellor from 1965 to 1971. Now the Roger W. Heyns Reading Room, it has been adapted with new study areas and expanded library shelving for periodicals collections. With its ornate Renaissance decoration, majestic ceiling, spacious study tables, and comfortable reading area, the Heyns Reading Room is a rich and peaceful setting for student and faculty research.

The renovation of these reading rooms has provided a suitable setting for the finest collections of any public research university library in North America. Completed as part of the renovation of the Bancroft Library, the project cost approximately two million dollars. The Library is grateful to the leadership efforts of Mrs. Jean Doyle; Jack and Barbara Rosston; Mollie and Dennis Collins; Charlene and Jack Liebau; Doris and George Maslach; and Robert Haas. Support from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr Fund, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Miriam and Peter Haas Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was essential to the success of the project.

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Free Speech Movement Cafe

Thanks to Cal alum Steve Silberstein, Berkeley's library boasts a cafe that may be just as rare as some of the manuscripts enclosed within its walls.

  • The Free Speech Movement Cafe serves local, organic, and sustainable foods whenever possible, helping visitors begin to understand the issues implicit in their food choices.
  • Named for a famous period of the university's history, the cafe's posters and signage educate visitors about the Free Speech Movement and the values it expressed.
  • It matches the library's hours, including 24 hours a day during the ten days of finals.
  • And finally, the cafe plays a dynamic role in student education through presentations and panels on current issues, and through a daily newspaper display that presents the front pages from international newspapers.

A steady stream of visitors that fills the cafe's indoors and terrace seating testifies to the cafe's success in answering campus needs in all these ways.

A gift from Steve Silberstein, BA '64, MLS '77, provided funding for the cafe's construction in 2000. Silberstein worked at the University Library for 10 years, becoming head of the Library Systems Office. He left to co-found Innovative Interfaces, a computer software company which, among other things, provides access software to most public and many university libraries. Silberstein retired from the company in 2001.

"We owe no small debt to Mario Savio and the individuals who made up the Free Speech Movement," Silberstein said when he announced his gift in memory of Savio, who died in 1996. "Despite great personal and family sacrifice, they spoke up for the ideals upon which our society is based, and in which we all believe: a more just world, civil rights, and the removal of limitations on the free discussion and advocacy of ideas."

Silberstein feels strongly that his support of "one of the world's truly great libraries is something I imagine Mario would appreciate, given his love of learning and ideas." His gift also supported the digitization of the Free Speech Movement archives, and endowed library collections in the humanities.

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Fiat Lux: Lighting the Library

The legions of denim-clad students using Cal's Library at all hours of the day and night would find it fitting: a gift from Levi Strauss himself, co-inventor of the blue jean, first enabled the library to install lights and expand its hours into the evening. Until his 1896 gift, the University's Bacon Library was closed in the evening, much to the disappointment of students, because budget constraints had prevented the installation of gas lines and lighting fixtures during construction.

A January 13, 1896 letter to the Regents from Levi Strauss, together with Louis Slott, J.L. Flood, and G. W. McNear, said

"Desiring to increase the advantages offered by the Library through having it open during the evening, we beg to subscribe for that purpose, each, the sum of $250, making $1000, which we are told is sufficient to have the building lit by electric light."

Thanks to these public-spirited men of San Francisco, the library no longer had to hurry students out the doors at 5 pm. From March 11 to May 12, 1896, for five days each week the Library was open continuously from 8:20 am until 10 pm.

Lighting the library was only one of Levi Strauss's gifts to the University. The next year, he matched funds for 28 scholarships created by the state legislature. These were the first scholarships at Cal. The 1903 Blue and Gold yearbook lists the Levi Strauss Scholarship Club, which "lives as a witness to the benefactions of Mr. Strauss, who has made possible for its members the broadening influence of a college career."

When Levi Strauss died in 1902, his family maintained the philanthropic relationship with the University that has continued now for over a century. Devoted alumni and generous donors, members of this great California family have long honored their ties to the University. The Library is grateful that Robert Haas Jr., a descendent of Levi Strauss and chairman of the company's board, contributes his expertise to the management of the library by serving on its advisory board.

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