UC Berkeley Library

Your Gifts at Work: Lighting the Library

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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, has contributed his expertise to the management of the library by serving on its advisory board.

Read more about your gifts at work:
Restoration of the North Reading Room and Heyns Reading Room
The Free Speech Movement Cafe at Moffitt