History Room
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UC Berkeley Library
History Room


Library Architecture

"a university is primarily not a place for the parceling out of ready-made knowledge, but for that fresh thinking which results in new knowledge; that it exists not merely for passing on facts, but for showing students how facts are discovered; that it is not a museum in which may be found merely the accumulated wisdom of the past, but that it is a factory humming with industry and turning out the newest wisdom of the day."
--Robert Gordon Sproul, 11th President of the University of California, Inaugural Address, October 22, 1930

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA came into being in the 1860's through the commitment and foresight of State and local leaders who recognized the compelling need to create a institution of higher learning to educate and serve all the people of California. On March 23, 1868, Governor Henry H. Haight signed into law the Organic Act that established the University of California.

The new university, incorporating the former College of California and its campus in Oakland, commenced its first classes on September 23, 1869, with ten faculty and approximately forty freshmen. William Swinton, Professor of English Literature and History, served as the first librarian of a library that included about 1,000 books and was open Monday through Saturday only from 4pm to 5pm. Books could not be checked out. When the University moved to Berkeley in 1874, this collection expanded significantly. The University Library was housed first in South Hall, then moved to Bacon Hall in 1881, and finally to the Doe Library Building in 1911. The first full-time librarian, Joseph Rowell, was appointed in 1874 and would serve an unrivalled tenure as University Librarian for the next 45 years.

The Library and the campus have grown tremendously, both in size and reputation. Today there are ten campuses, not just one. The world-renowned Berkeley campus now has 30,000 students and is served by 36 separate libraries and collections that include over 9 million book volumes; 90,000 current serial publications; 425,000 pamphlets; 5 million microform items; 400,000 maps; 110,000 government documents; 70,000 sound and video recordings; and licenses which allow students, faculty and staff to access the very best online resources available for research and scholarship.

The international prominence of Berkeley's collections is testimony to the ability of a publicly supported university to build and enhance the vital educational resources of its libraries, and to continue to serve students and scholars for generations.

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