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150 reasons to love the Library

In celebration of UC Berkeley’s 150th birthday, we are highlighting the services, spaces, and people that make the Library the true heart of the university. Click on the arrows and follow the blue numbers to explore 150 reasons to love the Library.

Our vision

Guided by UC Berkeley’s motto, Fiat Lux, the Library serves as a beacon of opportunity 1 for promising young minds and esteemed faculty.

External view of the Doe Library

To support a new mission and visionwe are helping students explore emerging topics, from data analysis to digital literacy to digital humanities.

By connecting scholars with resources and tools, the Library helps show students what is possible for learning and research in the digital age.

Through mentoring, reference, and instruction, we help students take concrete steps to fulfill their academic dreams4

Our vast and dynamic collections — and the programs that bring them to life — preserve the past and inspire the future5

A message from our university librarian

What’s not to love about this Library, this campus? I ask myself that question almost daily during my morning (zero-emission) commute — a brisk walk from Oakland along College Avenue. I enter UC Berkeley from a less-beaten track, the south end, and immediately feel the energy of this living, breathing center of knowledge 6 — old, new, and yet to come. I pass one of my favorite spots on campus — the Music Library, a place where I can pore over original scores 7 and aspire to be the Rachmaninoff I’m not. Doe Library, an unparalleled source of inspiration 8, is the place I am so fortunate to work, surrounded by people whose passions and ideas make this world a better place. 9

Beneath the Campanile’s iconic bells, our Library imagines and reimagines ways to support Berkeley scholars 10, inspired by 150 years of tradition. 11 We are working to make scholarly resources free and available to all by serving as leaders in the worldwide push for open access 12 and rapidly digitizing the materials in our collections. 13 (We have around 200 million items that have not yet been digitized, by anyone.) We continue to build those collections so that readers — current and future — will have access to the knowledge and cultural heritage of our civilizations. 14

My last checkout? Libraries of the Future by J.C.R. Licklider. 15 Published in 1965, it presents a vision for the role of technology in libraries that is still relevant today.

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason

Jeff MacKie-Mason in the reading room of Doe Library

Our tradition of service

We dug up this slice of history from the University Archives 16 — an image made on Charter Day in 1920, with Doe Library in the background — and held it up at the same place on this year’s Charter Day, 98 years later. Although the campus — and the fashions (hello, top hats!) — have changed, the Library’s importance as a hub of knowledge remains the same.

An external view of the Bancroft library with a photograph of the same view from 1920 held up in front

Our students

There’s more than one side to every story. And at The Bancroft Library’s Oral History Center, there are thousands. The Oral History Center, or OHC, conducts in-depth interviews with leading citizens of the West. 17 This fall, the OHC will publish videos and audio from more than 250 interviews on Rosie the Riveter and the World War II home front. 18 Under the hood of the colossal project — as with all of the OHC’s undertakings — are undergraduate students who are taught not just how to stitch together an interview 19, but to build a story. 20 “What I’ve taken away is an appreciation for different voices,” 21 says Maggie Deng ’19, who started working at the OHC as a freshman. “In history classes I’d always ask, ‘OK, this happened, but what did people at that time think?’ That’s what makes oral histories special; you’re getting that first-person, real — biased or not — perspective of people who lived through those events.” 22 The OHC employs about a dozen of the nearly 600 students who work for the Library. 23 And Berkeley’s more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students depend on the Library’s services, spaces, and scholarly resources.

Maggie Deng

Passion for the past, skills for the future

As the Oral History Center revamps its online presence, students have been at the heart of the process. They help produce a podcast 24, craft the center’s social media presence, and digitize audio trapped in cassettes. 25 Essentially, it’s students who help make the center’s work accessible.

“The heart of what we do and are funded to do is to create the interviews, and leave them for the world to have,” says David Dunham, technology lead for the OHC. “A number of years ago, we got all the transcripts online, and that’s great — they’re there. But how do people find them?”

Students are also trained in the editorial side of production. 26 They review transcripts, draft section summaries, and research topics for interviewers.

For Dunham, the goal is to leave students with a passion for oral histories and skills they can take with them wherever they go. 27

“We learn from them, and they learn from us,” he says.

Familiar space provides peaces of mind

The air vent in a classroom in Mulford Hall is growling. The books lining a Doe Library reading room whisper a thousand secrets.

When Hari Srinivasan ’19 steps into a new environment, he’s often bombarded by sensations such as these. Srinivasan has nonverbal autism accompanied with sensory dysregulation. Foreign spaces can send his brain into a kaleidoscopic frenzy.

Hari Srinivasan

With UC Berkeley’s Disabled Students’ Program, the Library works to support students with disabilities, 28 such as Srinivasan. This past semester, they helped ensure he could take all of his exams in Moffitt Library, a familiar, comfortable place. 29

“When you are in a new environment, you are spending a lot of mental energy trying to process it,” Srinivasan says via text-to-speech software. “During an exam, I want to be able to focus.”

Srinivasan is a research assistant for Stephen Hinshaw, a campus psychology professor who studies the stigma surrounding mental illness. For his work, Srinivasan uses Library resources to pore over countless academic articles. 30 After graduating, he plans to pursue a Ph.D.

“I really want to use what I learn here at Cal towards research and advocacy such that it will improve the quality of life for individuals like me,” Srinivasan says.

Our favorite treasures

Bob Hirst, general editor, Mark Twain Project

“I don’t have so much favorite items as I do favorite happenings,” says Bob Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project. Thirty-five years ago, Hirst was flipping through the Clemens family Bible 31, which Twain’s mother had used as a kind of filing cabinet. In it, Hirst stumbled upon a scrap of paper that he believes Twain printed as a young typing apprentice. “If that’s correct (and I believe it is) it became the oldest piece of paper we knew he had actually ‘written’ anything on,” 32 Hirst says.

Peter Hanff, deputy director, The Bancroft Library

In the late 19th century, archaeologists, with funding from Phoebe Hearst, discovered a trove of manuscripts from the Ptolemaic period in Tebtunis, Egypt. Today, The Bancroft Library’s Tebtunis papyri collection is one of the largest such collections in the world 33, according to Peter Hanff, Bancroft’s deputy director. This manuscript 34, from around A.D. 200, was worn as an amulet protecting against fever, and addresses a deity called Kok Kouk Koul with a pattern of “magic” words.

Book plate belonging to Samuel Clemens

Peter Zhou, director, C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Oracle bone fragments, dating back as far as 1400 B.C., bear the oldest written scripts in Chinese 35, says Peter Zhou, director of the East Asian Library. During the Shang Dynasty, diviners would carve questions into turtle shells and ox shoulder blades and heat them. The resulting cracks were interpreted as answers from gods.

Claude Potts, romance languages librarian

“If you go down to (Level D) in the folio section (of Main Stacks, in Doe Library), you will encounter undoubtedly the largest books in our collection,” 36 says Claude Potts, romance languages librarian. Folios are unusually tall books, often used to highlight the intricate details of maps, art, and architecture. 37 Some folios, such as double elephant folios, can measure up to 4 feet long. Here, Potts is holding a linguistic atlas that shows how word pronunciations differ across regions of France.

Claude Potts holding a giant book

Susan Powell, geographic information systems and map librarian

Hammond’s Comprehensive Map of the World: On Mercator’s Projection (1942) features cutout flags that indicate military movements, battle scenes, and military-occupied areas. “It was a map for people at home to follow troop movements, battles, and front lines,” 38 says Susan Powell, geographic information systems and map librarian. “I love it as a reminder that interactive maps are not a new phenomenon and that they can be such a powerful way of synthesizing information.” 39

Adnan Malik, curator and cataloger for the South Asia collections

The South/Southeast Asia Library is the only library in the country with a first-edition copy of Parīkshāguruh (1882), known as the very first novel in Hindi. 40 The novel, written by Śrīnivāsadāsa, was meant to teach middle-class men in 19th-century British India how to embrace modern knowledge and technology while keeping traditional Hindu moral values. “It is a very rare item and is a real feather in the cap of our already comprehensive and extensive collection on Hindi literature,” 41 says Adnan Malik, curator and cataloger for the South Asia collections.

John Shepard, curator of music collections

This original sketch of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sixth String Quartet (1799) 42 shows Beethoven “in the heat of inspiration, quickly writing down his first thoughts for the music so he will not forget them,” says John Shepard, curator of music collections. “Beethoven wrote this sketch for himself — not for others — so his notation is difficult to decipher, even for musicologists.”

Original sketch of Ludwig van Beethovens sixth string quartet

Brian Quigley, head of the Engineering & Physical Sciences Division

“This isn’t a very unique item — it’s fairly widely held — but Oliver Byrne’s 1847 edition of The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid is really beautiful,” says Brian Quigley, head of the Engineering & Physical Sciences Division. The textbook uses bright colors and simple diagrams to teach geometric principles. The Bancroft Library has a copy of the original 1847 edition 43, and the Math Library has a circulating reproduction. 44

Stacy Reardon, literatures and digital humanities librarian

Chang-rae Lee’s dystopian novel, On Such a Full Sea (2014), is the first book to feature a 3-D-printed cover — and The Bancroft Library has a limited, signed edition of it. 45 For Stacy Reardon, literatures and digital humanities librarian, the cover reveals how technology can transform physical books into art. 46

José Adrián Barragán-Álvarez, curator of Latin Americana

This image of Mary in Sergio Sánchez Santamaría’s Cuaresma en la región Cuautla, Morelos (2015) 47 celebrates the sixth Friday of Lent, before Palm Sunday, in the artist’s native town of Tlayacapan, Mexico. “To me, the piece is emblematic of the old and the new at Bancroft,” 48 says José Adrián Barragán-Álvarez, curator of Latin Americana, which focuses on Mexican and Central American history. “Sergio’s work demonstrates the lasting legacy of these religious traditions.”

Our innovations

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, it can be easy to feel lost, with roadblocks and uncertainty at each turn. A couple of years later, things get easier. You pick a major, join some clubs, find a home. By and by, confidence grows.

But what if the process didn’t have to take so long?

That question is at the heart of a program launched by librarians this spring, aimed at emboldening students to ask questions 49 and empowering them to find answers. 50

“Asking for help is a vulnerable behavior — no one likes to do it; we know this, it’s a fact,” says Nicole Brown, who heads instruction services for the Library. “We’re trying to make it easier.” 51

Nicole Brown

The new pilot, the Library Undergraduate Fellowship program, brings together students and librarians from diverse backgrounds into a single support system. 52 In the program, librarians mentor the fellows 53 and coach them on the Library’s services. 54 In return, fellows teach librarians what it’s like to be an undergraduate and how to make those services accessible. 55

“When I landed (on campus), I had no resources, no idea how research should look at all,” Ross Mattheis ’18 says. “I didn’t know if my questions were interesting enough to talk to a librarian about.”

Last year, Mattheis dreamt up an alternative 56: a peer-to-peer consulting network. “Peers are more approachable than a 40-year-old dude,” he says.

Students looking at a laptop computer in Moffitt Library

Inspired by that vision, the Library formed the undergraduate fellowship and launched a Data + Digital Research Help desk 57, on Moffitt’s first floor. At the desk, undergraduate fellows help peers delve into topics ranging from sifting through online journals 58 to 3-D printing medical devices. 59

Fellow Caitlin Cozine ’20 grew up in libraries and volunteered at a library throughout high school. She’s considering a career in educational policy after college, looking specifically at inequality.

For her, breaking barriers isn’t just a project — it’s a lifelong passion.

“We have so many students from all these different backgrounds, and it’s easy to think, we all got here, we’re all smart — but, at the same time, we all come from so many different social and economic levels,” Cozine says. “Part of our job as Library fellows is making sure all students feel welcome in the Library.” 60

Creating community

Each fellow is an expert of sorts in one of four areas: data science, digital humanities, library research, or Makerspace.

Alicia Auduong ’19 is a Makerspace fellow. Her job is to smash the boxes dividing students who use the Makerspace and build a community 61 from the pieces. Auduong is recruiting students from all majors 62 and reorganizing the physical space in Moffitt to better facilitate teamwork and tinkering. 63

Virtual reality and 3-D printing, they all have roots in engineering, but they’re not for engineers — they’re for everyone to use,” Auduong says. “We want to bring in students who say, ‘I’m an English major, but I also know how to code, and I know how to write stories in VR that really touch people.’”

Student wearing virtual reality headgear

For Brown, that community-building is a rough blueprint for how the Library aims to serve students in the future. As the Library begins to imagine how the first three floors of Moffitt Library can transform into the Center for Connected Learning, Brown hopes to build a new kind of reference desk 64 — one bustling with students, with no shortage of talents and ideas.

“We’re really good at keeping the machines going: The clocks are always wound, the equipment is up and running,” says Jean Ferguson, learning and research communities librarian. “What the students do is push us to innovate.” 65

The Center for Connected Learning, which has already taken over Moffitt’s top two floors, will not only be a gateway into the Library’s resources, but a hub for students of all levels to explore together. 66

Flipping the model

Ultimately, the premise is that undergraduates are not just students, but researchers and creators, and it’s up to the Library to help realize that potential. 67

“There’s this traditional model where librarians are the experts, the professor is the expert, some ‘XYZ’ person is an expert,” says Josh Quan, data services librarian. “But we have to adapt to how people learn 68, and it can’t just be in this top-down model.

“Everyone is unique,” he continues. “Students all have their own expertise, and it’s developing, always.”

Gabriella Wellons ’18 has taken a smorgasbord of digital humanities classes at Berkeley and spent years learning the tools of the trade. At the help desk, she pointed students to the software, classes, and tutorials 69 she first found helpful years ago.

Because, most often, people just need a place to start.

“(The consulting) is in part technical help . . . but you also end up talking about research design and the question,” Mattheis says. “You get contact time with undergraduates 70 who have already been involved in research. That’s a really good supplement to the learning process, where you’re not taught to do research so much as you learn by example.”

Our tools

Cataloging Unit, The Bancroft Library

Catalogers provide, organize, and uncover information about The Bancroft Library’s materials, from rare books to manuscripts to photographs. As manuscripts cataloger at Bancroft, Kenna Fisher often investigates rare items 71, uncovering the secrets they hold. A magnifying glass 72 lets her take a closer look at the materials she encounters: “I’ve used it to try and discern handwriting, dates, or individual letters or initials,” she says. Embedded in the handle of the magnifying glass is a high-powered lens, which she once used to make out the words on a small metal seal from a government entity in Italy. The mini-spatula 73 is used to remove staples without causing damage, or to carefully separate pages that are stuck together, and book snakes 74 safely hold open books. A book knife, or paper knife 75, is used (only with permission of the curator of rare books) to “open” — or cut the edges of — the untrimmed and still-connected pages of a book.

An overhead shot of library tools: magnifying glass, mini-spatula, and paper knife

Conservation Treatment Division, Preservation Department

In the basement of Doe Library, the Preservation Department’s Conservation Treatment Division works busily and carefully to maintain the Library’s expansive collections. The OptiVISOR 76 is a magnifier worn around the head, keeping conservators’ hands free during precision work. Bone folders 77 are used in many ways, including to fold or score paper, and rub down and smooth out material that has been pasted. The water brush 78 is a tool that separates strips of lightweight handmade Japanese paper used to mend tears, giving them feathered edges. Conservators here gently tamp down materials — such as paper that has been affixed to an irregular book surface — with a Japanese stencil brush 79, made of deer hair. The team uses a modified spokeshave 80 to pare down leather for repairing book bindings. Fine pointed brushes 81 are used to apply the tiniest amount of paste — or to paste onto a small area.

Overhead view of more library tools: an optivisor, bone folder, water brush, Japanese stencil brush, spokeshave, fine-pointed brush

Library Design Office

Design tools: tracing paper, pens, architect scale, architectural plans, doorknob

The process of keeping our spaces engaging and useful 82 depends on the work of the Library Design Office, which supplies the planning, vision, and coordination to transform a project from an idea to a reality. Tracing paper 83 is used early in the design process, to test ideas when more than one solution arises for the same problem. Instead of using pencils, Sukhjit Johal, who is in charge of capital projects at the Library, prefers the permanence of pens. 84 An architect’s scale 85 helps ensure elements in a drawing are in the same proportion, and architectural plans 86 are used to communicate ideas to a client. As for the doorknob? 87 Johal likes to salvage items that are original to Doe Library, which was completed in 1911. “Who knows when they can come in handy in future renovations?” he says.

Interlibrary Services

Interlibrary services tools: rubber bands, packing tape, plastic wrap, barcode sheets

Interlibrary Services ships and receives materials every day, opening the UC Berkeley Library’s wealth of resources to institutions across the world, and connecting the Library’s users with materials from beyond its own collections — including physical items and digital scans. Rubber bands 88 are used to secure items together before shipping them to institutions around the globe, and packing tape 89 is used to seal boxes for daily UPS pickups or FedEx drop-offs. Plastic wrap 90 helps contain the books that come and go through the Library’s doors on carts and book trucks. Sometimes, when an older item is paged and retrieved from Main Stacks, it doesn’t have a barcode attached or a record in the Library’s system. The team uses these sheets 91 to add a barcode, allowing the item to be properly checked in and out and tracked.

Our staff


A conversation with Engineering Librarian Lisa Ngo

Lisa Ngo

What is your role as an engineering librarian? I purchase materials and inform departments about new collections 92 we have that might be relevant to their teaching and research. I also do outreach to undergraduates 93 and the College of Engineering to promote the space, collections, and services we offer.

What are some of the important services the Library offers to the young engineer? For undergrads, we’re an important, inclusive space where everyone’s welcome. 94 There’s a community feel, and that’s really important. We also have the course reserves 95, so they can check out textbooks, and we do laptop checkouts. 96 We’re also a REST Zone, so lots of napping 97 going on, too. For graduate students and researchers, our core services are helping with data management 98 and workshops for their writing. 99

Do you have any favorite items in the Engineering Library’s collection? We’ve got some really cool historical Bay Area stuff. We have original plans for where the Transbay Tube was going to go for BART. 100 We also have a big government documents collection 101, too — a lot of really old and cool technical reports from the Department of Energy and Department of Defense.

What’s one cool project that you’ve helped out with? When the World Trade Center was hit, one of our civil engineering faculty members was called on the scene to study the steel structures and what actually happened there. He had this cool collection of pictures and documents and reports, and a member of the public made a (Freedom of Information Act) request for public access to those things. We helped make a public website where he could put up all of his documents. 102

How has the space changed over the years? We were renovated in 2011. The stacks used to be downstairs and upstairs — it was just shelves and books. The No. 1 thing students had asked for was more study space. So we reduced our physical collection by 40 percent by storing most of it at NRLF (an off-site storage facility), tore out the shelves, and put in the study rooms. 103 (The next year), our gate count went up by more than 100,000 students. They loved it.

Students working at desks in Moffitt Library

Finally, as a librarian, have you ever had to tell someone to be quiet? Yep, all the time: “Keep it down, put away your food, there’s no food allowed.” We’re known as a loud library.


A conversation with Patrick Shannon, head of Interlibrary Services

Patrick Shannon

How would you describe your job and Interlibrary Services to someone who doesn’t work at a library? Our mission is to support the research and scholarship of Berkeley patrons. No library can own everything. So it’s our job to obtain what we don’t own for our patrons who need it. 104 The other part of our job is to open up Berkeley resources to other institutions and scholars who need what we have. 105

What is the most common question you get about your job? Well, from people outside the Library, it’s, “What is ILL?” (Interlibrary Lending). Another question we get often is, “Can you borrow outside the UCs?” People think we are limited to UCs, and we’re not. We’re nationally and internationally networked. 106

Do you have any memorable stories of connecting someone with an item they requested? We were contacted by the daughter of a person who had been a prisoner of war in World War II in the Philippines. He was an American serviceman, and she knew the date, roughly, that he came back after the war and was trying to get information for her mother — the father had passed away. We were able to find a San Francisco newspaper article from late ’45 or early ’46 that showed the ship on which he was repatriated coming through the Golden Gate. We sent it off to the family, and they were really delighted. It’s always nice when you touch people like that. 107

What’s your favorite library at UC Berkeley? I have to say Morrison Room. It’s like a little oasis in a sea of craziness 108 sometimes.

A woman reading in Morrisson Library

And how would you describe the Library in three words? Dynamic 109, resilient 110, and beautiful. 111

So what’s your favorite thing about the Library as a patron? I think it’s just the range of material that we have access to. You can find books on almost any subject. 112 And we have a wonderful audiovisual collection. 113

Lastly, what’s the most rewarding part of your job? Working with such an amazing group of people. 114 And the other thing I would say is when you’re at our public service desk, and you hand the person the thing that completes their research, and you just see the gratitude on their face — there’s nothing like that. 115

Our spaces

Home to 25 libraries, the UC Berkeley campus has an array of amazing spaces, whether you want to study, explore, collaborate, get research help, immerse yourself in virtual reality — or just about anything else you can think of.

Anthropology 116
Art History + Classics 117
Bancroft 118The entrance to the Bancroft Library
Bioscience, Natural Resources + Public Health 119
Business 120
Chemistry 121
Data Lab 122
Doe 123
Earth Sciences + Map 124
East Asian 125
Engineering 126
Environmental Design 127
Graduate Services 128
Mathematics + Statistics 129
Main Stacks 130
Media Resources Center 131
Moffitt 132A student writing on a glass wall in Moffitt Library
Morrison 133
Music 134
Newspapers + Microforms 135
NRLF 136*
Optometry 137
Physics + Astronomy 138
Social Research 139
South + Southeast Asia 140

* Housing more than 7 million volumes, the Northern Regional Library Facility, in Richmond, is a bunker of shared knowledge, bursting with materials from Northern California libraries. 141 It’s also running out of space. The UC Regents recently approved an expansion, which will add the capacity for 3.1 million more print materials 142, providing a cost-effective way to store valuable information into the future.A person shelving a book in the Northern Regional Library Facility

Our supporters

With a bequest, a chance to give back

Betty Pacheco ’54, M.A. ’57 started working at a young age. She remembers being about 4 years old, helping dry apricots on the family ranch. “If you don’t want to do this all your life, you have to go to college,” she remembers her mom saying. And that’s just what she did.

Pacheco became the first in her family to attend college. At Berkeley, Pacheco worked as a researcher alongside noted physical education expert Franklin Henry. They focused on deep muscle and exercise physiology, and worked with Roger Bannister, the English athlete who cracked the four-minute mile. For much of her research, she notes, she relied upon the Library. 143

“I used the Library a lot, particularly the Doe Library, because it was just a nice, comforting, quiet place where you could access any materials that you really wanted to,” 144 Pacheco says.

A few years ago, Pacheco decided to include the Library in her bequest plans and become a member of the Library Legacy Circle 145, a group of donors who have decided to support the Library through planned giving. “I thought that … might impact lots and lots of students,” she says.

Jeff MacKie-Mason speaking to members of the Library Legacy Circle

The ultimate tribute

Norma Kobzina M.L.S. ’78 is remembered as “the Ultimate Librarian.”

She started at Berkeley as a library assistant and went on to serve as the head of the Bioscience & Natural Resources Library. At the Library, she was known for many things, including her passion, and knack, for teaching, her emphasis on the importance of reference, and her development of the embedded librarian concept. 146 She proudly showed off her impressive cookbook collection 147 on tours.

After her death, in 2013, a fund was established in her honor, with contributions from John Kobzina, Norma’s widower, allowing it to reach endowment level.

“It fills me with a great deal of happiness when I attend author events 148 such as the recent one with (gene-editing pioneer) Jennifer Doudna and walk through the new student employees center 149 knowing that this truly is a living memorial to Norma,” John says. “There is always a smile on my face when I come to campus every year to add to the endowment for Norma’s fund.”

To learn more, contact the Library Development Office at 510-642-9377 or

Reason 150 to love the Library . . .


The Berkeley campus gets only 14 percent of its operating budget from state funds. Your generous gifts allow the University Library to serve the next generation of scholars around the world. Join us as we celebrate 150 years of light — and bring new knowledge to light for many years to come. Fiat Lux!

External view of the Bioscience Library