Doe Library celebrates 100th birthday

Now, the library plans for an increasingly digital future while maintaining its print roots

Edwin Cho/Staff
Edwin Cho/File

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When the Charles Franklin Doe Memorial Library was dedicated on March 21, 1912, architect John Galen Howard envisioned it would be the heart of the then-45-year-old UC Berkeley campus as it continued to grow and expand.

On Wednesday, the campus held a celebration of the library’s 100th birthday, complete with an open house, entertainment and cupcakes. Howard’s vision still holds true, though he likely did not picture the library supporting modern students and faculty with digital content available worldwide.

As tradition and history continue to emanate from its Greco-Roman styled granite, the library has always adapted to the students it serves. In the past, that meant adjusting to innovations such as the Dewey Decimal System, but now it means planning for an increasingly digital future while maintaining the library’s print roots.

As part of the Google Books Library Project, Google picks up hundreds of books from the campus weekly to digitally scan their contents and make them available online, according to University Librarian Tom Leonard. More than 1 million of the university’s books have been digitized since it partnered with Google in 2006.

Leonard said that even though he loves books, he can accept the shift in popularity away from physical copies of books because, like everyone else, he wants answers right away.

UC Berkeley senior Robert Lee said he wishes the library’s materials would be digitized faster. He said he would prefer to work from home instead of spending hours in “the tombs” — the cavernous library room that holds newspapers and microforms.

While many people share Lee’s sentiment for entirely digital resources, alumnus Geoffrey Cook noted that the print sources are necessary for students and faculty because they are still requested in the world of publishing and beyond.

“I wouldn’t have joined the alumni association if I didn’t get access to the library,” Cook said. “It’s a real gem.”

Cook is not the only one who wants access to print copies of texts he finds online. According to Leonard, the library is in the process of offering print copies of public domain texts in its digitized collections for people to purchase.

Hannah Tashjian, a library conservator, said the digital copies can act as advertisements for the library and increase the use of originals and desire for print copies.

“Digital copies are visual representations of objects,” Tashjian said. “They don’t convey other properties — annotations, feel, binding structure — and sometimes they’re cropped, which limits researchers.”

Senior Amanda Minafo sat on the library’s north steps Wednesday afternoon not researching but reading a book she borrowed from the library for pleasure. As a history of art major, Minafo said she has come to look at books as a form of art.

“People have used the books in Doe for 100 years, and by being in there, you’re a part of Berkeley’s history more than if you’re just in the institutional-feeling Main Stacks,” Minafo said.

Christopher Yee covers Berkeley communities.