Libraries aren’t exactly exhilarating affairs, but when it comes to our university library system, you have every right to be excited. We all love the imposing architecture of Doe Memorial Library, seen in a number of UC Berkeley students’ Facebook profile pictures, but there are so many more reasons to be proud. Our library system has been part of the campus since the very first class, which took place Sept. 23, 1869, with 10 faculty members and approximately 40 freshmen. It’s been at the heart of UC Berkeley ever since.
“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, in his inaugural address Oct. 22, 1930
A rich history and incredible growth
In 1894, when UC Berkeley had 815 students and 60 faculty, our university library held its 80,000 volumes in the Bacon Art and Library building. Today, we are a campus of more than 36,000 students, and more than 1,600 faculty members, and our libraries hold more than 10 million volumes. The bulk of these volumes are held in Gardner Main Stacks underground between Doe and Moffitt Libraries. Students may be best familiar with the Main Stacks as the library during finals week that’s open 24 hours and that serves as a location for students to partake in Craigslist exchanges to obtain spots to study in the competitive market of study cubicles.
Our special collections are a worldwide attraction
The UC Berkeley library’s collections are the oldest on the West Coast! They have more than 400 special collections famous for their rarity, and they attract scholars and researchers from all over the world. These collections include materials such as maps, manuscripts, rare books, photographs, videos, sound recordings, architectural drawings, ephemera and materials in electronic formats. These materials, mostly located in Bancroft Library, will probably never be more accessible to you than right now, so make sure to take advantage of it and spend some time exploring antiques, first editions and documents dating back to circa 300 B.C., handwritten letters by famous historical figures and a ton of other incredible one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t get your hands on anywhere else.
We hold pieces dating back to about 300 B.C.
The Tebtunis Papyri collection, for instance, contains nearly 35,000 papyrus fragments circa 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. We have medieval manuscripts dating from circa 1000 A.D to 1600 A.D. and more than 400 15th-century classical texts and literature. We have a large collection of 16th- and 17th-century renaissance books by Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther, many early editions from Ben Jonson, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, works from old Elizabethan and Jacobean writers and an extremely impressive collection of John Milton’s works. We even have some of the works of Galileo and Isaac Newton, Mark Twain’s personal papers, a Bransten Coffee and Tea collection and a collection on tobacco during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a treasure trove: The deeper you dig, the more you find.
We’re killing it on the rankings
The Association of Research Libraries ranked our library in 2003 as the top public and third overall university library in North America. In 2011-12, we placed seventh on collection expenditure, placed ninth on preservation expenditure and placed first among university libraries. Plus, we’re the fourth-largest research university library in the nation.
Our online library database is boss
The staggering thing is, most of these incredible pieces have been digitally logged or microfilmed. We have 644,000 e-books, 100,000 journals, 1.6 million digital objects, 7.3 million microforms, 111,000 sound recordings and 62,700 video and film recordings. What this means is all you need to do is search for these items via OskiCat, Digital Scriptorium and Philobiblon, and you can peruse all you want from the comfort of your couch. Unfortunately, these resources are only available by using your CalNet ID, so use them while you can! Or just never graduate! (Just kidding, there’s a unit cap. Sorry.)
Take your pick — there’s 36 of them
In case you didn’t know, we have 36 separate libraries serving us. To freshen your memory or to help you discover gems that you didn’t know existed, we’ve included the following list of campus libraries. Happy exploring!
Image Sources: List of libraries taken from UC Berkeley Library website.