Doe Centennial 1912-2012


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The University Library at 100
-- Tom Leonard, University Librarian

At the end of the first decade of the 20th century, as horse teams and steam engines appeared on campus to build the Charles Franklin Doe Memorial Library, Californians were hearing new words.

Picture them as a cloud over the granite lintel marked The University Library:

Word cloud image: 'Airmail', 'Waldorf Salad', 'Chardonnay', 'Jazz', 'Taupe', 'Vitamin', 'Insulin', 'Y-Chromosome', 'Blues'

Hometown had just been coined, so students had something new to miss, and also a worrisome metaphor for life here: ivory tower. For freshmen of 1912, ambivalence was another new word in the dictionary.

This cloud of words reminds us that Doe was built to capture and preserve new ways of thinking. Over this past century, no institution can match the research library in doing this. Libraries in the digital age remain the only institutions we should trust to stay on the job.

Creative expressions, like scientific discoveries, cannot be anticipated. Who could have predicted the deep impact of these words, coined as Doe was built? Libraries work best when they organize information so that surprises make sense. Librarians of 1912 could not know that in a few years women would have the vote, a telephone call could be made across the continent, and sites such as the Grand Canyon would become National Parks. All Doe could do was to be alive to the possibilities and grab the record of change.

Centennials are usually marked by lists of "firsts." It is more important to be reminded of first principles. If they are still right, the institution has a promising new century ahead. Thanks to an outpouring of effort by library professionals and faculty, we will be illustrating these principles in the year ahead, culminating in an open house in the spring of 2012.

Centennials are also supposed to be fun, and though you will not see any of us dressed in the fashions of 1912, we promise a good time. Fireworks in the logo, with surprises to follow.

The Doe Centennial Committee will liberate the monumental painting of Bishop Berkeley from museum storage, offering our namesake an honored place in the Library this centennial year. We liked the expression on his face as he embraced a book. And we were pleased to see that Berkeley was pictured with his words, "Westward the course of empire ..." — read to mean that California's moment in history has arrived.

  • Drawing: Doe Library, 1906.  'The Library From The Garden.' View of proposed plan by John Galen Howard, showing west and north elevations showing the planned garden landscape in the current Memorial Glade. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:128
  • Photo: Doe Library, March 9, 1908. View of excavations and foundations with California Hall in background. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:2
  • Photo: Doe Library, January 29,1909. View of steel construction above basement level. Viewed from top of South Hall, showing portion of California Hall at left. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:92
  • Photo: Doe Library, 1909. East end under construction. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:347
  • Photo: Doe Library, 1909. North Hall seen through Doe Library superstructure. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:348
  • Photo: Doe Library, c1911. View of workers constructing terrace and stairs at main entrance. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:162
  • Photo: Doe Library, May 25, 1909. The granite lintel before being positioned above the Doe north entrance.
  • Photo: Doe Library, 1909. View of construction of north fašade, with University Library block being lifted into place above main entrance. UC Archives. UARC PIC 09:24

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