Doe Centennial 1912-2012


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Your Library Stories

What do you remember?

We hope that you’ll share your stories with us. It's easy to do—just fill out our story form. We will be sharing your story on this website, and may be sharing selections on posters, cards and in Library publications.



When dawn broke, I was living in the new world...

On Houston Smith, from Chasing the Divine by Don Lattin for the California Magazine, Spring 2011:

One weekday, back in Berkeley, Smith found himself thumbing through the card catalog at Doe Library, looking for books with the word pain in the title. That’s when he discovered an intriguing 1939 work by Gerald Heard called Pain, Sex and Time—A New Outlook on Evolution and the Future of Man. Smith checked the book out, took it back to his boarding house, and stayed up the whole night reading. As he relates in his Foreword to the book’s 2004 edition, “When dawn broke I was living in the new world that has housed me ever since.”

-- Houston Smith, UC Berkeley PhD candidate 1945, author of The World's Religions


Collections of depth and complexity

None of my four books or many articles would have been possible without the UC Berkeley Library system. Every time I go there I bless the foresight and wisdom of earlier librarians who built the collections with depth and complexity. Being able to go through a complete run of an old journal is an exquisite experience. I am also in the debt of today’s library staff, every one of whom treats me with grace and courtesy.

--Judith Taylor, independent scholar


The Library is...

Everything. A place to learn; a place to think; a place to grow.

-- Betty Ames, '47


Tranquility and escape

My fondest memories of the library are associated with the Morrison. It provided moments of tranquility and escape from the rigors and pressures of student life. When I frequented the Morrison in the late 1950s, I would don headphones to listen to the large collection of LPs played on turntables. I visited again last year, and was startled and pleased to see that in this digital age it continues to have an LP collection and turntable. That's great, since most students today grew up listening to compressed MP3 files through earbuds, and many have little awareness of how good-sounding LPs can be. May the Morrison help increase their awareness.

--Frank Lew, '60


Mundane and celestial

Two things come immediately to mind when asked what do I love about the library at UC Berkeley. The first is purely mundane and practical: I love the ease with which the borrowed status of a book may be renewed via the Internet. The second object of my love and appreciation is more celestial: I love the fact that at the University Library I am able to come across relatively rare books that contain some of the most extraordinary thoughts and sentiments ever recorded, such as your three volume set containing all of the correspondence between James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Such works as these would cost a small fortune to own and are simply not to be found in any ordinary library.

--William Loughman, '69, J.D. '72


And yet the books will be there on the shelves...

Robert Hass, UC Berkeley Professor and US Poet Laureate (1995-1997), tells us that his colleague and fellow poet, Czeslaw Milosz, wrote these lines in The Separate Notebooks about Doe Library

Now he climbs the marble stairs
And the blossoming orange trees are fragrant
And he hears, for a while, the tiuu of birds,
But the heavy doors are already closing
Behind which he will stay for a very long time
In air that does not know winter or spring
In a fluorescence without mornings and without sunsets

The coffers of the ceiling imitate a forest vault.
He passes through halls full of mirrors
And the faces loom up and dissolve,
Just as Barbara, the princess, appeared to the king once
When a black mage conjured her.

And all around him the voices are intoning,
So many that he could listen for centuries,
Because he wanted, once, to understand his poor life.

-- NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS, Ecco, 2001, pg. 362

In 1986, while a professor at UC Berkeley, Milosz wrote And Yet the Books -- also Doe?

An yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
"We are," they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flamed
Liced away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagines the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it's still a strange pageant,
Women's dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

-- NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS, Ecco, 2001, pg.468

Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.


Doe Library 1974

When I transferred to Berkeley in 1974, I made sure I got a job in the library system so I could have access to the stacks at Doe. Incalculable riches. Studying German literature, I could go looking for Sturm and Drang 18th Century dramatists and find contemporary editions of their plays. The Morrison Room was always a refreshing place to decompress. Our boy is a first-year student at Cal now; he has a lot of thrills ahead of him.

--Jamie Dillon, '75, C. Mult. '78


Thumbing through card files ...wandering glass floors among the carrels

In the mid-1980s (mid-life), I enrolled at UC Berkeley as a "resumer" to complete a degree in history. The library was in the initial stages of converting to online access, so I spent most of my research time thumbing through card files and roaming the stacks in Doe Library. I feel privileged to have been on the cusp of that transition because I was in touch with the magic of being behind the scenes, so to speak, wandering on the glass floors and among the carrels, a special place where one could reach into the past in a world set apart.

One weekend I took my very inquisitive, 12-year-old son with me. The magic was not lost on him. Indeed, it inspired him. He later attended and graduated from UC Berkeley and then attended another UC campus for graduate work.

In the years that I spent at Cal, it was Doe Library -- in all its richness -- that was the source of my own inspiration and my fondest memories.

--Patricia A. Kirk, Class of '88


Captain Nemo glimpsed in Doe

In the stacks: Cranking round the wheel to open the shelves, I think something nautical. Captain Nemo at the helm about to enter a mysterious, sun-shot realm. As the P's crack open, the air fills with a swirl of half-seen faces and glistening whispers. Poets, novelists, their characters too, defy differences in languages, the calendar, the clock, to talk -- and seeing me at the open hatch, invite me in.

--CAL staff member