Happy 100th, Doe Library!

Well-wishers crowded the marble corridors, elegant reading rooms and book-lined spaces of Doe Library on Wednesday for an open house marking the 100th anniversary of the building, its world-class collections and its enduring mission.

The UC Men’s Octet wishes Doe a happy 100th, as University Librarian Tom Leonard cuts the cake.

As the UC Men’s Octet raised “Happy Birthday” harmonies, University Librarian Tom Leonard cut the cake and visitors consumed frosted cupcakes. The Golden Overtones filled the stunning and normally hushed North Reading Room with a capella renditions of “Proud Mary” and Cal spirit songs. Members of the Cal Band played outside on Doe Terrace; the University Chamber Chorus sang French chansons in the Heyns.

“Without a doubt, Doe Library is the best place to study in the Bay Area,” one visitor wrote on a message board scrawled with tributes. “You look great for 100,” wrote another.

In the basement level, visitors learned about book repair and conservation and explored the home of a vast newspaper collection.

Doe Library was constructed with a gift of $600,000 left by San Francisco businessman Charles Franklin Doe, who died in 1904.

Golden Overtones

The Golden Overtones serenade visitors in the elegant North Reading Room.

“That was a great deal of money,” the equivalent of about $13.5 million today, Germanic Collections librarian Jim Spohrer said in one of several talks on the library and its history. Ground was broken in 1905; Doe’s formal dedication took place on March 23, 1912.

Spohrer highlighted the glories of Doe Library’s early years, making possible its eminent collections in hundreds of languages today, as well as the peril of recent cuts to library funding.

“This is one of the great research libraries of the world,” he said. “Let’s hope the people of California are able to summon the same wisdom and generosity in support of the mission of the university and library.”

The afternoon celebration concluded with tributes from Chancellor Birgeneau, ASUC President Vishali Loomba and authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Annie Barrows, among others.

Doe Library’s 100-year history is the focus of “Heart of the Campus,” a new exhibition of artifacts, photos and archival materials on display in the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery, inside the main entrance. An online version is available here.

The occasion is joyful, yet solemn. We are the recipient of a great gift, involving correspondingly great responsibility. Like the servant who received ten talents, we also shall be required to exercise wise stewardship. And while to-day our thought naturally centers upon the grand material structure soon to rise, upon these steel-ribbed granite walls resting so firmly upon their immovable foundations, the idea of function and future use inevitably comes to mind.

— University Librarian J.C. Rowell at Doe Library’s cornerstone-laying ceremony, Nov. 26, 1908