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UC Davis Library Centennial Timeline

Over the course of a century the UC Davis Library has grown from a ready reference collection for farmers and scientists to a world-class research library, with more than 3 million volumes covering a wider range of disciplines and programs than any other campus in the UC system.


Library was established in one room of the Creamery Building.

Image: Birdseye view of the Creamery and the Judging Pavilion ca 1909.


Gertrude Frances Weber, stenographer and bookkeeper for the University Farm Creamery, became first Librarian.

Image: Rules for circulating books and serials to the various branches and departments.


Margaret Mayberry became Librarian (also in charge of student records).

Image: Margaret Mayberry [Librarian], Kate Fizell [Matron], and Miss Starn [Nurse] from the 1915 yearbook, Agricola.


Classroom Building completed. Library occupies two rooms.

Image: Construction of the Classroom Building ca 1915.


Agnes Elizabeth Brown became Librarian.

Image: Agnes Elizabeth Brown from 1919 yearbook, El Rodeo.


Dorothy Deming became Librarian.


Library holds 1,840 volumes.

Nelle U. Branch became Librarian.

Image: Nelle U. Branch (August 27, 1885 – February 10, 1972). Nelle Branch came to Davis in 1924 to become its first professional librarian. The Library occupied two rooms on the first floor, west end of the Classroom Building and housed 1,840 titles, mostly bulletins, circulars and reports from the U.S.D.A. Over the course of her 27-year career she built the collection to more than 80,000 volumes, implemented the Library of Congress cataloging system, established extensive serials holdings in agriculture, animal science and veterinary medicine, apiculture, and viticulture and enology. She also set up the Periodicals Reading Room and the reserve book system. After she retired in 1951, she lived in Davis and was active in the Davis Library Club and Library Associates.


Formal arrangement for the ordering of books on approval was established.

Periodicals room was opened.

Reserve book system was set up.


Library cataloging changed from Dewey to Library of Congress call numbers.

Image: Display of the title “College and Research Libraries” from card catalog, used from the beginning of the 20th century until automation in the early 1990s.


Art reproductions lent by the California State Library to decorate the Library walls.


Classroom Building condemned. Library occupied five rooms. Students formed human chain to move the collection to temporary quarters in the Recreation Building behind West Hall.

Image: Aerial view of the Davis campus looking east-southeast. The Classroom Building was gone ca 1938.


New Library/Administration building was completed (current north wing). The new Library had twenty-five employees: three librarians, eight library assistants, and fourteen FTE students.

Image: Early evening ca 1940.


U.S. Army Signal Corps took over the campus.

Image: Army personnel training in the main reading room on the second floor.


First graduation of four-year students on the Davis campus held in the Library courtyard (Sunken Garden).

Image: First graduation of four-year students in the Sunken Garden. Students are facing west.


Veterinary holdings transferred from UC Berkeley to Davis.

Aerial view of the Library ca 1950.

Image: Aerial view of the Library ca 1950.


J. Richard Blanchard became University Librarian.

Image: J. Richard Blanchard

Microforms were made available.

Agricultural Economics Library was established.

Library held 72,105 volumes in June 1951 according to the 1950-1951 Annual Report.


New stack addition built.


The Veterinary Medicine Library was made a branch of the library system and established in a room next to the Dean’s office in Haring Hall.


Library course in bibliographic research offered.

Food Technology holdings were transferred from UC Berkeley to Davis.


C.K. Ogden Library was purchased: Davis’ share included a second folio of Shakespeare’s works.

Image: University Librarian J. Richard Blanchard examines the second folio of Shakespeare’s works

Air conditioning was installed in the main library.

Agricultural and Resource Economics Library moves to Voorhies Hall.


F. Hal Higgins Library of Agricultural Technology was acquired.

Image: University Librarian J. Richard Blanchard, F. Hal Higgins, and Dean Roy Bainer examine a photograph of the Standish steam plow from Higgins’ collection.


200,000th book — Lowie’s Selected Papers in Anthropology by DuBois — was acquired.

Image: Lowie’s Selected Papers in Anthropology by DuBois.


Library’s east wing was added.

Image: East wing of the Library ca 1964. This became the new main entrance to the Library.

Air conditioning was installed in the main library.

Government Documents Department was established.


Rare books were transferred from Loan Desk to Reference Department.

Library Associates formed.


400,000th book — Principia Philosophiae by Descartes — was acquired.

Image: Principia Philosophiae by Descartes became the Library’s 400,000th book.

University Archives was established.

Veterinary Medicine Library became Health Sciences Library with founding of School of Medicine.

Image: Surge II ca 1966

Serials Department was formed.

Collection Development Department was established.

Special Collections Department (rare books, archives, and the Higgins collection) was created.


Library’s south wing was added.

Image: Southeast corner of the Library ca 1968.

500,000th book — Illustrations to the Bible by William Blake — was acquired.

Image: Title page of Illustrations to the Bible

Telefacsimile between UC Davis and UC Berkeley tested.

Image: University Librarian J. Richard Blanchard and Chancellor Emil M. Mrak examine the microwave dish that will make material in a major library available everywhere.


Library began inspection of briefcases and bags at the main exit.

Image: Library staff check briefcases and bags at the main exit to make sure books have been checked out ca 1968.


Library became a member of the Association of Research Libraries.


750,000th book — Compendius Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster — was acquired.

Image: Title page of Compendious Dictionary of the English Language

Medical Center Library was established at UC Davis Medical Center.


Physical Sciences and Engineering Library built.

Image: Physical Sciences Library shortly after completion in 1971.


Remote Searching of Medline database was operational in Health Sciences Library.


University Library named for Judge Peter J. Shields.

Library began formal participation in the Mountain Valley Library System.

Library’s first oral history was completed by Ben Madson.


1,000,000th book — Emil Mrak’s oral history — was acquired.

Image: Oral historian Avrom I. Dickman, Chancellor Emeritus Emil M. Mrak, and University Librarian J. Richard Blanchard examine Mrak’s oral history, Emil Mrak: A journey through three decades, which became the Library’s one millionth book.

Bernard Kreissman became University Librarian.

Image: Bernard Kreissman

Medical Center Library was established at UC Davis Medical Center.

Image: Professional Building ca 1974


Library held 1.2 million volumes.


Automated circulation system was installed.

Library held 1.4 million volumes.

Typewriters commonly used in Shields Library.

Image: Typewriter commonly used in Shields Library before the proliferation of personal computer workstations.


University of California Library Plan was presented.

New Health Sciences Library was opened.

Image: The Health Sciences Library occupied the first floor and lower level.

Automated cataloging of new materials began.


Library held 1.5 million volumes.


Biological/Agricultural Sciences Reference Department was established.

Acquisition of Gary Snyder’s papers began.


UC Davis became a member of the Research Libraries Group.


Michael and Margaret B. Harrison Western Research Center became part of the University Library.

Conservation and Preservation Department created.


Library received Higher Education Act (Title II-C) grant to catalog the F. Hal Higgins Collection


MELVYL, the on-line catalog, was made available for public use.

Image: Screenshot of the title “College and Research Libraries” from telnet library catalog, still in limited use but mainly used from the 1980s-1990s.


Northern Regional Library Facility opened.

William F. McCoy became acting University Librarian.

Health Sciences Library was named for Loren D. Carlson.