Both early presidents and philanthropists recognized that an extensive library collection was critical to the success and stature of the new university. One such philanthropist was Henry Douglas Bacon of Oakland, a successful banker and real estate investor. Despite his lack of formal education, Bacon was an art lover who hoped the university would become the cultural center of the West Coast. He donated his collection of fine books, paintings, and sculptures, along with $25,000 to build an art gallery and library. The Bacon Art and Library Building (photo this page) became the intellectual heart and aesthetic showplace of the campus. In 1881 it housed a collection of 17,000 volumes; by the end of the century, the collection had grown to 100,000.
When Benjamin Ide Wheeler arrived from Cornell University in October 1899 as the university’s eighth president, he declared: “Give me a library, and I’ll build a university about it.” His new library came, some years later, through a bequest from Charles Franklin Doe, a San Francisco dealer in window sashes, doors, and blinds. Doe believed that men of achievement owed a debt to the state in which they succeeded, and he paid his debt by helping to build a library to educate and enrich future generations.
The growth of the university since then can be traced in the expansion of The Library. At the time of Wheeler’s retirement in 1919, the collection had 400,000 volumes. By 1965, The Library housed more than three million bound volumes, as well as maps, manuscripts, recordings, and other resources. Today, the university’s libraries hold more than 12 million volumes.