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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.


Marilyn J. Sharrow became University Librarian.

Image: Marilyn J. Sharrow


2,000,000th book — L’agriculture et maison rustique by Charles Estienne — was acquired.

Image: Title page of L’agriculture et maison rustique

Nikolai P. Prokopovich Collection was acquired.

Image: Title page from the Prokopovich collection. Geologist for the US Bureau of Reclamation. Reports, memoranda, photographs and books relating to the California Central Canal, subsidence, and hydrocompaction. First major California water collection.


Endowment created the Margaret B. Harrison Preservation Department.

Image: Hickok Board shear from Margaret Harrison. Used to cut heavy boards. From Shields Library Preservation Department.


Ground-breaking ceremonies are held for west wing of Peter J. Shields Library.

Automated acquisitions system (Innopac) was installed.

Kenneth Kew Collection acquired. Wine merchant for Draper Esquine in San Francisco. Kew had been a student at UCD. The papers followed his career from his student days until his retirement.


J. G. P. (Jacques Goharry Parisien). Devis sur las vigne 1576 was acquired.

Image: Title page from Devis sur la vigne, First French vernacular book relating to wine.


Library’s west wing opened.

Image: Shields Library west entrance

Paul H. DeBach Papers collection was acquired. DeBach’s pioneering work in the field of integrated pest management and in the biological control of insect pests and weeds supports our collecting in entomology and organic farming. This was an instance of cooperation with UC Riverside (custodian of the collection) and the Entomological Society of America, Pacific Branch (scholarly group) in moving the collection to UC Davis where it could be more readily used.

F.H. King manuscript was acquired.

Image: This two volume typescript contains notes and original photographs taken in the field for the author’s book. Observations on crop and soil management methods and practices in China, Manchuria, Korea and Japan. Typed notes and original photographs taken in the field for the author’s book, Farmers of forty centuries.


Automated public catalog system (DRA) was installed.

“American Farm” exhibit was acquired. The photographic panels that decorate the walls of Shields Library were an exhibit originally mounted by the California Historical Society.

Chinese Cookbooks collection was acquired.

Image: Title page from Martin Yan’s cookbook with author’s signature. Gardner Pond and Peter Hertzman donated their collections of Chinese cookbooks in English. This became the first collection searchable by provenance on MELVYL.


Eastman’s Originals collection was acquired. This was the first image database created by the Library.

Japanese American Citizens League-Florin oral histories were acquired. The UC Davis Library Cooperated with CSU Sacramento to provide MARC cataloging.

Agricultural and Resource Economics Library moved to Social Sciences and Humanities building.


A.W. Noling Hurty-Peck Library of Beverage Literature acquired.

Image: Bookplate from the Hurty-Peck Library

K.W. Lee Papers collection was acquired. First collection submitted to the California Digital Library’s California Cultures site.


The British Women Romantic Poets Project began to identify and make accessible on the Internet the works of women poets. The Kohler Collection served as the main source for texts by women poets writing between 1789 and 1832.


Library Instruction Lab built for hands-on teaching of electronic catalog and databases.

Image: The Library Instruction Laboratory in Shields Library is a hands-on instruction lab with workspace for 25 students, and two instructor stations. The lab includes a color printer networked to all the workstations, a visual presenter and digital recording equipment for podcasting.

Sacramento Union Archives acquired – a substantial collection of late 20th century local history images.


Medical Center Library moved to Redwood Building.

Image: Redwood Building, 2000-2006


Wireless access to library collection available in Shields Library.

Image: Wireless access is available in Shields Library, as well as the Physical Sciences and Engineering, Carlson Health Sciences and Blaisdell Medical Libraries.


UC Davis Libraries implement Ex Libris’ Aleph, the library’s first truly fully integrated library system.

Image: Screenshot of the title “College and Research Libraries” from Harvest library catalog, the UC Davis automated library catalog used since 2002.

Library received an LSTA grant to catalog and prepare a finding aid for the Gary Snyder Papers.


UC Davis ranked in the top third of the more than 120 academic and research libraries in North America.