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Then & Now

Our latest Then & Now installment takes us to a place near and dear to us, the Main Reading Room of Shields Library.

The north wing of the Library, which houses the Reading Room, was completed in 1940. Prior to the completion of this building the Library was housed in the Creamery (1908-1915), the Classroom Building (1915-1938), and in temporary quarters in the recreation building behind West Hall (1938-1940).

The north wing which is comprised of 114,857 square feet, cost $265,750 to build and was financed by state appropriations. Designed by Starks & Flanders, the building anchored the south side of the Quad. Originally, the campus administration shared the building with the Library.

Several years after the completion of the building, it was used for purposes other than those of a Library. During the fall of 1942 the U.S. Army negotiated with university President Robert Sproul for the use of the Davis campus as a military training school. On January 1, 1943 the entire Davis campus was officially converted into a training facility for the Western Signal Corps School (WSCS). The WSCS, administered as a subunit of Camp Kohler by Lt. Col. E.A. Allen, took over the dormitories, the gymnasium and swimming pool, the judging pavilions and most of the academic buildings. The library became the radio school. The historic image below shows the radio school students in the Reading Room of the Library. In October 1944 the WSCS closed, having trained a total of about 1,800 men for active duty during the 22 months that the campus was under the jurisdiction of the Army.

As the Library’s collections grew, subsequent additions were made to the original building including: the East wing (1963), South wing (1967), and West wing (1990).

You can find additional information about the history of the Library here.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the north wing of the Shields Library building. Be sure to watch the Library’s Facebook page for posts highlighting this anniversary and the history of the Library.

Captions for the historical photographs below:

Radio school students in the Reading Room of the Library, circa 1943-1944

Main Reading Room, Shields Library, circa 1981




Archives and Special Collections Campus and Local History


Campus history Shields Library Then & Now University Archives Photographs Western Signal Corps School