Doe Library renovations open up new reference areas and services


doe interior

The reference technology of an earlier era — wooden card catalogs — occupied a portion of the second-floor space now filled with printed materials and computer hardware.

21 August 2002 | Doe Library’s newly renovated Reference Hall, which opened for regular use on Aug. 15, elegantly counters the notion that university research libraries, in the age of Google and Yahoo, are on the wane.

When architects, contractors, and librarians teamed up to redo the rectangular Subject Catalog Hall (the card catalogs were removed years ago), they carefully studied the space, located between the equally imposing North and East reading rooms on Doe’s second floor. The hall — nearly 4,000 square feet of prime real estate — is topped by a 30-foot ceiling and twin skylights.

They also considered the needs of professors and students, and a growing concern that undergraduate research should extend beyond the reach of an Internet search engine.
“We have the luxury, in some respects, of having two beautiful and historic rooms back-to-back,” said Patricia Iannuzzi, associate university librarian and director of the Doe/Moffitt libraries.

The new Reference Hall is where it all comes together, luring faculty and students with easy access to several dozen high-speed, flat-screen computer terminals, a 27,000-volume research library of humanities and social sciences ma-terials, and a 15,000-volume government-document collection. Also on the second floor is the Rosberg Reading Room, with reference materials for international and area studies, and Graduate Services, a special reading room for graduate students only.

The library also is expanding staffing and service for all reference collection users, and has reorganized to create a Research, Reference and Collections Department that combines reference with subject specialists.

The much-needed makeover of the long, rectangular space now housing the Reference Center respects the Beaux Arts details of John Galen Howard’s original design, while inconspicuously providing 21st-century technology — data hubs and electrical/data distribution systems — in a room originally constructed in 1910.

“Using white paint, we highlighted the beautiful moldings and decoration and painted the walls a darker color to provide better contrast,” says Library Architect Fred Yasaki. The floors were redone with linoleum made of natural materials with no chemicals or plastics, in a pattern reflecting the spaces created by the coffered ceilings.

To provide more direct access to the area, the library also will open a third library entrance, on the second floor of Doe Library on Campanile Way, across from South and Wheeler halls.

Designers searched unsuccessfully for the original, marble circulation desk that had been used in the Subject Catalog Hall. Noll & Tam Architects helped design a new desk for the Reference Hall that incorporates decorative details from nearby bronze doors leading to the North Reading Room. Behind the desk are rooms for one-on-one consultations with reference librarians.

The remodeling cost so far is about $500,000, and it is estimated that a like amount will be spent to finish work on the Reference Hall alone. Renovation of the North Reading Room, which houses the bulk of the reference collection, is estimated to cost $3 million to $5 million.

Project financing comes from the Librarian’s Fund, the library’s unrestricted annual fundraising account.

Remaining tasks include recovering the 18 frayed leather-bound doors that provide access to the space from hallways and reading rooms, and replacing wall- and ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures with reproductions of the originals. The adjacent North Reading Room, which houses the bulk of the reference collection, requires painting, a new floor, updated lighting, and refurbished furniture.

“When you have this kind of architecture, you have a responsibility to the community to preserve and maintain it,” says Iannuzzi. “When you walk into a space like the North Reading Room, it’s like a church, inspiring awe, quiet reflection, and serious thought.”

Regarding the space as churchlike is not the same as freezing it in time, however; plans include making Doe Library and its formidable research capabilities more widely accessible to non-traditional users — for example, the hundreds of undergraduates who responded to a recent survey of campus library users by saying they wanted quieter spaces for study in Moffitt Undergraduate Library.

“It used to be that the main library was for graduate students and serious scholars only,” says Iannuzzi. “We’re trying to invite undergraduates into the research process, to encourage them to use the library as their laboratory for some disciplines. In the Reference Hall, we have created a beautiful yet vibrant space that provides access to information in both print and digital formats, with expert assistance readily available to take advantage of each teachable moment.”

That’s why the Reference Hall, with a room at the east end for graduate students, also includes space for a new Research Advisory Service, where undergraduates can get one-on-one research help in the Evelyn Chambers Research Consultation Room.

There’s also an exhibit area — designated by the library and Office of Undergraduate Research at the entrance to the Reference Hall — that will, upon completion later in the school year, display undergraduate research projects. The library is sponsoring a new competition, the Library Award for Undergraduate Research, with prizes honoring process more than product — that is, awarded not so much on the strength of the winners’ research results as on an assessment of the library skills they employed.

All of which, Ianuzzi says, reinforces the goals the revamped Reference Hall was planned to help meet. “When you walk into the hall today,” she says, “it’s a reminder that the library remains at the crossroads of inquiry and discovery.”


Home | Search | Archive | About | Contact | More News

Copyright 2002, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

Comments? E-mail