Geisel Library
Former namesCentral Library, University Library
General information
Architectural styleBrutalist / Futurist
Town or citySan Diego, California
CountryUnited States of America
Coordinates32°52′52″N 117°14′15″W / 32.8812°N 117.2375°W / 32.8812; -117.2375Coordinates: 32°52′52″N 117°14′15″W / 32.8812°N 117.2375°W / 32.8812; -117.2375
Construction started1968
Cost$5.12 million
ClientUniversity of California San Diego
Height110 ft.
Diameter200 ft.
Technical details
Structural systemReinforced concrete
Floor count8
Design and construction
ArchitectWilliam L. Pereira & Associates
Structural engineerBrandow & Johnston
Services engineerFrumhoff & Cohen (electrical)
J.L. Hengstler & Associates (mechanical)
Main contractorNielsen Construction
Swinerton Builders
UCSD's distinctive Geisel Library, named for Theodor Seuss Geisel ("Dr. Seuss") and featured in UCSD's logo
UCSD's distinctive Geisel Library, named for Theodor Seuss Geisel ("Dr. Seuss") and featured in UCSD's logo
View of the Geisel Library at daytime, seen from a path on the terrace level
View of the Geisel Library at daytime, seen from a path on the terrace level

Geisel Library is the main library building of the University of California, San Diego. It is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel. Theodor is better known as children's author Dr. Seuss. The building's distinctive architecture, described as occupying "a fascinating nexus between brutalism and futurism",[1] has resulted in its being featured in the UC San Diego logo and becoming the most recognizable building on campus.

The library was designed by William Pereira and opened in 1970 as the Central Library. It was renovated in 1993 and rededicated as the University Library Building, and renamed Geisel Library in 1995.[2] The UC San Diego Library consists of Geisel Library and the Biomedical Library Building, with off-campus locations at Scripps Archives and Library Annex, the Trade Street Storage Annex, and the UC Southern Regional Library Facility.

Geisel Library is located in the center of the UC San Diego campus. It houses over 7 million volumes to support the educational and research objectives of the university. It also contains the Mandeville Special Collections and Archives, which houses the Dr. Seuss Collection, which contains original drawings, sketches, proofs, notebooks, manuscript drafts, books, audio and videotapes, photographs, and memorabilia.[3] The approximately 8,500 items in the collection document the full range of Dr. Seuss's creative achievements, beginning in 1919 with his high school activities and ending with his death in 1991. The head of the library system is designated the Audrey Geisel University Librarian, currently Erik T. Mitchell.[4]


In 1958, Roger Revelle's efforts to establish an Institute of Science and Engineering adjacent to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography were spearheaded by his desire to immediately construct a science and library building on the present Revelle College site. When the university was eventually constructed, university librarian Melvin Voigt devised a plan to purchase books for the three new UC campuses: UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Irvine. The first Science and Engineering Library in Urey Hall satisfied the science-focused school's needs.

However, as faculty recruits began to found social science and humanities departments, it became clear to Chancellor John Semple Galbraith that the time had come to establish the campus's main library collections. One of the conditions of Galbraith's acceptance of the UCSD chancellorship had been that UCSD would house one of the three great libraries of the UC system.[5] To accomplish this end, he formed a committee which commissioned architect William L. Pereira to prepare a master plan for the University Center and its focal point, the Central Library.[6]

Pereira's plan called for the University Center to be moved north and east, along with the proposed library building. This resulted in a revision of the campus long-range development plan: the three "clusters" of four colleges each would be more compact, allowing for an auxiliary library in each cluster. The proposed building was designed around a spheroidal tower, to maximize the stacks area that could be accessed in a given time from the center. This tower was to be situated atop a main level containing the staff and public areas of the library.

The chosen site allowed for future expansions to step downwards into the canyon. Construction of the first of three increments began in July 1968; the two main floors were constructed first to form the base of the structure. This allowed for the placement of scaffolding to support construction of the tower. The Central University Library building's topping-out ceremony took place in December 1969 and its formal dedication was in March 1971.[6]

Central Library, combined with the original Scripps Library, the Humanities-Library building (now Galbraith Hall) in Revelle College, and the Biomedical Library (built in 1969),[7] was able to support and represent the growing university for years. In 1990, construction began on a two-story, 136,850 square foot subterranean expansion of the main level. The project included renovation of the existing facility to comply with safety standards and cost $38 million, provided by California's 1988 Proposition 78.[8] The expansion, designed by Gunnar Birkerts, was completed in February 1993.[9] In 1995, La Jolla resident Audrey Geisel donated $20 million to the UCSD Library, supplementing her 1991 donation of $2.3 million worth of her husband Theodor Seuss Geisel's original works. In exchange, the library was renamed Geisel Library.[10]

Between the first and second renovations of Geisel Library, several other UCSD library facilities were also renovated or closed. The biomedical library received a $17 million, 43,454 square foot expansion in 2006.[11] In 2011, the SIO library, the IR/PS library, the Hillcrest Medical Center library, and the Center for Library Instruction and Computing Services (CLICS) were closed and their collections consolidated into Geisel Library due systemwide budget cuts.[12] In 2015, university officials announced that Geisel Library would begin to undergo its second renovation. This renovation includes construction of a café named Audrey's on the main level of the library.[13]

Geisel Library's current name has come under increasing criticism over the last few years due to increasing awareness of Theodor Geisel's own expression of anti-Blackness, Orientalism, and other racially-charged beliefs[14] through cartoons and other work that he produced throughout the majority of his career. Although Theodor Geisel did come to renounce his more racially offensive characterizations during an interview for his alma mater of Dartmouth College, there has been no official response by UC San Diego to students requesting a name change.[15]


Geisel Library seen from the canyon
Geisel Library seen from the canyon

The distinctive original building was designed in the late 1960s by William Pereira to sit at the head of a canyon. The building's arches, in combination with the design of the individual floors, are intended to look like hands holding up a stack of books. William Pereira & Associates prepared a detailed report in 1969. Pereira originally conceived a steel-framed building, but this was changed to reinforced concrete to save on construction and maintenance costs. This change of material presented an opportunity for a more sculptural design.

It was envisioned that future additions to the original building would form terraced levels around the tower base descending into the canyon. In keeping with the original master plan, these are "deliberately designed to be subordinated to the strong, geometrical form of the existing library."[16] Within its two subterranean levels are the other library sections as well as study spaces and computer labs. The building has been described by Architecture Daily as occupying "a fascinating nexus between brutalism and futurism". Its tower rises 8 stories to a height of 110 ft (33.5 m). The five upper stories of the tower house collections, individual study space, and group study rooms.[1]

READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM seen from the library interior
READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM seen from the library interior

The library entrance is marked by John Baldessari's READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM, an artwork which is part of the Stuart Collection. Geisel Library also features a life-size bronze statue of its namesake and his most famous character, The Cat in the Hat, on the forum level.

Snake Path

Snake Path as seen from Geisel
Snake Path as seen from Geisel

The east side of the Geisel forum is literally and symbolically connected to Warren Mall by the Stuart Collection work Snake Path, Alexis Smith's 560-foot-long slate tile path that winds towards the library. Its route passes a giant granite Paradise Lost and a small garden of fruit trees. The granite book is engraved with the excerpt "Then Wilt Thou Not Be Loth To Leave This Paradise, But Shall Possess A Paradise Within Thee, Happier Far."[17]

Third floor

One unusual feature of the library is that the lower levels are numbered 1 and 2, and the upper floors numbered 4 to 8. That has given rise to several fanciful explanations for why the third floor is apparently sealed off and not accessible from elevators or steps.

One of the more popular stories is that the building's design had not taken into account the eventual weight of books in the library, so the third floor has of necessity been left empty, a common urban legend, associated at different times with many other university libraries.[18]

In reality, the "missing" third floor is actually the open/outside forum. There is no other third floor, blocked off or otherwise. It is simply reinforced concrete and an emergency exit that helps students from the 4-8 floors get out without having to go to the second floor.[19] The "third floor" is actually two separate levels. The third floor landings in the public stairwells open to the concrete platform outside the library which was originally intended to be used for sculpture displays, acoustic music, impromptu outdoor conversations, an open public meeting area and poetry readings.[20]

Potential theft of library materials and the risks attributed to the potential theft of UCSD's rare private collections of literature and art caused the doors to third floor to be protected, to be used only in emergencies or by building personnel to conduct transfer of equipment to the central core directly to avoid disrupting library operations. The "second" third floor's landing is numbered as floor "3.5" and consists of utility connections and wiring to the upper levels. There are no accessways beyond the stairwell doors of floor 3.5; they are locked utility rooms, essentially for maintenance and repair.[21]

The doors to the 3rd floor open outwards from the stairwells, and the 3.5 floor doors open inwards towards the central core. The Central Forum, the 3rd floor, was originally intended to be a formal area of the library but outside the interior to avoid disturbing library patrons or library operations.[22]


The UC San Diego Library provides access to over 7 million digital and print works. Most of its works are organized into collections by subject, but the library also maintains some special collections and collections of distinction. The Mandeville Special Collections and Archives include:[23][24]

Other library buildings

The southwest corner of the biomedical library
The southwest corner of the biomedical library

The 2011 consolidation of the UC San Diego Library resulted in Geisel Library and the Biomedical Library building in the School of Medicine becoming the only remaining library buildings on campus. Additional library materials are located at the Trade Street Storage Annex on Miramar Road and the UC Southern Regional Library Facility at UCLA.[26]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Langdon, David. "AD Classics: Geisel Library / William L. Pereira & Associates". ArchDaily. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  2. ^ "About the Geisel Building". About the Libraries. UCSD Libraries. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  3. ^ a b c "The Dr. Seuss Collection". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ Kolupailo, Nikki (February 27, 2018). "UC San Diego Names Erik T. Mitchell New Audrey Geisel University Librarian". UCSD News. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  5. ^ Anderson, Nancy Scott (1993). An Improbable Venture: A History of the University of California, San Diego (1st ed.). La Jolla: UCSD Press. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  6. ^ a b Gray, Barbara T. "Central Library, University of California, San Diego" (PDF). UCSD Libraries. William L. Pereira and Associates. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  7. ^ JaCoby, Pat (8 July 2004). "Expansion And Renovation Of UCSD's Biomedical Library Slated To Begin With July 20 Groundbreaking Ceremony". University of California, San Diego. UCSD News. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  8. ^ Clark, Lucie (8 March 1990). "UCSD celebrates Central University Library groundbreaking March 21" (PDF). University Archives. UC San Diego News Release. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  9. ^ JaCoby, Pat (24 February 1993). "UCSD marks rededication of Central Library today with official visit of UC President Jack Peltason" (PDF). UC San Diego News Release. University of California, San Diego. University Archives. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ Perry, Tony (26 September 1995). "Dr. Seuss' Widow Gives Over $10 Million to UCSD". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Biomedical Library expansion/renovation completed at UCSD". San Diego Source. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  12. ^ Flynn, Pat (29 March 2011). "Four UCSD libraries to close, consolidate". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  13. ^ Stone, Ken (18 February 2016). "Cafe Named for Dr. Seuss Widow to Keep UCSD Students Caffeinated". Times of San Diego. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  14. ^ "The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books".
  15. ^ "The Surprisingly Radical Politics of Dr. Seuss".
  16. ^ Link text Archived 2014-01-02 at the Wayback Machine, additional text.
  17. ^ Ollman, Leah (23 October 1992). "ART REVIEW : A Snake in the Grass at UCSD : Alexis Smith's 'Snake Path' winds up a hill to the university library, symbolically linking it to the realm of paradise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  18. ^ Barbara "a weight off our minds" Mikkelson (March 29, 2007). "That Sinking Feeling". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
  19. ^ Barbara Henderson; Charles (Bud) Stern. "Geisel Library: Urban Legends". About the Libraries. UCSD Libraries. Archived from the original on 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
  20. ^ William L. Pereira and Associates (August 1969). "Central Library: University of California at San Diego". The Working Plan for the Central Library P.45. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  21. ^ William L. Pereira and Associates (August 1969). "Central Library: University of California at San Diego" (PDF). The Working Plan for the Central Library P.53. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  22. ^ William L. Pereira and Associates (August 1969). "Central Library: University of California at San Diego" (PDF). The Working Plan for the Central Library P.59. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  23. ^ "Collections". UC San Diego Library. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  24. ^ "Special Collections & Archives". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  25. ^ "Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages". Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  26. ^ "Collections & Off-Site Storage Policy". UC San Diego Library. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  27. ^ Whitton Plumbing (8 September 2010). "Kohler - Architect Commercial". Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  28. ^ celerysword (22 September 2007). "Monkey and Modine at UCSD's Geisel Library". Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ sbono13 (29 November 2006). "UCSD on Veronica Mars". Retrieved 24 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ "Welcome -". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Terminal by Circle". Retrieved 24 April 2018.