Geisel Library

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Geisel Library
Geisel Library, UCSD.jpg
Former names Central Library, University Library
General information
Architectural style Brutalist / Futurist
Town or city La Jolla, California
Country United States of America
Coordinates 32°52′52″N 117°14′15″W
Construction started 1968
Completed 1970
Renovated 1993
Cost $5,120,000
Client University of California, San Diego
Height 110 ft.
Diameter 200 ft.
Technical details
Structural system Reinforced concrete
Floor count 8
Design and construction
Architect William L. Pereira & Associates
Structural engineer Brandow & Johnston
Services engineer Frumhoff & Cohen (electrical)
J.L. Hengstler & Associates (mechanical)
Main contractor Nielsen Construction
Swinerton Builders
UCSD's distinctive Geisel Library, named for Theodor Seuss Geisel ("Dr. Seuss") and featured in UCSD's logo

The University of California, San Diego Library consists of the Geisel Library building and the Biomedical Library building. There are also three off-campus locations: The Scripps Archives and Library Annex (available by appointment), the Annex (collections available by request), and the UC Southern Regional Library Facility (collections available by request).

The Geisel Library building contains materials and services related to: Arts, Area Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Marine Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences. It also contains the Mandeville Special Collections & Archives, which houses the Dr. Seuss Collection. The Dr. Seuss Collection contains original drawings, sketches, proofs, notebooks, manuscript drafts, books, audio and videotapes, photographs, and memorabilia. 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 Geisel Library building is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) for the generous contributions they have made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy. The Geisels were long-time residents of La Jolla, where UC San Diego is located.

The building is featured in the UC San Diego logo and is the most recognizable building on campus. It is located in the center of the campus with Library Walk to its south, Thurgood Marshall College to its west, and Earl Warren College to its east.

The library first opened in 1970. It was simply called the Central Library until a renovation was completed in 1993, when it was rededicated as the University Library Building. It was renamed Geisel Library in 1995.[1]


The distinctive original building was designed in the late 1960s by William Pereira to sit at the head of a canyon. 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, the first of which was designed by Gunnar Birkerts and completed in the early 1990s. In keeping with the original master plan, it was "deliberately designed to be subordinated to the strong, geometrical form of the existing library."[2] Within its two subterranean levels are the other library sections as well as study spaces and computer labs. The tower is a prime example of brutalist architecture. It rises 8 stories to a height of 110 ft (33.5 m). The four upper stories of the tower houses collections, individual study space, and group study rooms.

A photo of the building taken by Julius Shulman was used as the cover image for James Steele's chronicle of Pereira's career.

In 2013, The Nevada Museum of Art held an exhibition of work by William L. Pereira. For the exhibit, they commissioned a video shoot from FortyOneTwenty, a San Diego studio in which a remote controlled helicopter was used to get unique views of the building.

Entryway (Read/Write/Think/Dream)[edit]

Read/Write/Think/Dream as seen from inside

The entryway of the library is the site of an art installation by John Baldessari titled "Read/Write/Think/Dream." The installation includes the front doors of colored glass that overlap when they open, the teacher in the lobby, and images of students, books, pens, pencils and palm trees on the glass panels of the lobby.[3] The installation is part of the Stuart Art Collection.[4]

Third floor[edit]

One unusual feature of the library is that the lower levels are numbered 1 and 2, and the upper floors numbered 4 through 8. This 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. This is a common urban legend, associated at different times with many other university libraries.[5] There are many urban legends associated with the building.

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.[6]

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.[7] Due to potential theft of library materials and the risks attributed to the potential theft of UCSD's rare private collections of literature and art, the doors to third floor were protected to be only used in case of emergencies or for building personnel to conduct transfer of equipment to the central core directly, so as not to disrupt 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 access-ways beyond the stairwell doors of floor 3.5, they are locked utility rooms, in essence for maintenance and repair.[8] The doors to the 3rd floor open outwards from the stairwells while 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 so as not to disturb library patrons or library operations. [9]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The TV series Simon & Simon featured the library in its opening credits.
  • Geisel Library made an appearance as the exterior of a research lab in Killer Tomatoes Strike Back, the third movie in the cult film series Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
  • The science fiction novel Rainbows End includes a major subplot focusing on the library.
  • Referred to as the "Chatky Headquarters in Kyoto" in a Kohler commercial.[10]
  • The 2004 film Funky Monkey features several scenes filmed in and on the grounds of the library.[11]
  • Used in the film The Proud American (shooting date 2/17/08)
  • The TV series Mission: Impossible featured the library in the last episode filmed ("The Pendulum") as the "World Resources Ltd." headquarters. (aired 2/23/73)
  • The library was referenced by Ted Mosby in the How I Met Your Mother episode Mosbius Designs
  • Opening sequence of Veronica Mars episode from 11/29/06, filmed at the Warren Mall of UCSD and featuring shots of various landmarks, including Geisel Library.[12]
  • The 2010 film Inception has a snow fortress that is very similar in structure to Geisel.[13]
  • The 2010 film Kaboom features a shot of the library.
  • in 2012 The Television program Adult Swim created a remake of the Simon & Simon shot featuring the library, starring Jon Hamm, Adam Scott and Jeff Probst.


  1. ^ "About the Geisel Building". About the Libraries. UCSD Libraries. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  2. ^ Link text, additional text.
  3. ^ "John Baldessari". Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Barbara "a weight off our minds" Mikkelson (March 29, 2007). "That Sinking Feeling". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ William L. Pereira and Associates (August 1969). "Central Library: University of California at San Diego" (PDF). The Working Plan for the Central Library P.45. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ YouTube – Monkey and Modine at UCSD's Geisel Library
  12. ^ YouTube clip
  13. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°52′52″N 117°14′15″W / 32.8812°N 117.2375°W / 32.8812; -117.2375