Happy 100th birthday, Green Library!

Green Library
Stanford Libraries are celebrating the 100th birthday of the venerable Green Library. (Photo: Tamer Shabani)

Happy Birthday, Green Library!

The campus community will gather Monday, July 15, in front of Green Library to wish the venerable building a happy 100th birthday. The event is sold-out with some 400 people expected to attend.

The celebration is part of the Stanford Libraries Beyond100 events. The centennial celebration theme was chosen in recognition of the Stanford Libraries’ status as a launchpad to spark curiosity, elevate knowledge and transform scholarship.

Stanford’s library system itself dates back to the opening of the university, but the creation of a grand library was the brainchild of JANE STANFORD in the early 1900s.

“I deeply and fully appreciate what a well-selected and sufficient library means to a university,” Stanford said. “With a grand library, we would be able to call to our assistance the ablest and best professors in the land, and our own honored professors could do better work.”

Jane Stanford died in 1905, long before her vision was realized.

“The centennial is about much more than the construction of a building,” said MICHAEL KELLER, university librarian and vice provost for teaching and learning. “Beyond100 recognizes the drive and motivation of Jane Stanford and celebrates a longstanding legacy at Stanford Libraries of anticipating the future needs of scholars and students across everything we do.”

Green Library
Historic photo of Green Library from the Stanford Archives.

Although it opened July 14, 1919, the library wasn’t named for Cecil H. Green, a longtime Stanford supporter and founder of Texas Instruments, until 1980.

Green Library actually represents a second, posthumous attempt to build the grand library envisioned by Jane Stanford. The first building, located east of the Oval where the Bing Concert Hall now stands, was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

In 1917, excavation began on the new library, which this time would be built with the latest seismic standards in mind. The building was designed by Arthur Brown Jr. and John Bakewell to incorporate the most up-to-date developments in library design, including monumental, well-lit reading rooms and smaller seminar spaces.

According to the library website, the building was constructed of steel frame, with reinforced concrete for the main floors and roof slabs, walls of hollow clay tiles and marble, wood and brass for the interior. Brown, who also designed San Francisco City Hall, included in the Romanesque style exterior such features as an entrance façade of San Jose sandstone with relief figures depicting Art, Philosophy and Science carved over the portals.

In 1980, the East Wing of the library opened, adjoining the old Main Library, which was renamed Green Library West.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake forced the closure of Green Library West, and staff members were moved to Green Library East and Meyer Library. The earthquake hit with such force that interior columns shifted, giant cracks opened, and hundreds of thousands of volumes were spilled onto the floor.

On Oct. 12, 1999, Green Library West reopened and was rededicated as the Bing Wing in honor of a generous gift from Peter and Helen Bing.

Among the features of Green Library is Special Collections, located on the second floor of the Bing Wing, and the David Rumsey Map Center, which opened in 2016 on the fourth floor.

Read more on the Stanford Libraries website.