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UC San Diego Commemorates 50th Anniversary of its Iconic Geisel Library with Yearlong Celebration

Series of signature events featuring acclaimed American authors has been organized in honor of the Geisel Library building’s golden anniversary

Steven Calista / UC San Diego


  • Nikki Kolupailo
  • April Green

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  • Nikki Kolupailo
  • April Green

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Beginning September 2020, the UC San Diego Library will observe the 50th anniversary of the university’s intellectual heart of campus, Geisel Library, which first opened its doors to the UC San Diego community and public in September 1970—then known as the Central Library. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the Library has planned a yearlong celebration aimed at recognizing the remarkable legacy of Geisel Library, UC San Diego’s most iconic architectural masterpiece.

Observances will include a series of signature events throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, including talks featuring acclaimed American authors Tara Westover and Kevin Young. In addition, the Library has launched a new website ( that includes a wealth of information on Geisel Library’s architectural design; significance on campus; historical milestones and pop culture appearances; event and exhibit information; and philanthropic opportunities.

“For 50 years, the Geisel Library at UC San Diego has provided our campus community access to the materials, tools, information expertise, and idea space required to produce groundbreaking research,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Throughout its 50th year, we celebrate the iconic structure, its vast holdings and many accomplishments, and the dedicated librarians and staff who work to ensure unfettered access to knowledge. This vital information hub plays a crucial part in UC San Diego’s ability to deliver on our mission to be a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university.”

On June 29, 1970, approximately 750,000 volumes were moved into UC San Diego’s Central Library and at the start of the Fall 1970 Quarter, the building opened for student use. Since then, the Library has amassed more than 7 million digital and print volumes, journals, and multimedia materials to meet the knowledge demands of scholars, students, and members of the public.

Designed by the much-admired architect William Pereira, Geisel Library typically welcomes more than 6,600 patrons through its doors daily, generating nearly 2.3 million annual visitors. The building’s world-famous Brutalist architectural design conveys the idea that powerful and permanent hands are holding aloft knowledge itself, which was Pereira’s stated intention.

In 1992, in response to a need for more public space, an underground addition on the east and west sides of the building was designed by Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts. Birkerts deliberately designed this addition to extend the foundation of the strong, geometrical form of the existing structure.

“Through this celebration, we seek to honor the history of Geisel Library, which serves as a hub of discovery and innovation for the university, something we intend to continue indefinitely,” said the Audrey Geisel University Librarian Erik Mitchell. “And while our golden anniversary festivities may look a little different than we originally planned due to the pandemic, we are excited to embark on this yearlong commemoration. I encourage our community to take pause and appreciate the beauty and symbolism of the structure itself, while also recalling all of the tremendous work that has been done by our librarians and staff over the past five decades.”

Events planned for the 50th anniversary of Geisel Library include:

  • A Conversation with Tara Westover

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 | 5:30 p.m. PT | Virtual Event

A virtual event featuring Tara Westover, author of her memoir “Educated,” which explores Westover’s struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her desire to be loyal to her family, who intentionally kept her out of public education. The book instantly became a critical and commercial success, debuting at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the list for more than two years. Hear Westover discuss her journey and perspective during this event. Helen V. Griffith, Ed.D., the inaugural executive director of The Preuss School UC San Diego, will lead and moderate the conversation. Registration details forthcoming—check this page for updates.

  • 20th Annual Toy Piano Festival: 20 Measures or 50 Seconds

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 | 12 p.m. PT | Virtual Event

The 20th Annual Toy Piano Festival is fit for listeners of all ages. Playing new works for toy pianos and songs from “The Cat in the Hat Songbook,” festival director Scott Paulson will be joined by his toy piano colleagues for an exciting performance. Many of the premieres at this year’s festival will be 20 measures or 50 seconds in honor of the 20th anniversary of the festival and the 50th anniversary of Geisel Library. More.  

  • Architectural Masterpiece: Paving the Way for the Future

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 | 5:30 p.m. PT | Virtual Event

A virtual event highlighting UC San Diego’s most cherished architectural masterpiece, Geisel Library. Teddy Cruz, UC San Diego professor in the Department of Visual Arts and director of Urban Research for the UC San Diego Center on Global Justice, along with Chicago-based urban designer and native San Diegan Caroline Acheatel, will engage in a discussion about the historical importance of the building and explore the architectural principles that make it so iconic. Registration details forthcoming—check this page for updates.

  • A Conversation with Kevin Young

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 | 5:30 p.m. PT

Kevin Young, whom The Washington Post calls “one of the most important poets of his generation,” is a poet, essayist, editor, and curator. He is also author of 13 books and the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, recently named a National Historic Landmark, and poetry editor of The New Yorker, where he hosts a poetry podcast. His newest book, “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song,” is set to release this fall. Registration details forthcoming—check this page for updates.

  • Short Tales from the Mothership: 50th Anniversary Edition

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 | 5 p.m. PT

Short Tales from the Mothership is an annual sci-fi microfiction event where the Library invites participants to submit short stories (250 words or less) inspired by the otherworldly architectural design of Geisel Library. In recognition of the 50th anniversary, all stories shared at this event will include a reference to “50.” More.

  • Springing Forward into Our Next 50

Spring 2021 | 6 p.m. PT

An event dedicated to looking forward and envisioning the Library’s next 50 years. Event speaker and registration details forthcoming—check this page for updates.

In honor of Geisel Library’s golden anniversary, the Library has also launched the UC San Diego Library Associates—a group of alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and dedicated community members who recognize that the Library is at the heart of UC San Diego’s entire academic mission—and has put forth a set of philanthropic priorities, giving donors the ability to support the category of their choosing. A gift of any amount gains donors immediate membership to Library Associates and helps ensure Geisel Library remains as vibrant on the inside as it is on the outside.

Online activities will take place as well, including an ongoing social media campaign slated to run throughout the celebratory year. Content will include Geisel Library’s historic milestones, fun facts, and images of UC San Diego affiliates and the public at the Library—all are encouraged to use the hashtag #geisel50 for a chance to be featured on the Library’s social channels and 50th anniversary website.

For additional information on Geisel Library’s 50th anniversary, please visit

About the UC San Diego Library:

The UC San Diego Library, ranked among the nation’s top 25 public academic libraries, plays a critical role in advancing and supporting the university’s research, teaching, patient care, and public service missions. The world-renowned research for which UC San Diego is known starts at the UC San Diego Library, which provides the foundation of knowledge needed to advance cutting-edge discoveries in a wide range of disciplines, from healthcare and science to public policy and the arts.

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