By Carl Irving
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
Six years after San Jose State
University President Robert Caret
and former San Jose Mayor Susan
Hammer first discussed the possibility, an
elegant new eight-story library, for both
city and campus use, is being built in this
city of almost one million people.
The collaborative venture, unprecedented
in the United States, is to open in
2003, and 93 percent of the projected
$177.5 million cost is already in the bank.
Campus and city leaders say most of the
barriers and doubts between town and
gown have been removed. They speak
proudly of a new model for the nation.
"Down the road, this will be a huge
national story, about how a city and a
major university can come together and
create a resource, one that's open and airy
and accessible," said former Mayor Hammer,
who helped to negotiate the deal with
San Jose State, a downtown campus with
an enrollment of 27,000.
"Lots of people around the country are
watching us, to see how it works," said
President Caret. "Professional librarians
all over the country think it's a great idea."
City and state bond issues will pay most
of the cost. San Jose State, oldest of the 23
campuses in the California State University
system, is contributing $5 million, and
a campus-based campaign hopes to raise
another $16.5 million in private donations.
"Susan and I had the right moment in
time," Caret said. "A year earlier or later,
and it never would have happened."
The library is to be a "gateway" between
the campus and a future civic center.
It will house 1.4 million books, 80
percent of them from the university's
collections. There will be more than 3,000
spaces for computer plug-ins, which will
employ the latest technology. These will be
designed and installed by experts from
Silicon Valley high-tech firms such as Adobe
|Patricia Breivik, San Jose State’s library dean, will co-manage the new library
with City Librarian Jane Light. Breivik believes the new facility could become a
national model of library efficiency.||
A distinctive feature will be what Caret
called a "tower of light," a solid wall of
glass permitting sunlight throughout each
floor, including the basement.
City Librarian Jane Light said sharing
the facility will mean significant savings,
because student and public use are expected
to overlap. University students generally
go to the campus library between 9
AM and 4 PM, Monday through Thursday,
while use of the public library is heaviest
after 4 PM and on weekends.
Savings estimates under joint management
range as high as 30 percent, as
the partners have agreed to share everything
from heating and air conditioning
costs to staffing and some book and periodical
Joint operation should be a convenience
for San Jose State students, most of
whom are commuters and three-quarters
of whom work at least part-time. They no
longer will have to go to the downtown
campus for books they have ordered but
can pick them up instead at one of 17 city
branch libraries. (There are plans for six
The path to construction has not been
After passage of state and city bond
issues, in November and December 1998,
it took heavy lobbying by Mayor Hammer
and local legislators to secure $86 million
from the state, and $70 million from the
city for the library. Ever since Hammer
and Caret announced the joint project in
February 1996, they have had to quell
doubts and fears about how this change
would affect lives and careers.
City residents worried that burly students
would elbow them aside and that a
campus sometimes seen as arrogant and
aloof might clamp down on public access.
Users of the branch libraries had to be
reassured repeatedly that the project
would not deprive their neighborhoods of
books and services.
However, most of the opposition came
from San Jose State faculty members. Few
doubted the need for new library facilities
-by 1994, San Jose's population
had tripled since the opening of the city's
main library, which is squeezed between a
large hotel and a convention center. The
campus expanded at a similarly rapid rate
and, for the past 20 years, has had to divide
its books between two buildings.
But the 1996 announcement "caught
the faculty by surprise," said Kenneth Peter,
a political science professor who was
chairman of the faculty Academic Senate
in 1997 and 1998. Opposition began to
"solidify" amid concerns that the academic
and public missions were irreconcilable,
Peter said. "Right away it was clear there
had to be some separation, and not total
||Former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and San Jose State University President
Robert Caret were instrumental in bringing about the new jointly operated library,
now under construction. San Jose’s current mayor, Ron Gonzales, is at right.
Many faculty members, especially in
the humanities and social sciences, had
serious reservations about security and
access, fearing theft and carelessness that
might threaten collections of irreplaceable
Some faculty argued that security gates
and inspections were needed, but most
ultimately conceded these would be contrary
to the nature of public libraries.
Faculty proposals for a "duplex" library,
with two separate wings, were discouraged
by both campus and city officials.
Plans finally moved along with an understanding
that the campus collections
would be housed on the upper four floors
and the city's on the lower four, but with
free public access (with purchase of a $5
city library card) on all floors.
Professor Peter still sees risks in the
project but supports it because "a new
library was desperately needed. It was
quite clear at that time that the (California
State University) system was not going to
fund it unless there was some kind of creative
The Academic Senate has been involved
in the planning most of the way
and has voted approval three times: for
planning, for a written joint agreement and
Peter believes the final agreement
contains "measures to safeguard the mission...
The university retains control of its
collection within a circulation policy that
does not shut out the public."
But some faculty remain unconvinced.
|San Jose State faculty member James
Schmidt thinks the new library will improve the performance of the city’s
middle schools and high schools.||
"My main objection is the vulnerability
of the collection to checking out and not
being returned on time or simply not
returned," said David McNeil, chairman of
the history department and a member of
the San Jose State faculty for 31 years.
"Our campus, oldest in the system, has an
older book collection-and a rather fine
one." But McNeil conceded that the time
for opposition has passed.
E. Bruce Reynolds, another historian,
has fought a losing battle against the
project since its inception. "What we've
done in this deal is effectively give away
our library collection," Reynolds said.
"Everybody has access to the same books.
I'm very concerned."
Reynolds thinks a joint reference desk
will hinder student and faculty studies and
research. But James Schmidt, professor of
library science, said such fears should have
been laid to rest by surveys which found
that librarians for the two systems can
work together compatibly.
"The issue isn't public library users are
blue and university library reference users
are green," Schmidt said. "The issue is how
to best accommodate the wide variety of
queries which all reference users-blue
and green-pose. How better than with a
large staff and a larger collection?"
Schmidt said students in San Jose's
heavily minority middle schools and high
schools "will be introduced to a richer and
deeper resource, thus vastly improving
their performance and prospects for getting
into college. "The campus reflects this
population-more than 70 percent of San
Jose State students are non-white, and a
high percentage are the first in their families
to attend college.
Faculty opposition has dwindled to a
few in the history and political science
departments, President Caret said, because
security and ambience have been assured.
He foresees voluntary segregation, with
the general public mostly using the lower
floors, where recent fiction will be stored.
"We're not even going to know we're
in the same building," the president said.
The lower floors will have escalators but
the top four, where the university books
will be shelved, will only have elevators.
"As you go up, it becomes more academic,"
The dean of the university library, Patricia
Breivik, who will co-manage the
operations with city librarian Jane Light,
looks forward to generating new and more
effective ways of transmitting information,
providing what could become a national
model of library efficiency.
"When we went to school, we went to
the library to find topics the teacher wanted,"
said Breivik, who received her doctorate
from Columbia University and
came to San Jose in 1999 from Wayne
State University, in Detroit. "Now students
type in a few words and get 300
citations...There's so much junk out
there...We've not done a good job at becoming
information literates, even though
we may be computer literate."
Some problems still must be resolved.
The most important is how, or if, the university
will share its vital and irreplaceable
books with the public. Another is how
much access the public will have to the internet
system that now links San Jose
State with libraries on some other Cal
But campus and city officials are confident
these questions will be answered
and that the experiment in joint library
operation will be successful.
"It's time for new models, as technical
changes and architecture get much better,"
said Jane Light, the city librarian. "The
world around us is changing and we're in
the midst of Silicon Valley. People don't
want to think there's a barrier between
them and the information they need, when
their tax dollars are paying for all that."
Awareness of the need for change has
seeped into the older academic disciplines
and has helped to bring around many
previously skeptical faculty, said Allison
Heisch, a professor of English and a
faculty member for 16 years. My colleagues
were very much opposed to the
idea," Heisch said. "I myself thought it was
a wild one. I don't hear complaints
anymore. Most of us (in the English department)
have become excited about it."
||David McNeil, chairman of San Jose
State’s history department, worries that
valuable books might be lost as a result
of the joint city-campus agreement.
Recently, Heisch volunteered to serve
on the campus library board, which is
responsible for approving step-by-step
planning and construction. "It is a creative
and gutsy idea, one that not only anticipates
but welcomes the future," he said.