UC Santa Cruz receives $350,000 to create global café and reading garden at University Library

Stephen Silberstein (Bruce Cook photo)
William Ackerknecht (Scott Rappaport photo)

Two gifts to UC Santa Cruz valued at $350,000 will work together to create an exciting new social and educational center at the University Library.

Stephen Silberstein--cofounder and former president of Innovative Interfaces, a library software company in Emeryville, California-has donated $250,000 to create a global cyber café in the campus's newly expanded and renovated McHenry Library. Longtime Santa Cruz resident and library supporter William Ackerknecht has also pledged $100,000 to create an outdoor reading garden that will be located just outside the café.

The new Global Village Café at UC Santa Cruz will be modeled after the Free Speech Movement Café that was built at UC Berkeley's Moffitt Undergraduate Library, thanks to a 1998 gift Silberstein gave to that campus in honor of Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio. Plans for the UC Santa Cruz café include a rotating digital newspaper display that spotlights up-to-date front pages of approximately 140 newspapers from around the world. Representing the varied geographic areas of Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States, the newspaper exhibit is designed to contrast different global perspectives of current events.

Following the global village theme, the tables in the café will be enhanced with educational images illustrating such concepts as "the politics of food" and current developments in agricultural ecology. Emphasizing environmental responsibility and agricultural sustainability, the café menu will feature fresh, healthy ingredients that are obtained and prepared locally, avoiding prepackaged and junk food. The café is scheduled to open in late 2008.

The gift to support the Global Village Café complements Ackerknecht's $100,000 donation to create the Mary Ackerknecht Reading Garden Fund in honor of his late wife--a member of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Library--who passed away in June 2005. The couple had previously set up an endowment five years earlier in support of contemporary fiction and recreational reading for students at UCSC.

The new outdoor reading garden will feature a large terraced grass area, surrounded by benches, tables, and chairs situated under the redwoods-complete with power outlets and wi-fi availability-and landscaped with small cherry trees. The design will ensure that the area receives sunlight, even in the winter.

"This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a major contribution to the future of the library and the university," noted Ackerknecht, a resident of Santa Cruz since 1979. "My family and I wanted to establish a significant memorial to Mary, who had a passion for reading which she instilled in our children, and in me as well. So it's very rewarding for me to be able to participate in this."

An electrical engineer, Ackerknecht worked at Lockheed's research lab in Palo Alto for 10 years, as well as in business development and strategic planning at the company's Sunnyvale office. He also spent time in Idaho Falls as a lab director and worked in Las Vegas at the Nevada Test Site as assistant general manager of business units. Ackerknecht retired in 2002.

"The cyber café, combined with reading room, will be a place for faculty and students to study, read, and socialize," said Ackerknecht. "The café and the reading garden complement each other; they're very synergistic," he added. "The new remodeled library will be the center of campus where students come to gather-it's a beautiful environment for everyone to enjoy."