Road to '65: Selecting a site for the new campus

50 years ago: Countdown to UCSC's 50th anniversary

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Ed. note: UCSC is turning 50 in 2015! How time flies. We're starting the celebration by presenting stories of what was happening on campus 50 years ago. First up: In 1962, the founding University Librarian arrives on campus and begins creating McHenry Library.

Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis was escalating, and the United States and the Soviet Union came as close as they ever would to global nuclear war.

Against that backdrop of nuclear apocalypse, a group of visionaries in Santa Cruz was planting the seeds for an extraordinary new venture. A University of California campus was being born here, preparing for its opening three years later.

Preparations for the new campus were beginning to roll, and in September 1962, the campus's first librarian arrived, ready to start a university library from scratch.

His name was Donald Clark (1911–1993), and he was the first of Chancellor Dean E. McHenry's academic appointments at UCSC.

There were no university buildings on the campus yet in 1962—early staff had offices at Cabrillo College in Aptos—but with Clark's arrival, planning for the University Library began in earnest.

Before his appointment at Santa Cruz, Clark had been at Baker Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Business for more than 20 years.

Chancellor McHenry's invitation to participate in the Santa Cruz experiment in public higher education was a rare opportunity that Clark felt he couldn't pass up. He was also excited by the prospect of building a new library.

"Can you imagine the opportunity that would be given a librarian to start from zero?" Clark asked his interviewer in his oral history, Donald T. Clark: Early UCSC history and the founding of the University Library.

"Clark was a book man first and foremost, but he looked beyond the titles," said Hal Hyde, UCSC's first vice chancellor of business and finance. "He was broadly interested in the community and in geography."

As the United States and its allies mobilized their armed might to compel the Soviets to remove their missiles from Cuba, UC Santa Cruz was developing quickly.

"Those of us in the active reserve were on the edge of our chairs," said Hyde, who served in the Army during World War II and was an Army reservist in 1962. "But things with the campus really started moving."

In late October 1962, President John F. Kennedy made an offer to settle the crisis, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev accepted. The world breathed easier, and work on the UCSC campus could continue without the threat of nuclear disaster.

Clark proceeded with making plans for the building of McHenry Library. He became a pioneer in the area of library automation, working to create a computerized book catalog at UC Santa Cruz in the 1960s—the first such effort in the UC system.

Today's library—recently renovated—includes a café, collaborative study areas, a large information commons containing more than 60 computer stations, a "laptop bar" with stools for optimum studying, and full wireless coverage.

Though McHenry Library has embraced the digital information age, it remains, as it began, a place for study, contemplation, and discovery—just as its founders envisioned it.