It is often said that there is no great university without a great library. My wife and I believe that. And here at Berkeley we are very fortunate to have one of the truly great academic research libraries. We maintain and develop amazing collections, provide access to the world’s growing information resources, provide instruction to thousands of students, consultation and support to one of the finest research faculties in the world, and serve the public. We have a great mission, helping people find, evaluate and use information to improve their lives and better the world.
We are also passionate about public higher education. Public education at scale has opened the doors to a college education to millions of students who could not afford elite private universities, or who preferred the advantages offered by public campuses.
Very sadly, the meaning of “public” higher education has been changing: the public has decided to disinvest. Despite getting only 13% of our operating budget from the state — typical for public research universities — Berkeley is deeply committed to it’s public mission. But the only way to continue being the best public institution in the world is if those of us who believe dig deep and contribute.
Indeed, to provide the great library resources and services we offer requires that we spend a lot on a talented workforce (we have about 450 FTE to provide these services and staff our one million square feet of space and 53 miles of stacks). And we have to spend a lot on acquiring, processing, and preserving resources and tools for using them.
Berkeley writes my paycheck. But Janet and I believe in its mission, and so we write checks back. The only way forward for high quality public education is for those who believe to donate.