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The original library building, built in 1952, was part of the original Soule and Murphy master plan for the UCSB campus. It was designed by Chester Carjola, a leading Santa Barbara architect who worked closely with Soule and Murphy on the campus plans. Donald C. Davidson, University Librarian from 1947-1977, also played a large role in creating the library. As a member of the campus building committee, he worked with the various architects to design the buildings to fit the needs of the growing university.
The library's low tiled roof, patterned brick, and light colored walls reflect both the traditional Spanish influence and modernist materials. Originally built at a cost of just over one million dollars, the Library was state-of-the-art at the time of construction. Open stacks, group and individual study tables, typing room, audio/visual rooms, classrooms, patios, and sun decks made the Library design cutting edge for the time.