UC Berkeley

Director of Bancroft Library to retire

Interior of the Bancroft Library

Charles Faulhaber, who recently oversaw the $64 million renovation of the Bancroft Library, announced this week that he will retire from his post in June 2011.

Faulhaber, 68, will have spent 42 years on the UC Berkeley campus by that time – the last 16 as director of the Bancroft. It’s time to move on, he said.

“I’ve got the best job on the Berkeley campus,” said Faulhaber, who is also a professor of medieval Spanish literature. “It’s pure joy.”

Faulhaber was appointed the James D. Hart Director of the Bancroft Library in 1995 and not only oversaw – and raised money for – the library’s renovation, but helped usher in a new digital era for the Bancroft.

Browsers on the library’s website can find lectures on California history, see an online exhibit of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, find out about diverse California cultures, learn about the history of the disability rights movement, as well as other social movements.

They can scan manuscripts in the Digital Scriptorium, which features illuminated manuscripts from the 8th to 15th centuries. They can buy reproductions of some of the library’s prized posters and photographs. There is even a Bancroft Facebook page which presents a “digital object of the day.”

Charles Faulhaber in Bancroft stacks

Faulhaber also raised funds for three of the library’s most visible collections: The Mark Twain Papers, The Center for Tebtunis Papyri, and the Regional Oral History Project.

The Bancroft and UC Press will publish Twain’s autobiography in November, and its release has attracted national attention. The book was the subject of a Newsweek cover story last week and was featured on “60 Minutes.”

The Mark Twain Project’s acquisition of a an original Twain manuscript at auction in July drew much less notice, but is an illustration of how important fundraising – one of Faulhaber’s main responsibilities – is to the Bancroft Library. The project spent $249,500 to acquire “A Family Sketch,” Samuel Clemens’ 64-page, unpublished tribute to his daughter, Olivia “Susy” Clemens, who died of spinal meningitis at the age of 24.

The Regional Oral History Office has also embarked on some ambitious projects recently, including one to document the 75-year history of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The late developer, Walter Shorenstein, also endowed a major oral history project in which ROHO will interview public policy-makers on important topics, including national debt and political gridlock.

Faulhaber also played a major role in bringing the collections of the Judah L. Magnes Museum to the Bancroft Library.

Faulhaber said he has been able to devote so much time to raising money because he staff is so adept at running the library. Many of the curators have been there for decades and are at the top of their field, he said.

Peter Hanff, for instance, the deputy director of the library, has been at UC Berkeley for 40 years. Anthony Bliss, the curator of rare books and manuscripts, has been at the Bancroft for 30 years, and Susan Snyder, head of public services, has been there almost 20 years.

“This is truly a passing of an important era,” Tom Leonard, the university librarian, said about Faulhaber’s retirement.  “The Bancroft we know today grew up under his hand. Charles moved rare and unique holdings into the age of the internet; hidden collections got star exposure on-line, in print, and in exhibits. He took a building that the campus viewed as ‘most in need of improvements but the least likely to get them’ and led the team that raised $33 million to make Bancroft seismically safe and the envy of peer institutions.”

Leonard said that the university would do a review of the “Bancroft’s essential place at Berkeley” as part of its national search for a new director.

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  • Elena S. Danielson

    I wish you all the best in your retirement, ok to rest on such magnificent laurels.