3 Million Bucks For A Library Revamp Has Ties To Dr. Seuss

Credit: Jim Larrison via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)Audrey Geisel, widow of the late Theodor Geisel, recently gave $3 million to UC San Diego's Geisel Library. The gift will be used to "renovate the building’s entry level as part of an initiative to transform and revitalize the library’s interior public spaces to meet the evolving needs of students, faculty, and other users in the digital age."

There's that word again: "digital." I recently wrote about a large $10 million gift to Notre Dame to help create a digital scholarship center.

Related: Big Gifts for Campus Libraries Are Unusual. What Can We Learn From This One?

Bolstering the technological facilities of libraries is a high priority. While the Geisel Library is ranked amongst the top 25 academic research libraries in the nation, with more than seven million digital and print volumes, journals, and multimedia materials, its facility (which opened in 1972 as the university’s Central Library), is more than four decades old. Spaces that were once used for books and journals now could be used for other things. One plan for the revamped Geisel Library is "collaborative learning and research."

As Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian notes, this philanthropic support is crucial, particularly for a public university like UCSD: "Audrey’s incredible support through the existing Geisel Library Endowments has ensured a level of excellence in our collections and staff, and helped maintain our ranking as a top 25 research library during a time of significant budget cuts."

But who exactly is Audrey Geisel, who was her husband, Theodor, and what explains the family's commitment to UCSD?

Well, you might not have heard of Theodor Geisel, but you've definitely heard of the pen name he wrote under —Dr. Seuss. While Geisel was born in Massachusetts and attended Dartmouth College and University of Oxford, he eventually moved westward to La Jolla, California, where he wrote many of his classics, books that served for many kids as their first experiences with reading.

We've also heard this story before, of a donor moving into a new region and being swept up into the local life and community. La Jolla, of course, is in close proximity to UCSD. It's unclear how much Geisel and Audrey gave to UCSD as a couple, but when Geisel passed away in the early 1990s, the library was named in honor of their contributions to the library and dedication to improving literacy. Audrey Geisel also gave at least $1 million to UCSD in 2003 and 2007 and has supported other outfits in and around San Diego.