A view outside the entrance to Shields (the red glow is due to the smoke from the summer fires of 2008).

Shields Library , the main library for UC Davis, is the biggest library in Yolo County and is the third biggest library in the UC system. It contains over 3.1 Million volumes (src). The library is named after Peter J. Shields, who helped establish UCD.

It is located on Peter J. Shields Avenue across the UC Davis Quad from the Memorial Union. If the book you're looking for isn't available in the Shields Collection, worry not — "Books not available at UC Davis can be ordered through the interlibrary loan system from the other UC campuses. [...] A shuttle bus makes daily runs from UC Davis to UC Berkeley to enable students to use the that campus' 8 million-volume library system." - UCDavis VTour.

Aerial view circa 1955 Shields was built in three parts/stages, and if you circle the building completely, you can see the three distinct architectural styles. The north wing facing the Quad (where the 24 Hour Reading Room and the Main Reading Room are) is the oldest wing of the library, completed in 1940 as the library and administration building. The main entrance at this time was located on the north side. The new building replaced the old Classroom Building, which was built in 1915. When the campus was closed during WWII, the Army Signal Corps took over, and training took place in the Main Reading Room.

During the 1960s, the east and south wings were built, and the library's orientation changed. The main entrance was now on the east end. This is one reason why there is ample bike parking on this side of the building. The entrance was eventually "connected" to Olson by the redwood bridge, which was built so that bike traffic and pedestrian traffic wouldn't lead to chaos. For the next 20-odd years, the Undergraduate Reading Room (also called the Undergrad) was located in the southeast corner of the library in the basement (the stairs leading there are still present, even though the doors are no longer accessible from outside, and the area has been converted to other uses). The Main Reading Room became the periodicals section, and the microfilm machines were located just outside the east entrance to the room.

A view of the inside of Shields at night (early 2004).

Around the late 80s, construction began on the western addition. Once expansion was completed in 1992, the entrance shifted yet again to its present location. The 24 Hour Reading Room was moved to the older north section. These changes coincided with the age of computers. The card catalog area that used to be just inside the main entrance on the east end became obsolete; the computers now continue this function, and require less space. Other changes included the reversion of the Main Reading Room to its original namesake function.

Students that wish to save money on textbooks can check out the reserves, where you can check out textbooks and other class materials that may be left by instructors.

There are three other libraries on campus: the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library, the Law Library, and the Health Sciences Library.


Normal Hours during the academic term:

Mon-Thurs: 7:30AM-Midnight Fri: 7:30AM-6:00PM Sat: Noon-6:00PM Sun: Noon-Midnight

During holidays, between quarters, and finals weeks, Shields has adjusted hours. But if Shields is closed, there's always the 24 Hour Reading Room, which is accessible via a Reg Card.

Summer Hours Jun 15th - Sept 20th: Mon-Thurs: 7:30AM-8:00PM Fri:7:30AM-6:00PM Sat: closed Sun: 1:00PM-7:00PM

Library hours seem limited when you contrast them with ARC hours. The ARC opens earlier and closes later than the library 6 days a week. During the remaining day, Sunday, the ARC is still open 3 more hours than the library. All in all the ARC is open 28% more than the library!

Study spots

The nice window seats on the 2nd floor. Perfect for studying. The main reading room. Image © 2003 Graham Kolbeins.

While Shields is vast, there are some cozy spots to relax and study. The outside area (accessible from the first floor) is perfect for sitting, reading, and enjoying a lunch. If you've got trouble studying, you can lock yourself in a cage. There are also many window 'seats' which you can sit in and study from (2nd floor and up). From the window seats you get a nice view of the outside area and the surrounding library (window areas pictured left). If you're lucky, you may spot what the library staff refers to as a 'stacks creeper' from time to time.

Computer/Internet access

The first and second floors generally have the strongest wireless coverage, with some weak spots especially around the reading rooms, but other areas of the library also have wireless. Coverage Map However, don't expect a very fast connection because of network congestion.

There are two open access computer rooms in Shields. One is located in room 163 at the back of the Library. The other is in 182 Shields the former location of the IT-Express Help Desk. Both are managed by IET - Computer Lab Management(CLM).

There are Public Internet Terminals around the library (which are supposed to be used for research purposes only). In 2005 many of these terminals had all domains blocked except .edu sites.


The library is filled with many different resources. There is the Special Collections room, Government Information, Maps, library instruction laboratory, library instruction room, Institute of Government Affairs.

What's where:

  • Lower level (basement): Government Information, Maps, Current periodicals (magazines, journals and newspapers)
  • 1st Floor (entrance level): Library instruction laboratory, reserves, circulation, computer lab, special collections, library administration, East Asian language collection
  • 2nd Floor: Humanities and social sciences (books and journals)
  • 3rd Floor: Biology & Agricultural sciences; math and computer science.
  • 4th Floor: Literature and languages; staff work area.

Online Resources

The library's main website is located at http://lib.ucdavis.edu. Here you can access the catalog of all campus and UC libraries as well as your account information. More importantly, the website is also a portal to numerous electronic journals and databases. Most of these restrict access based on your IP address, i.e. you must be directly connected to a campus network to use them. This includes MOObilenet, ResNet, the modem pools, and any departmental networks.

To access the databases from off-campus, you can follow the directions here to set up a proxy. NOTE: a new and simpler means of gaining access is now in place and is called: VPN. Use it! If that is not geeky enough for you, you can use a SSH tunnel as described here. You must have a UCD (or departmental) login.

They even offer access to the O'Reilly Network Safari Bookshelf of computer books.

Unusual Items

Drowning in debt found in study area on elevated first floor.

Shields Library is home to a number of works of art. Examples are the Dog Bench and the Freaky Shoe Guy. The painting of two women located in the computer catalog area has earned that room the nickname "room with the ugly picture" among some library staff. For some other unusual scenery check out the cages on the fourth floor!


There are some interesting paintings in the Shields Library. You can view them at http://www.lib.ucdavis.edu/ul/about/art/

The website does not include all the art peices. Some of the more interesting art peices are by William T. Wiley, a former art professor here at UC Davis. If you ever wondered about the paintings that had demons in it, those were his peices.

An interesting fact is that his two-peice painting in front of the reserve desk on the first floor has an angelic seal called a sigil. If you ever studied occult literature or history, sigils are believed to summon or help worship deities. So in essence, there is a portal drawn at the library! But for the adventurious, I'm sorry but the library isn't known to be haunted. Nonetheless it's still an interesting art peice that many students walk by and do not know what is on it. This two-peice art is next to the list of deadly sins. On the right is a policeman pointing left, at a demon, sigil, and cryptic words. The art is actually quite symbolic, probably meaningful, and detailed, and it is one of the art peices that the library forgot to take a photo of on their website. (If anyone has a camera, please take a picture and post it here! Thank you).


In addition to coming across a stacks creeper you may also come across library "security" guards. They can easily be spotted by their flamboyant blue vests. Some like to hang out at the entrance. If they catch you carrying a drink in an open or breakable container (this includes disposable coffee cups), they will not let you in the library. If you manage to make it in the library, be sure not to put your snacks on a desk or table because they will promptly tell you to put them on the floor or on a chair. If they have to warn you more than once, they may start to threaten to "ask you to leave" or confiscate your drink.

However, as recently as March 2012, it has been noted that enforcement of library policies has been lax. The blue-vested guards are nowhere to be seen, students regularly socialize in designated 'quiet' student zones, and studiers regularly consume snacks, coffee in disposable containers, etc. In one instance, a library staff worker was seen talking to a studier in the main reading room, telling him he needed to throw out with mocachino beverage in a disposable container. The worker walked away, and the student contained to nurse his beverage for the next hour or so. This is the only example of 'enforcement' that this editor has seen during the current 2012 academic year.

Many people don't know it, but Shields Library actually has 4 floors. The reason for this misperception is that the main staircase only goes to levels 2 and 3. To get to level 4, you have to use one of the side stairwells or elevators. Level 4 includes a great deal of fiction, poetry, and foreign literature (n.b.: not an exhaustive list,) making it a popular destination for recreational readers. Level 4 is also VERY quiet, gets little foot traffic, and often has empty desks and tables. That makes it an ideal place to study. One of the desks on the right side of the library (circa 1998) was filled with the names of the hometowns of the people who had sat there.