History of the King Library

In February 1997, San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and San Jose State University President Robert L. Caret announced their intention to build a new library that would serve both as the SJSU Library and as the City’s Main Library. The new library would be (and still is) the first joint use library in the United States shared by a major university as its only library and a large City as its main library.

In December 1999, The California State University Board of Trustee and San Jose’s City Council and Redevelopment Board approved two documents. The Development Agreement between the CSU and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency described how the partners would work together to design and build the 475,000 square foot library. It included how costs would be shared and how decisions would be made. The Joint Library Operating Agreement between the California State University System and the City included agreements about governance, operations, and funding of utilities and maintenance and assigned the roles of “Co-Managers” of the new library to the City’s Library Director and the University’s Library Dean.

In May 2000, the City and the University agreed to name the new library after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The grand opening celebration brought the University community and the City’s leaders and residents together for a joyous celebration on August 15, 2003.

The architects were Carrier Johnson, Executive Architects, Gunnar Birkerts, Design Associate Architects, and Anderson Brulé, Local Associate Architects. Hansel Phelps construction Inc was the General Contractor.

Today the King Library houses over 1.5 million volumes, seats more than 3500 people and receives over 2 million visitors each year. It provides 40 group study rooms and 300 public access computers as well as computer classrooms for librarians to teach information literacy to both SJSU students and the general public. Wifi is available throughout the building. Access to hundreds of general and academic research databases is available to library visitors. Visitors to the library are often delighted by the 35 works of public art created by Mel Chin and designed to link to the library’s collections and the diverse community that uses them.

Every year the King Library hosts visitors from libraries around the world who want to learn about this exciting collaboration and to see the library in operation. See a list of articles and papers about the King Library here.