Best Academic Library in the World

Best Academic Library in the World

By Devin Collins ’17

SCU’s Learning Commons, Technology Center, and Library earned the 2017 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. Photo by Joanne Lee
That’s no hyperbole. Find out what makes SCU’s library tops. 

SCU’s Joanne E. Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Family Technology Center, and Orradre Library earned the 2017 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. Call it the Academy Award of libraries. Nobody is better at putting resources in the hands of students and faculty. Their philosophy: reflect, engage, transform. 


Aloysius Varsi, S.J.
Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections


Varsi Library

Opened in 1931, it was named after Aloysius Varsi, S.J., who left revolutionary Italy in 1848, joined the Santa Clara faculty in 1864, and went on to serve as the University’s sixth president. The building and its furnishings cost $52,000 at the time it was constructed; that was all the president of the University had been authorized to spend. Varsi Library housed 120,000 volumes and served as the University Library until the 1960s. Now Varsi Hall is home to offices and classrooms. But the legacy of the library lives on: Four gorgeous wooden tables from Varsi now serve as reading tables in University Archives and Special Collections.






Main library
The Main Library. Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections


The first central library was housed on the second floor of the Adobe Lodge. The Main Library housed some 270 Mission-era volumes. When access was limited to faculty, most of whom were Jesuits, the space was known as the Father’s Library—so student subcollections formed around campus. The Adobe Lodge itself was built in the 1820s. Today it serves as dining facilities for faculty and staff—and with its historic charm, it’s a favorite site for celebrations on campus, including more than a few wedding receptions over the years.


Leanna Goodwater
Leanna Goodwater Photo by Joanne Lee




As humanities librarian, Leanna Goodwater has devoted four decades to her work. “My goal as a teacher is to equip students with the skills and habits of mind that will enable them to achieve academic success today and to learn effectively for a lifetime,” she says. One new innovation she loves (and that helped win the library its award): A personal librarian program, launched in 2015. It invites transfer students, international students, LEAD scholars, and select others to personally connect with library staff. [Leanna Goodwater’s fans among faculty and staff include yours truly, editor of this magazine; I bring my fiction and creative nonfiction students to work with her for a session on research. —Ed.]




Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections




The Automated Retrieval System (ARS) is a card catalog meets The Jetsons. Three large cranes (Hart, Ichabod, and Stephen) move up and down rows of metal bins, offering on-demand access to 800,000 books, journals, documents, and microfilm. From click to book takes less than five minutes.










comments powered by Disqus