Best Academic Library in the World

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.

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.

Aloysius Varsi, S.J.

Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections

The Main Library. Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections

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.


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.]

Leanna Goodwater

Leanna Goodwater Photo by Joanne Lee


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.

From Scratch

The new leader of SCU’s adolescent mental health concentration wants to design better mental healthcare delivery systems to help more kids, now.

Green Is the New Black

Leaders in sustainable fashion shared career advice with student designers at SCU’s popular EcoFashion Show.

Hop 2 It

How do you get from hops to beer? Sustainability interns found out by turning hops grown at SCU’s Forge Garden into “Forge Ahead,” an English-style pale ale.

Racking Up

Tess Heal ’26 is nabbing awards left and right thanks to a stellar freshman year with Santa Clara women’s basketball.