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Library history & trivia

Library history | University Librarians & Deans | Library volume count | SABIO

History of the UA Libraries and buildings

At the time the first UA classes began in 1891, the Library was located in one of the original campus buildings, now called "Old Main". In 1904, Estelle Lutrell was hired as the first full-time Librarian, and by the time she arrived, a new Library and Museum Building (now called Douglass ) was being constructed, and she oversaw the move into this facility during 1904-05. A separate Library Building (now the Arizona State Museum ) was opened in 1927 and would serve as the main campus Library for nearly 50 years.

The Science Library opened in the fall of 1963. Two additional floors were completed on it in 1971. From 1972-1976, it also housed part of the humanities collection to help ease the now overcrowded conditions in the Main Library.

The current Main Library building was completed in 1976 and opened in January 1977. In 2002, the Information Commons on the 1st floor (extending underground into the new Integrated Learning Center), and an addition to the 5th floor, were opened.

In 2004, UA English Professor Dr. Carl Berkhout curated an exhibit on Estelle Lutrell to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her arrival at UA. Some of the original exhibit material can now be viewed online in the web exhibit created by our Special Collections staff, where most of the original materials reside. The early history of the UA Library is found under the sections:

Early Years - 1905-1920s: Estelle and the University of Arizona Library's Early Years

Success Years - The 1920's and Early 1930's: A New Library for the University

The Fine Arts Library began as a departmental music collection in 1951. It was established as a branch of the University Libraries in 1959. By 1967, the Music Collection had moved to larger quarters in room 115 of the current School of Music building. The Music Library moved into the much expanded present location on the 2nd floor following its completion in July 1992. In the fall of 2003, the Music Library became the prototype "Fine Arts Libratory", with a mini-Information Commons. Reference collections and library staff from the Architecture and CCP libraries were consolidated in the Libratory. (Several years later, the Architecture library was closed, and the bulk of its remaining collection was moved to the Science-Engineering Library.)

The Center for Creative Photography (CCP), which included a library, was established in 1975 as part of the University Libraries. The present CCP building was completed and occupied in 1989. In 2011, the CCP library closed and much of its collection was moved to the Science-Engineering Library. Rare books, reference materials, and the archive remained at CCP for researchers at the newly-established Volkerding Study Center. In 2013, CCP was transitioned to report to the Vice President for Research Office, rather than the Dean of Libraries, to foster synergies with other campus museums.

The Arizona Health Sciences Library (AHSL), located in the College of Medicine building, has been in operation for many years under the governance of the College of Medicine. In 2013, they became part of the University Libraries. (The Law Library, located in the College of Law building, remains separately governed under the College of Law.)

University Librarians & Deans

Howard J. Hall (1891-1904) - One of six original teaching faculty (English); also given title of Librarian
Estelle Lutrell (1904-1932) - First full-time Librarian
Rudolph H. Gjelsness (1932-1937)
William H. Carlson (1937-1942)
Frederick N. Cromwell (1943-1952)
Fleming Bennett (1952-1964)
Robert K. Johnson (1964-1972)
W. David Laird (1972-1990)
Carla J. Stoffle (1991-2013) - First to hold the title Dean of Libraries
Karen Williams (2013-   )

How many volumes does the library have?

As of June 30, 2012:

  • 6,019,631 print volumes
  • 1,184,441 electronic books
  • 74,083 electronic journals

These numbers are for the UA Libraries only: Main, Science-Engineering, Fine Arts, and Special Collections. It does not include the Center for Creative Photography, Law Library, or Arizona Health Sciences Library.

What is SABIO?

SABIO was the name originally given to our first online catalog back in 1992. The word “sabio” is Spanish for a sage or wise one. (The URL of our online catalog is still http://sabio.library.arizona.edu .) Several years later, SABIO took on a broader meaning as our “Information Gateway” to all of our online resources.

UA Library homepage before 2005

Sabio Gateway UA Library homepage before 2005


The name SABIO was retired from our web site in August 2005, when our newly-designed web site was rolled out.

Last modified: August 3, 2016