The Jacob Burns Law Library, 1967-2017:
A Fifty-Year History of Building, Staffing, and Developing a Research Collection
Leslie A. Lee, Assistant Director for Administration
Scott B. Pagel, Associate Dean for Information Services, Professor of Law, and Director of the Law Library
|Memorably, in 1967:
NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3 to photograph the surface of the moon.
Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human-to-human heart transplant.
Priscilla married Elvis.
What do these historic events have in common? They shared a milestone in 2017 with the Jacob Burns Law Library: their fiftieth anniversary. In October, 1967, after many years of occupying shared space in various D.C. locations, the Law Library opened the doors to its own building at 716 20th Street, N.W. Prior to this move, from 1925 until 1967, the library had been perched on the third and fourth floors of Stockton Hall, and was known as the Maury Memorial Law Library, named after William Arden Maury, a beloved member of the law faculty. Groundbreaking for the new building, adjacent to Stockton Hall, had occurred two years prior in October, 1965.
THE BEGINNINGS OF A PERMANENT HOME: THE 1960s. The 1964-1965 annual report of the dean describes the prospective library: “The building is designed primarily as a working library for students and faculty. It will contain some faculty offices and some facilities for research work. The building is to have a frontage on 20th Street of about fifty feet and will be five stories high, with full elevator service. Three floors of underground storage space will provide ample expansion possibilities for book storage.” The building was a relatively tall, thin structure, comprising nine levels, which provided approximately 49,000 square feet of floor space and shelving capacity for approximately 170,000 volumes. The new facility had seating for 450, distributed among four reading rooms, a lounge, smoking areas, carrels, study rooms, reading alcoves, and seminar rooms.
The new building was named after GW Law alumnus Dr. Jacob Burns (LLB 1924, LLD 1970), in honor of his generous contributions toward completion of the building. A formal dedication ceremony was held in February, 1967.
During the 1966-1967 academic year, other notable library activity involved expansion of the print collection of core legal materials, including acquiring additional copies of the United States Code Annotated, the Atlantic Reporter and North Eastern Reporter series, as well as additional copies of local jurisdiction codes, and the League of Nations Treaty Series. During this period, the library also enjoyed an increase in personnel, which doubled from four to eight full-time staff.
Books: moving on a grand scale. The following academic year, as recounted in the dean’s annual report, “…will be remembered as the ‘moving year’ for the Law Library. Beginning in late May, 1967, and continuing well past midsummer, 1968, the collections of the Law Library were moved and shifted in connection with the completion, occupancy, and utilization of the new Law Library building.” Under the supervision of Law Library Director Hugh Bernard, over 40,000 (of approximately 100,000 total) library volumes were relocated from Stockton Hall to the new building. Library shelf space, divided among Stockton Hall (where a faculty library was maintained), Law Review offices, and the new building, could accommodate an estimated 185,000-190,000 books.
During this time, personnel had grown to nine full-time and three part-time staff members; as noted in the annual report, “[r]eading room supervision, processing and acquisitions, periodicals control, and general administration were departmentalized for the first time in the library’s history.” While the new facility provided overall improved study and work space for students, faculty, and staff, the report also noted challenges, including the “protection of the collections from pilferage and vandalism, and the rendering of fast and efficient reference and reader services in a multi-level complex building.”
Building the print collection; classifying the collection. In 1968-1969, the print collection continued to expand, with emphasis on acquiring multiple copies of state reporters, Federal government documents, and back runs of legal periodicals; book purchases in that period totalled $56,000. During this period, the library boosted its collection of primary source materials by purchasing large microcard sets, including runs of the United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs, the U.S. Serial Set, and the complete set of the American State Papers. The library also added to its Shepard’s Citations collection to provide comprehensive coverage of all state and Federal citator services. To enhance access to its collections, during 1969 and 1970 the library undertook a major project to classify its treatises “according to the newly-developed Library of Congress Class KF (Law of the United States) and other applicable LC classification schedules. The number of classified books went from zero on Dec. 1, 1969, to about 1,500 at the fiscal year’s end on June 30, 1970.” Prior to classification by LC subject headings, the library collection had been organized by author and title, a practice common at most large law libraries.
THE 1970s: LIBRARY GROWTH, AND STUDENT CONCERNS. As a result of the expansion of the Library’s collections and services, two additional positions were added to the library staff during 1970-1971, which increased the library’s total full-time staff count from ten to twelve. The library also enjoyed improvements to the facility, including expanded workspace for materials processing, construction of a soundproof partition for the library’s largest reading room, and the provision of sufficient space to accommodate the growth in the microform collections. And, for the first time, student members were added to the school’s Library Committee.
Hail, microform. During 1973-1974, the library acquired its first microform reader-printer; growth of the microform collections continued apace, with the purchase of all pre-1900 state session laws, plus the Congressional Globe, the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs, and Congressional hearings, prints, and reports. Additional seating and study space were created in the fourth floor reading room by enclosing the open space above the third floor lounge.
Discord: students question the adequacy of library services. The mid-to-late-1970s brought turbulence to the Library. Notable events in the 1974-1975 academic year related to library outreach, prompted in part by student discontent with features of the Law Library’s collections and staffing. The Library Committee surveyed students regarding space use, preferences in types of chairs for the reading rooms, and organization of the collection. The result was the acquisition of ninety new chairs for the reading room, and relocation of the foreign law collection and most Federal law material. Taking a proactive stance to address student concerns, assistant librarian Robert G. Bidwell authored a “vigorous” series of columns published in the student newspaper, The Advocate, designed to keep the student body informed about library activities and progress towards resolving issues raised by the students.
A positive trajectory: departmental reorganization, OCLC, and collection development. In 1975-1976, the library continued on its route to improvement by restructuring its staff, which was recast into three departments: Management and Planning, Technical Services (to include acquisitions, cataloging, classification, and interlibrary loan), and Reader Services. The library also focused on identifying techniques to advance access to its collections; during this time, the Library joined the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC), a cooperative network of libraries that formed a shared cataloging system, and gained access to the Center’s monumental bibliographic database.
As noted in the dean’s report, the Law Library’s collections were on a positive trajectory: “The Law Library’s collections are among the best-selected, best-organized, and most-accessible in Washington. This is attested to by the constant stream of visitors, from federal agencies, the practicing bar, our law alumni, both resident and non-resident, other law schools from coast to coast, research and legal-assistance groups, journalists, activists and libraries which regularly seek access to our material in person, by correspondence, and through interlibrary loan. The library’s loans to others greatly exceed its borrowings from others, a good index of its self-sufficiency as a research organism.”
GW and Belva. Highlights of the 1976-1977 academic year included the installation of two major displays, “… (1) a permanent display of the bust of Belva Lockwood, the Law Center’s first alumna and the first woman to plead a case before the U.S. Supreme Court; and (2) an exhibit table which contains a continuing series focusing on highlights of the National Law Center’s history or on distinguished alumni or interesting items in the collections.”
The faux marble bust of alumna Belva Lockwood (1830-1917), a gift of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia and Ruth F. Wilson, LL.B. ’31, has proved to be a catalyst for the GW Law community to learn about this pioneering female of the law. Her relative obscurity in the history of law practice (and Presidential campaigns – she ran in 1884 and 1888) began to dissipate as students, faculty, staff, and visitors discovered her bust in the Law Library, and learned of her significance in the history of women in the law. Eventually she achieved her deserved recognition within the profession for her many trailblazing “firsts” in law as a woman, and today she is well-known for her accomplishments which were hard-fought for her. “Belva,” as her effigy is fondly known to Law Library staff, resided for many years in the Law Library before moving to her new home in a prominent place of honor in the Law School’s connecting corridor.
Kramer on the Law Library. Dean Robert Kramer summarized the growth of the Law Library during his tenure in his 1977-1979 collection of reflections on his deanship (February 1961 – July 1979): “The Law Library had about 55,000 volumes, compared with about 200,000 (including microtexts) today. The Library, on the top floor of Stockton, could seat only 100 students, but was little used. Today, the library can seat well over 500 people, and is used to capacity. The library staff consisted of a full-time librarian, with two professional assistants and one non-professional. Today there are six full-time professional assistants and 13 non-professionals.”
Also of note, in November, 1977, “thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor who covered the first year’s costs” the Law Library installed Mead Data Central’s online legal research system, LEXIS. A year later, in November, 1978, the Library, having recently been designated a selective depository for United States government publications, began receiving depository shipments; the Library’s first Government Documents Librarian was hired to oversee and guide the library’s participation in the program.
THE 1980s: A CHANGE AT THE TOP, FACILITY EXPANSION, AND INTRODUCTION OF TECHNOLOGY. As noted in Dean Jerome Barron’s 1980-1981 annual report: “Today, the National Law Center library houses one of the better collections of legal materials in the nation–a far cry from the so-called ‘cage’ on the top floor of Stockton Hall which was the site of the library when Hugh Bernard first came to the Law Center. Happily, the cage is now part of the history of our law school and the reality is far different. We are now planning an expanded $16.5 million Law Center facility which will include a further expansion of the Jacob Burns Law Library. The Law School has been aided once again by its great benefactor, Jacob Burns of the Class of 1924. In the fall of 1980, Jacob Burns announced that he has pledged one-half million dollars to aid in the new addition to the law library. … The architects’ model of the expansion of the Burns Law Library reveals that the architects have picked up some of the distinctive architecture of the former President’s office on the corner of 20th and G Streets and blended it with the contemporary architecture of the Jacob Burns Law Library so that the addition to the Law Library provides a bridge between it and the Law Center.”
Also of note during 1980-1981, the Library Committee, chaired by Professor James P. Chandler, was “active in several areas, including the formulation of the first comprehensive statement of the library’s purpose and mission. This ‘charter’ of the library, one of very few adopted by law school libraries in the country, was the product of a series of discussions and revisions based on initial drafts prepared by Professor David B. Weaver and Professor Bernard. A final draft was adopted by the committee in the spring of 1981 and presented to the faculty in May.”
Time travel, library-style: click here for a vintage Law Library orientation video, circa 1981.
In June, 1981, Professor Hugh Bernard retired as Library Director. His long and fruitful career ceased only as a formality. After his retirement, Professor Bernard spent a number of years researching the history of the Law School and Law Library. His extensive notes and drafts formed a valuable research corpus, notably mined by Dean Jerome Barron for his recent A Short History of The George Washington University Law School (2016). Upon his death in 2007, Professor Bernard joined the ranks of benefactors to the Law School with his generous bequest to the Law Library.
Into the future: the Head years. Professor Bernard was succeeded by Anita Head, who assumed her post as Law Librarian and Professor of Law on August 1, 1981. Her watchword, after Harvard Law’s C.C. Langdell, was “The library is the laboratory of the lawyer.” She proceeded to learn about and enlist technology in service of that precept. Professor Head spearheaded expansion activities to modernize the library; as described in the 1981-1982 dean’s report: “For many years library requirements tended to be simply space for more books and people, but in recent years the requirements for a modern law library have become more complex. Planning for a new library facility not only must include provisions for the current state of the art of the various new technologies but must anticipate impending developments. In the fields of computerization and micrographics, the future is far from clear. Computer use may proliferate to the point that in a few years, every study space should have its own terminal. Microfilm and microfiche may be replaced by the videodisk or yet newer media.”
Committing to technology. Apart from construction projects, the Law Library achieved notable milestones during 1982 and 1983 on the technological front. First, the Library contracted access to both WESTLAW and DIALOG Information Services (an aggregator of multidisciplinary databases), and second, the Library decided to automate acquisitions, serials control, and circulation in addition to cataloging. As summarized in the annual report: “This brief summary of events illustrates the complexity of law libraries of the eighties. The new concept of the law library as legal information center that provides, rather than houses, the required information also compels rethinking traditional budget needs. Access to information through outside databanks and interlibrary cooperation will sometimes eliminate the need for purchasing and storing the material inhouse. But the means for insuring prompt document delivery require fine machinery such as computers, telefacsimile and duplicating equipment, and a skilled, well-trained and sophisticated staff.”
Building and rebuilding. As reported in 1983-1984: “Building expansion and renovation were the dominant themes for the Jacob Burns Law Library during this past year. By mid-winter, the new addition to Burns was ready for occupancy and became available for patron use, while the first floor, the mezzanine, and the second floor were being remodelled. To free these areas for rebuilding, substantial parts of the collections were moved to the Lisner Library. … By the end of the summer, 46,795 linear feet or almost nine miles of books had been moved. … In June, the Library was substantially settled into its spacious new quarters. It now operates on six levels instead of nine and seems more compact than before, although it is much more spacious. Square footage was increased by more than a third, to 41,000 square feet. The shelving capacity amounts to almost 42,000 linear feet, and there are 674 seats at tables, counters, carrels and in cubicles, study rooms and lounges. No efforts have been spared to make the new library quarters efficient, attractive, and comfortable.”
A new Library configuration. The renovated first floor now housed circulation and reserve materials with an adjacent information desk, LEXIS and WESTLAW terminals, the card catalog and offices for two reference librarians, and an area called “Open Reserve” that housed frequently-used treatises and looseleaf materials (largely tax and labor law). The Library Administrative Office and library processing now occupied space on the mezzanine. The second floor extended through the Burns building and Stockton Hall and could be entered directly from the Lerner classroom building; it housed a spacious reading room in Stockton Hall and over 20,000 volumes, including all the basic federal and state research materials, digests, indexes, encyclopedias, and the most recent twenty years of American law reviews. Government documents, the microform collection, and the videotape collection were placed on Lower Level One; Commonwealth materials, state reports, Federal and regional reporters and citators, and superseded material on Stack Level One; bound periodical volumes were held on Stack Level Two, and the treatise collection on Stack Level Three and Lower Level Two.
The building dedication — “[t]he highlight of the 1984-1985 academic year” — was celebrated on October 18, 1984.
Implementing technology. The Library settled into its renovated space during the summer of 1984. As noted in the annual report: “Probably the greatest change occurred with respect to information and research services. The new information desk on the first floor is clearly one of the hubs of the National Law Center.” Other highlights for the year included the completion of a media center on the third floor of Stockton Hall to facilitate the use of classroom video technology; the installation of the Checkpoint Library Security system to minimize theft of material from the library collections; the purchase of INNOVACQ, an online acquisitions and serials control system to streamline selection, receipt, and payment of library materials; the library’s participation in the creation of a serials union list for all Washington-area Consortium libraries (forming the foundation for cooperative resource sharing); and the Cataloging Department’s completion of the classifying of all library materials.
In 1985-1986, LEXIS and WESTLAW offered expanded benefits to law school subscribers, which allowed faculty “off-peak hour” access to either system from their offices or homes. To this end, library staff assisted faculty by equipping their personal computers with the appropriate software. On a related note, the library arranged with both vendors to establish a Temporary Learning Center (TLC) adjacent to Open Reserve on the first floor, a room which housed a number of terminals to introduce the One Ls to the two information retrieval systems.
Changes in technology exerted an impact on other facets of library services; as noted in the dean’s annual report: “As the national and, indeed, worldwide computerization of libraries progresses, the concept of a library as an information brokerage center rather than an archive-like repository of books becomes ever truer, and the need for excellent interlibrary cooperation advances apace. It is not surprising that both lending to and borrowing from the Jacob Burns Law Library have almost doubled during the first 10 months of the past year.” The library also became a member of the Center for Computerized Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), and installed the online acquisitions and serials control system, INNOVACQ, that had been purchased in the prior fiscal year.
During the latter half of the 1980s, notable highlights included the migration of oversight of the Law School’s Media Center to the Library (in the fall of 1986), and the installation of a small computer lab on the first floor where students could use the terminals for word processing and for accessing CALI, LEXIS, and WESTLAW.
At the close of the decade, the permanent library staff count reached 27, and the collection had grown from approximately 220,000 volumes (including microform holdings) to over 400,000 volumes and volume equivalents. The collection was broad-based, providing comprehensive coverage of Anglo-American law, with especially strong collections in the areas of tax, labor, intellectual property, and international law.
THE 1990s: FACULTY SERVICE, INCREASING STAFF, GAINING SPACE, AND BUILDING AND REORGANIZING THE COLLECTION. To kick off the 1990s,the Law Library retired its card catalog (1990) and made the transition to an INNOPAC online catalog, aptly named JACOB, in honor of the library’s long-time benefactor, Dr. Jacob Burns.
One of the Law Library’s hallmark services, the Faculty Liaison Program, was introduced in 1993 during the brief interregnum between the directorships of Professors Anita Head and Scott Pagel. Now known as the Library Liaison Program, it is a system widely used in academic libraries today. The system is built around assigning librarians as “go-to” contacts for library support to faculty, student groups, and other Law School organizations. For faculty members, librarians are assigned based upon the best match of a librarian’s expertise and background with a professor’s teaching focus and scholarly interests. The introduction of the system in 1993 was preceded by preliminary interviews with faculty members regarding their teaching subjects, research interests, and preferences in working with the Law Library.
A watershed, and the perfect match. In 1993, Scott Pagel succeeded Anita Head as Law Library Director after her retirement in 1992, and Jennie Meade, who had served as acting director from 1992 to 1993. Under Dean Pagel’s stewardship, during the 1990s library personnel grew to 35 librarians and support staff, and the collection reached over 500,000 volumes and volume equivalents. Especially strong collections were developed in environmental law, intellectual property, international and comparative law (with emphasis in the areas of human rights, law of the sea, and commercial transactions), government procurement and federal practice, tax law, and labor law. These collections were developed to enhance support to existing LL.M. programs, or discontinued LL.M. programs whose subjects constituted a still-robust presence in Law School teaching and research.
On the technology front, Dean Pagel made strides in developing library computing services by creating two new computer classrooms on the second floor of the library and adding laptops to the list of items students could borrow from the library. In 1999, laptop jacks were installed in the Library to provide students with access to the internet.
Renovation, 1990s-style. Renovations to expand the library facility took place in the mid- to-late 1990s. In the summer of 1994, the Law School Clinics moved out of the area that was to become the Stockton Cellar, which created space for librarians’ offices, conference rooms, and study carrels. Reconfiguring access to this newly-acquired library space entailed removing a wall to build
a stairway to connect the library’s first floor to the Stockton Cellar, and a ramp to link the Stockton Cellar to Stack Level One. The first floor was reconfigured in the summer of 1996, which included relocating the reference desk and creating a rare book room and a reading room, the latter of which was named the Steven A. (JD 1973) and Barbara Tasher Great Room in 2003. The Tasher Great Room, in addition to its daily use for student study, doubles as an in-demand venue for Law School functions due to its size, location, and its pleasing aesthetic qualities.
The entire collection was reorganized during this period to make the collections more accessible. The periodical collection, which had been divided between the second floor and Stack Level One, was unified on Stack Level One. The reporters, which also had been split between those two locations, were brought together on the second floor. Classification of the Commonwealth materials and the periodicals was completed. Older materials were moved into compact shelving located on Lower Level Two, and recent treatises were housed on Stack Levels Two and Three.
THE 2000s: BUILDING A RESEARCH COLLECTION OF NATIONAL PROMINENCE. During the 2000s, staff size continued to expand to support the evolving needs of the Law School — such as the creation of new subject specialities in business and finance law, and in national security law — peaking at 42 librarians and support staff. The new century also brought a change in focus for the collection. Since most primary materials now could be found online, funding dedicated to the collection was shifted to resources that would bring the Jacob Burns Law Library prominence as a major research collection. During this period funding for foreign and international materials increased significantly.
Emphasis was placed on acquiring rare law materials that would eventually transform the Law Library into an attractive research venue for serious scholars of the law. Collecting rare materials began in earnest with two major European auctions in 2001 and 2002, the purchases from which formed the core of the French Collection, the cornerstone of the Library’s Special Collections. A focus on early Continental law led to the establishment of substantial holdings in customary law, Roman and canon law, and historical international and foreign law. In 2018, the Library’s growing incunabula collection hovers around 200 titles.
To make the law and library communities aware of these important acquisitions, in 2004 the library introduced a newsletter, A Legal Miscellanea, which gained a national audience among legal historians, law librarians, and other scholars. After ten years in print, the publication made the leap to its current online format as A Legal Miscellanea: The Gazette of the Jacob Burns Law Library. The gazette has been edited since its inception by Director of Special Collections Jennie Meade.
In the 2000s, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) recognized the publication efforts of the Law Library. In 2004, 2008, 2011, and 2016, the Law Library’s publications prevailed in several categories: print, non-print and marketing.
In 2007, the Law Library entered into an agreement with the library of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Pursuant to this agreement, the Bar agreed to transfer most of its celebrated historical foreign law collection to the Library. Due to the impressive proportions of the Bar’s historical foreign law holdings, the transfer is taking place in annual stages over a number of years, bringing to the Law Library unique and significant materials from around the globe with each new shipment.
The Law Library’s collection now comprises more than 700,000 volumes. Faced with the challenge of fitting an ever-growing collection into the finite square footage of the Library, Dean Pagel made a number of critical and creative decisions during this time to balance competing interests. Selected older materials were boxed and sent to offsite storage. Several secured, onsite storage areas were constructed to house burgeoning collections of fragile material, rare books, and other historic materials. In a reversal of tradition, decisions were made to reduce multiple copies of print resources and/or to forgo maintenance of print subscriptions where access to reliable online equivalents existed. Collaborative arrangements for shared responsibility of certain print subscriptions, such as journals and state codes, were made with colleagues at other academic law libraries to achieve space, cost, and other resource savings.
In 2011, the Law Library initiated the Law School’s first oral history project, Oral Histories of the George Washington University Law School. The videorecorded interviews with faculty and deans emeritus, plus members of the Stockton Guard (alumni of forty years or more) and other key members of the GW Law community are available remotely to researchers upon request.
Other highlights in the early 2000s include the 2001 conversion of one of the two library computer classrooms on the second floor of Stockton Hall into the Xerox Services Copy Center, a full-service, contracted onsite reproduction operation for the Law School community. Also in 2001, Dean Pagel replaced the antiquated dot matrix printers with modern laser printers; to soften the blow of also moving from a no-fee to a fee-based model for student printing, Dean Pagel offered an $8 subsidy to students. He explained that “[t]he current allocation of free printing is an attempt to make up for the elimination of the dot-matrix printers. The $8 amount was calculated by figuring out the amount of free printing students would have done if the dot-matrix printers were still in existence in the library.” In 2002, the library laptop data jacks were replaced with wireless Internet access points.
Major Library renovation, 2004: installation of the Law School “connecting corridor.” Plans for the next major library renovation project began in 2003, with the bulk of construction taking place during the summer of 2004. A primary objective of this project was to provide a circulation path on the second floor, spanning all the buildings that comprise the Law School complex, from Stuart Hall to Lerner Hall. The benefit to the Law School community of creating a “flyway” corridor that allowed students (and other travelers of the Law School) to traverse the complex from one end to the other without taking circuitous detours to other floors, or going outside the building, far outweighed the loss of library space. To carve out the path, the library reduced the footprint of the Stockton Hall reading room, eliminated a lounge in the Burns building, relocated the Lexis/Westlaw printer room, and relocated the women’s and men’s restrooms.
Other objectives of the project involved upgrading finishes, furnishings, and lighting to be consistent with other, recent law school renovations, and improving wireless coverage in the library stacks. During this time, the Library also created a computing information center on the second floor of Burns (which included a student computing help desk and an adjacent computer lab), along with a computer lab on the second floor of Stuart Hall. The computer classroom in Stockton Hall, across from the recently established Xerox Services Copy Center, was converted into an open study room. In the 2000s, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) recognized the publication efforts of the Law Library.
Displaying works from Special Collections. In 2015, as a result of a generous donation from alumnus Robert Emery (JD 1980), the Law Library installed two secure archival-quality display cases on the first floor, enabling everyone entering the Law Library to view exhibitions of treasures from Special Collections at close range. The permanent case is built into the wall next to the Circulation Desk and features strategic lighting and versatile features which allow the display of books large and small. The second case, staged in the Rare Book Room, is freestanding. With its angled mounting deck, this case can accommodate large folios in addition to any other printed material, and its close-fitting acrylic vitrine invites detailed examination of the materials. These two museum-quality exhibit cases enable the Law Library to display thematic exhibitions of rare materials at all times for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Reproductions of physical as well as virtual exhibitions may be viewed at https://law.gwu.libguides.com/exhibits.
Student space: collaboration and conversation. In 2016, the library began plans to repurpose a small section of the second floor and the bulk of Lower Level One to accommodate more space for student use. On the second floor, shelving was removed to make way for additional study tables and seating.
The changes to Lower Level One were more dramatic, resulting in a transformation from an unremarkable utilitarian setting that once offered a standard fare of metal shelving ranges, microform collections and equipment, and some study space to an open, inviting, and vibrant space designed to encourage conversation and collaboration. Construction on the area to be christened “The Burns Commons” commenced during the summer of 2017, and was substantially completed by the start of the fall semester. The removal of shelving to make way for more seating, combined with new furniture (comprising a mix of booths with comfortable, soft seating and counter-height tables with ergonomic stools) and original art adorning the walls, have transformed the space into a dynamic student-centric hub. What better way for the library celebrate its fiftieth year but to reinvent itself, yet again?
Recent fun in the Law Library. The “Burns Experience” is not all construction, technology, research assistance, and collection-building. The Law Library is remarkable for its accomplished, imaginative, and congenial staff, many of whose members have long-standing expertise in fields outside law librarianship. The Library’s staff gatherings, mainly organized around holidays, and masterminded by members of the Staff Development Committee, often tap our colleagues’ creative juices. This year’s autumn shindig showcased a pumpkin-carving contest for Hallowe’en 2018, hotly-contested by teams of two staff members each. Here’s a sampling of the entries:
And the winner was:
THE FUTURE OF THE LAW LIBRARY. What lies ahead for the Jacob Burns Law Library? As the Library greets the commencement of its next semicentennial, no construction is envisioned for the foreseeable future: a welcome departure, some would say, from the many facility-related projects that peppered the library’s first fifty years. The library expects to continue the enhancement of its internationally-recognized research collection, and evaluate new technologies to enrich library services and resources. Indeed, in 2018, the library embarked on its newest venture, an ambitious transition from a standalone legacy catalog to a cloud-based catalog in cooperation with the Washington Research Library Consortium.
Major change for the Law Library is, once again, afoot.B
|For an overview of current Law Library operations, collections, guidelines for use, maps, and more, please see The Jacob Burns Law Library Guide
Looking for early Law Library history?… Try “Life of a Library: A History of the George Washington University Law Library”
 Report of the Dean of the Law School. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1964-1965), 5.
 Report of the Dean. National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1967-1968), 12.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 13-14.
 Report of the Dean. National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1969-1970), 13.
 A sample of attention-grabbing headlines appearing in the student newspaper, include: “Vandalism and Budget Cuts Create Library Problems.” The Advocate (November 25, 1975); “Library Controversy Rages: Librarian’s Report.” The Advocate (October 5, 1976); “Still Ain’t Satisfied.” The Advocate (October 5, 1976); and “Library Fails ABA Standards.” The Advocate (April 5, 1977).
 National Law Center–Report of the Dean. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1974-1975), 21. National Law Center–Report of the Dean. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1975-1976), 16.
 National Law Center–Report of the Dean. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1976-1977), 18.
 For a brushup on Belva, please see Jill Norgren’s Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President. New York; London: New York University Press, 2007.
 Report of the Dean. National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1977-1979), 2.
 Ibid., 17.
 Report of the Dean. National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1980-1981), 1-2.
 Ibid., 20.
 Report of the Dean. The National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1981-1982), 19.
 Report of the Dean. The National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1982-1983), 20.
 Report of the Dean. The National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1983-1984), 20.
 Report of the Dean. The National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1984-1985), 1.
 Ibid., 22.
 Report of the Dean. The National Law Center, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1985-1986), 26.
 The acronym “JACOB” to honor Dr. Burns was the brainchild of Andrew Laurence, Media Technology Coordinator, and stands for “Joint Access Catalog of Burns.”
 Mark Hershfield, “Free (for all) Printing” in the Burns Library, NOTA BENE, February 7, 2001, at 1.
The Advocate. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1969 – 1996).
——-. Vol. 7, No. 7 (November 25, 1975).
——-. Vol. 8, No. 2 (October 5, 1976).
——-. Vol. 8, No. 7 (April 5, 1977).
Barron, Jerome A. A Short History of The George Washington University Law School. Washington: The George Washington Law Review, .
Bernard, Hugh. The George Washington University, National Law Center Self-Study, The Law Library. The George Washington University, 1979.
The George Washington University Bulletin – The National Law Center. The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (1962 – 2018).
——-. Vol. LXVI, No. 10 (April 1967) – (August 2016).
Report of the Dean of the Law School (Title Varies). The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. [1962/1963 – 1986/1987].
——-. 1964/1965 – 1986/1987.download pdf