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Old Law Building

Old Law Building - Exterior
Source: Bentley Historical Library



The University of Michigan Law Library is "maintained and administered as a part of the instruction and research operation of the Law School" (Board of Regents Bylaw 12.02), rather than as part of the University Library. Until the completion of the Legal Research Building in 1931, the Law Library was housed in the “old” Law Building.  This constrained the growth of the collection because there was not space to expand, and because fire was a real menace to the wooden interior.

Hillsdale College, 1874

Henry M. Bates »
Source: Bentley Historical Library

However, as early as the late 1920’s, Dean Bates determined that the library collection should expand in two ways:  to include material from around the world, and to extend the collection retrospectively, so that it would be possible at Michigan to research the law of any topic, in any country, at any period of time.  For a detailed description of this process, see Margaret A. Leary, Building a Foreign Law Collection at the University of Michigan Law Library, 1910-1960, 94 Law Libr. J. 395 (2002).

Old Law Building - Interior

Old Law Building - Interior
Source: Bentley Historical Library

The person most responsible for building the collection was Professor Hobart Coffey, who directed the library from 1926-1966.

By the 1970’s the retrospective building of the collection was essentially complete, and the library could turn its attention to other matters: its space, and its services.

Hillsdale College, 1874

Hobart R. Coffey »
Source: Bentley Historical Library

The most pressing need was for more space; the collection had outgrown even the 1950’s four-story expansion to the Legal Research stacks. The Allan F. and Alene Smith addition was built between 1978 and 1981, adding 77,000 square feet, shelving for up to 475,000 volumes, and 482 seats. The space also houses student-edited publications and the Jackier Rare Book Room, as well as the library’s 35 full time employees and dozens of student workers. Several articles about the dedication appear in Volume 26 of the Law Quad Notes (Winter 1982) and can be found here .

The Allan F. and Aline Smith Addition

The Allan F. and Alene Smith addition - Looking From Outside
Source: Law Library Staff

With the new space, the Library embarked in the mid-1980’s on expansion of its services to law faculty and students. [See Margaret A. Leary, Library Support for Faculty Research, 53 J. Legal Educ. 192, 193-94 (2003).]

The Allan F. and Aline Smith Addition

The Allan F. and Alene Smith addition - Looking From Inside
Source: Law Library Staff


 
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