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A Brief History of the Taggart Law Library

 

Early Years

 

 

Although the College of Law was established in 1885, it took several years for a distinct law library to emerge. The first mention of a distinct law library appears in the catalog of 1903-4, which announced that “a new law library is now found in the University, the books of which are for the use of the law students.” These books came from the private library of Dean Samuel P. Axline (left)

Law students were charged a fee of one dollar for the use of this library, which was available for use from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., except for the noon hour.

 

 

A New Home

 

In 1924, the College of Law moved from Lehr Memorial into its own building.  The new building (later known as Huber Memorial) included “…a large well-lighted Library and Reading Room” which was scheduled to receive “…further and extensive additions, including the latest reference works and reports, the best law periodicals published, etc.”

 

A New Name

 

In 1953, Mrs. Winifred Rutter Taggart gave a gift of $50,000 as a permanent endowment for the law library in honor of her late husband, Jay P. Taggart (right).  Mr. Taggart was a graduate of the College of Law, receiving his LLB degree in 1908, and served as dean of the college from 1914 to 1917.  At the time of his death in 1949, Taggart was a partner in the law firm of Bolton, Taggart, Boer, Mierke and McClelland in Cleveland, Ohio.  He also served as secretary of the university’s board of trustees.  Mrs. Taggart’s gift provided the library with much needed funds and a new name: the Taggart Law Library.

 

The Move to Tilton

 

In 1973, the law school and law library moved yet again, this time from the overcrowded Huber Memorial Building to the newly constructed Tilton Hall of Law.  Students and faculty members helped to move approximately 50,000 volumes from the old law building to the new space by forming a human chain.  Boxes of books were passed from person to person from the second floor library in the old building, down the stairs to the first floor, and out the door, where the boxes were loaded on trucks, delivered to their new home, unboxed, and reshelved.  Many alumni who were students at this time still remember this “book brigade” fondly.

On October 6, 1973, the new Claude W. Pettit College of Law, including both phases of construction, was officially dedicated.  Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Blackmun was the guest speaker for the dedication.  A Writ article describing the building dedication said that the new law library was “…comfortable, with ample space and that it was “…one of the most complete legal centers in the state.”  After years of growing pains, the law library was finally in a new home.

 

The physical space of the library has continued to change since moving into Tilton.  A library annex named in honor of Dean Eugene Hanson was built in 1983 and dedicated during the celebration of the law college’s centennial in 1985.  Law professor Dan Guy said that the Hanson Annex provided “…plenty of room to do a first-class job of research.” The 17,000 square foot addition nearly doubled the size of the library, and provided not only additional space for the collection, but also faculty offices, offices for the ONU Law Review and moot court, and group study rooms. 

 

A second library expansion, completed in 1998, provided new shelving (above) and additional space, including a basement storage area that allowed for reorganization of the entire library.

 

 

The Present and Future

 

Over the past two decades, the library has grown and adapted as the world of information has changed rapidly.  Technology has changed the library greatly during this time.  In 1992, the library, together with Heterick Memorial Library, introduced POLAR (Public On-Line Access and Retrieval), the computerized catalog system to replace the old card catalogs.  In 1995, both libraries also became members of OhioLINK, the resource sharing consortium that allows students, faculty, and staff to borrow materials from academic libraries around the state.  The law library currently provides access to not only these services, but also to the Lexis and Westlaw online legal research services, and a wide variety of other electronic databases in order to meet the research needs of students, faculty, and staff. 

 

 

 

Computers have become an indispensable part of the law school experience, with nearly every student using a laptop.  The library has helped to accommodate technology by providing power and Internet access to nearly every table and study carrel, and by installing wireless Internet access points throughout the building.

 

The Hanson Reading Room was completed in 2008.  This renovation, named in honor of Dean Hanson, not only created a magnificent reading room complete with skylights and custom tables and bookcases, but also allowed for the creation of a new classroom alcove, two soft seating areas, new group study rooms, and a redesigned technology center for the law school.

 

 

During the summer of 2012, the Taggart Law Library completed renovations of the Rare Book and Special Collections Room.  The project, named in honor of former dean David C. Crago, transformed the library’s existing rare book room into an updated and secure space to house the law library’s rare books and special collections. 

Looking back, the Taggart Law Library has certainly come a long way.  What began with the private library of the law college’s dean has grown into a broad and deep collection of over 430,000 volumes of state, federal, and international legal materials.  The physical space has undergone many transformations, changing buildings several times and undergoing many renovations and modifications.  Technology has changed the way that the library’s collections are searched, stored, and accessed.  Through all of these many changes, however, one thing has remained constant:  the law library has always supported the educational mission of the College of Law and the University community as a whole.  That constant commitment to support and service will continue to guide the library in the future.