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Emory Law Centennial: Law Library (1916-2017)

The Emory University School of Law Library

Lamar School of Law Library:

Law Library Reading Room, 1920

Collection development began with a very limited budget and a plea for donation of “most any kind of a law book” in a letter sent by Professor H.W. Arant, Secretary of the Law Faculty in 1916, to Methodist lawyers throughout Georgia. Ultimately, over 5,000 volumes were acquired for the library before Emory’s new law school opened its doors in September 1916.

In the early years, the library grew slowly, finally reaching 10,000 volumes in 1930. The collection wasn’t cataloged until 1940 after the first professional librarian, Margaret Van Cise, was hired. However, during the decade following World War II, the book budget doubled twice and the collection grew rapidly. By 1950, the law school basement had to be excavated to provide more space for books and study carrels.

In 1955 the collection reached 30,000 volumes and in 1960 the library purchased its first “nonbook” materials – a set of legislative histories on microfiche. To accommodate growth both in the collection and in enrollment, in 1966, a mezzanine was built under the reading room’s high ceiling creating more space for books and for students to study.

Gambrell Hall Law Library:

The library held a comparatively modest 80,000 volumes when it was gradually moved into Gambrell Hall from September 1972 to February 1973. The collection now included both U.S. Government Documents and documents of the European Economic Community. Over the next several years, grant funds allowed the library to substantially deepen and strengthen its resources including in the area of public international law.

In 1980 the library began providing access to LEXIS which consisted of only primary legal documents at the time. Robin Mills was appointed Law Library Director in 1983. She continued to strengthen the library’s holdings in foreign and international law, as well as prioritizing reference and research services for students and faculty.

By 1986 the library had added a computer lab and was providing access to a variety of electronic resources including LEXIS and Westlaw. Over the next several years, the card catalog and all other library records were transferred to a new online integrated library system.

Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library:

The 70,000 square-foot MacMillan Law Library opened in August 1995, roughly doubling the available space for students and the more than 300,000 volume collection. The library is named in honor of Hugh F. MacMillan, a 1934 graduate of Emory Law who donated $2.3 million toward the cost of the building.

MacMillan Library Construction, 1994

Because the building featured state-of-the-art technology, the library was able to continue to expand its electronic services, providing access to additional databases for legal research, as well as other in-house-created online legal resources such as the Electronic Reference Desk and the U.S. Federal Courts Finder.

Mark Engsberg became Law Library Director in 2008. He has continued the transition from print to online collections, which today include about 400,000 volumes and volume-equivalents. Professor Engsberg is also focused on ensuring the library staff is able to provide the highest quality services to faculty, students, and other library users. In 2012, the second floor of the library underwent a major renovation to improve access to important service points and maximize group study space available to students.

As the law school’s research and teaching needs evolve the library continues to respond by developing innovative new programs, services and collections to support the scholarly life of Emory Law.