The University of Kentucky College of Law Library: A Short History

By on

By Amy B. Osborne
Head of Public Services, University of Kentucky College of Law Library

Originally appeared in the Spring 2010 edition of Kentucky Libraries, a publication of the Kentucky Library Association.

When the University Of Kentucky College Of Law was founded in 1908 under the leadership of Judge William Thornton Lafferty, it had no library. In the ensuing years a law library would be developed to meet the research and information needs of students enrolled at the law school as well as the larger campus community, alumni and citizens of the Commonwealth. This article seeks to explore the library’s development and the milestones which have occurred related to its history, and to bring attention to the librarians who have played a vital role in that history.

The Founding of the College
From 1908 until 1910, the College of Law was housed in the Educational Building, now known as Frazee Hall. At that time the Bulletin of the State University of Kentucky stated only that the College had a library room. Later, Judge Lafferty would report that during the first year, “there were no books except the text books used in the classes and copies of the Kentucky Code and Statutes.” Furthermore, at the time of the College’s founding, the faculty consisted of only four professors: Charles Kerr, Thomas Edwin Moore, James Edward Tuthill, and of course Judge Lafferty.

With the start of the law school’s second year, its library collection began to increase with the addition of a set of Kentucky Reports. In his 1909 Letter to State University President James K. Patterson, Judge Lafferty stated that “Several additional sets of valuable law books have been added to our department library, so that excellent advantages are now offered our law students for work in the investigation of mooted law subjects.” As reported in the local newspaper “…the department will have a splendid working law library for the use of the students by the time the year’s work is under headway.” Furthermore, The Lexington Herald reported that “quite a handsome collection of books” was given to the College of Law by a “prominent attorney of the city.” With increases in both the size of the library and the student body, additional space was needed, and in 1909 the Kentucky Gazette reported that the law school would move to more spacious quarters which would include “…a special library and reading room…fitted with one of the most complete law libraries in the state.”

More Space for a Growing College and Its Library
From 1910 until 1926 the law school and its library were located in the Natural Sciences Building (Miller Hall). The library received gifts during this time, including those of Mrs. Ezekiel Clay, who donated the library of her former husband, the late Honorable George C. Lockhart. By the end of the 1910-1911 academic year, the library had increased in size from only a few volumes of textbooks and statutes to a collection of approximately 3,500 volumes, including a complete set of English Reports. As the law school continued to grow, so did the library. In 1914 The Lexington
Herald reported that “The law school library contains 5,500 volumes and is the best selected law library in the State outside of the Court of Appeals in Frankfort and is one of the largest and most complete of any law school in the South.”

The First Law Librarian
As the library grew to 11,000 volumes, many of the standard legal treatises which would become familiar to generations of law students and lawyers were added to the collection, making it necessary to hire a librarian dedicated to the organization and care of the library. In April 1919 the Board of Trustees approved the transfer of Clara Warland White from the Department of Home Economics to the College of Law, making Miss White the law school’s first law librarian. Ms. White served until 1931 when she left the law school to become the librarian in charge of the university’s education collection.

The College Moves Again
Although the library had experienced substantial growth since 1908, a 1921 report to the Board of Trustees noted the need for “material additions to its library.” As a solution to the growing pains being felt by the university, a new Chemistry Building was constructed and the old Chemistry Building (the Gillis Building) was renovated for the law school. In 1924 the passage of H.B. 88 assured the library’s continuing growth, as this legislation provided the library with a complete set of Kentucky Reports, session laws and the journals of both houses of the legislature, as well as statutes and codes.

As the law school prepared to move to its new accommodations, Dean Charles J. Turck reported that “as the current furniture and equipment currently in use by the College was not worth taking to the new building, expert library and school men should be called in to conference to make estimates concerning the furniture and equipment of the new building.” Furthermore, Dean Turck pointed out the lack of protection against fire, which could potentially destroy the library, now “worth thousands of dollars.”

With the beginning of the 1926 school year the law library was adjusting to its new location in the former Gillis Building. From various accounts of the number of volumes held by the library during its early years, it is clear that increasing the size of the collection was a priority. As a comparison, in 1929, Harvard’s law library consisted of approximately 300,000 volumes while UK’s law library was deemed inadequate with a collection of 12,000 volumes.

The 1930s and 1940s
In 1931 Annette Zink Davis, a graduate of Marquette University and the University of Kentucky College of Law, took the law librarian position, replacing Clara White. During this period the law faculty continued to grow, and by 1932 totaled thirteen. In 1936 planning began for a new law school building, including the construction of a new, modern and spacious library among the top priorities. With much anticipation and publicity surrounding the construction project, The Lexington Herald reported that “More than 25,000 volumes valued at approximately $150,000 are in the library of the University Of Kentucky College Of Law and so valuable are they that a $100,000 building is being erected partly for the purpose of housing this collection.”

Lafferty Hall in 1953Law students returning to campus after the 1937 Christmas break began studies in the new Lafferty Hall. While the modern architecture of the $100,000 building provided many amenities, the library was the showpiece of the new structure. In its report on the opening of Lafferty Hall, UK’s student newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel, stated that the library was probably the most  impressive room in the building and that the “room presented a well but quietly lighted appearance” and had a “studious appearance of quiet dignity.” A few years later, in a 1942 Kentucky Kernel article, Dean Alvin E. Evans described the library: As one enters the spacious foyer he sees on the left the entrance to the library. First, there is the general reading and study room, flanked on all sides with reference books. A pleasing sensation arises from the light which passes through the glass brick wall, the excellent light reflectors, eighteen of which are suspended from the ceiling; the green floor covering, bordered in gray, together with the books on the walls, the monotony of which is broken by their varying colors.

During this time of growth and change, the college employed several well-qualified librarians, with Maurine Sharp serving as acting law librarian in 1939, and Annette Davis continuing as law librarian until her departure in September 1940. When Mrs. Davis departed, Ewing C. Baskette became the new librarian. His tenure lasted only two years, when in 1942 he left the university to become executive assistant to the director of the Lexington Public Library. Helen Stephenson, a senior law student, followed Mr. Baskette as librarian, preceding law student Rosanna Blake. In 1943, Blake was hired as acting student librarian at a salary of $500.

The Legendary Dorothy Salmon Dorothy Salmon – UK Law Librarian 1945-1968
In September of 1945, Dean Evans requested that President Donovan appoint Dorothy Salmon the college’s law librarian. In 1933, Miss Salmon had received her B.S. in communications from the University of Kentucky and had gone on to earn her LL.B. degree from the College of Law in 1938. From 1938 until her appointment as law librarian, she served as secretary to the dean of the law school. Miss Salmon would spend her entire professional career at the college, becoming a legendary figure to generations of future lawyers. An active and respected professional, from 1954 to 1955 while on a leave of absence from the law school, Miss Salmon served as State Law Librarian at the newly-created Kentucky State Law Library. She returned to the UK College of Law Library and remained its director until her death in 1968. Miss Salmon was by far UK’s longest-serving law library director, serving for a total of 24 years.

The library received generous donations during the Lafferty Hall years, including approximately 1,200 volumes and several pieces of furniture from John J. Howe, former Democratic Senate candidate and an attorney in Carrollton, Kentucky. Historically significant and among the more unusual gifts to the library was a 1946 gift by Major Beverly P. White, a 1933 graduate of the law school. At the end of WWII, Major White served as presiding judge of a roving military government court in Bavaria, and subsequently gave the library a copy he acquired of the laws of the Polish government—the copy had belonged to Dr. Richard Wendler, brother-in-law of
Heinrich Himmler.

Budgetary Problems
While the law library continued to be among the largest in the state, limited funding in the late 1940s began to erode its ranking among top law libraries. As Dean Elvis Stahr pointed out in his 1948-1949 Annual Report, thirteen southeastern law libraries had been surveyed and, “while this College has the fourth largest library at the moment, it was spending the twelfth largest amount on new acquisitions.” An additional blow to the library budget came in 1950, when the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill abolishing the practice of providing the library with twelve free copies of the Reports of the Court of Appeals Decisions. The continued erosion of the library’s budget caused its ranking to slip from sixth largest in the Southeast in 1949 to tenth largest in 1953.

Building Problems
By the late 1940s Lafferty Hall and its library needed repairs and general updating. A review of Dean Alvin Evans’ annual reports during this time clearly shows that the library ranked high on the law school’s priority list. By 1948, the library’s cramped conditions allowed only 45% of the student body to be seated in the reading room at any given time. Moreover, despite a library rearrangement, installation of new shelving, and a review of duplicate titles, space for additional books was required. Furthermore, the dean addressed the issue of the leaking roof and its impact on the library and in a 1945 letter to E. B. Farris, the university’s chief engineer, stated that, “In view of the value of the books in the library which are exposed to floods…and the furniture and books of the faculty in their office, I think something should be done about it. You may recall that on one occasion the water covered practically the entire floor of the library. This is exceedingly bad for books.” Another major issue in Lafferty Hall, the lack of air conditioning, contributed to a declining summer enrollment and an uncomfortable summer climate in the library.

The Annex
In 1957, nineteen years after the law school moved into Lafferty Hall, an annex was built for the library which included new metal shelving as well as the construction of a new classroom. In addition, in 1958 the size of the library staff began to grow. Since 1919, the library consistently employed one librarian dedicated entirely to its collection. However, as the library’s holdings increased, Miss Salmon and Dean W.L. Matthews felt the library needed a second professional librarian, and in 1959 Agnes McDowell transferred from UK’s medical library, to serve as cataloger. The two librarians did what they could to deal with the space problem. In 1962, with an enrollment of 182 law students, and library seating for only 75, the library was used in shifts from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., with the expectation that the reading room would be very crowded.

The Alvin E. Evans Law Library
In 1962 the Board of Trustees addressed the building problems faced by the College of Law, and by November of that same year, President Frank Dickey reported that the architectural plans had been approved. Construction of the new building, located at the intersection of South Limestone and Graham Avenue, began in 1963 with anticipation that the college would move into its new building in 1964. With the library in Lafferty Hall bursting at the seams, the new facility would contain space to house 160,000 volumes compared with 60,000 volumes in the Lafferty Hall facility. In planning the new library, Dean W.L. Matthews noted that for more than three years, Dorothy Salmon was “daily involved in the analysis, study and discussion of the seemingly endless questions which architects, engineers and administrators can put to one responsible for proper physical planning of a new library.”

Completed on August 10, 1965, the new building cost an estimated $1,450,000. Later that year, on December 4 at the building’s dedication, the library was named in honor of Dean Alvin E. Evans. With the move to the new College of Law Building and the subsequent growth in the library’s collections throughout the 1960s, the library’s staff also began to increase. Librarians during this period included Susan D. Csaky, Paul A. Willis, Lucille E. Keating, Karin Sandvik and Vivian MacQuown.

Dorothy Salmon’s Legacy Honored
Sadly, in 1968 Dorothy Salmon succumbed to her long battle with cancer. To honor her memory and her impact on students, in December of that year a committee was formed to establish a scholarship in her honor. And in 1984, to further honor her service to the law school, the university created the Dorothy Salmon Professorship in the College of Law.

Director Paul Willis
With Miss Salmon’s death, Paul Willis, then the library’s circulation manager and a UK College of Law graduate, assumed the leadership of the law library. As director, Mr. Willis led the library through many changes, ushering in a more modern age and overseeing several renovations to the facility. In addition Mr. Willis supervised an ever-growing staff, which by 1969 included five professional librarians and three clerical staff. By the mid 1960s the Library’s collection had increased to approximately 70,000 volumes, with an estimated annual growth of approximately 2,000 volumes. In March of 1974 the University Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Paul Willis as Director of University Libraries, a position which he had held on an interim basis since the summer of 1973.

William James
William James – UK's First African American Law LibrarianWilliam James replaced Paul Willis, becoming UK’s first African-American law librarian and serving as director until 1988. In addition to Mr. James, the staff of the Library for the 1975
– 1976 academic year included Cheryl Jones, Ellen Mawhinney, Martha Huff, Lucille Keating, Thelma Rogers, Susan Waller and Jacqueline Philpot. In 1977, the library’s volume count of 149,000 volumes made it the seventh largest in the Southeast, with the collection growing at a rate of approximately 6,000 volumes per year.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s the law school and its library continued to grow and undergo many changes. In 1978, with the total number of law faculty at thirty, the thirteen- year-old College of Law Building once again began to outgrow its space, undergoing a $1,750,000 renovation to add approximately 25,200 square feet to the building. With this addition of 9,000 square feet to the library, its total square footage grew to 34,000, providing room for 173,000 volumes and 315 people.

In the 1980s, technology began to impact legal research, and the library received its first Lexis and Westlaw Computer Assisted Legal Research systems. In 1988, when Bill James left the university to become law library director at Villanova University, Cheryl Jones took over as acting director, serving in that capacity until 1991, when Mark Linneman was hired as director. As with any institution, librarians moved on to positions at other institutions, making way for new librarians. Librarians serving in the 1980s included JoEllen McComb, Gary Stottlemeyer, Carol Parris, Sue Burch and Ebba Jo Sexton.

Herb Cihak
In 1994 Herb Cihak became director, overseeing more staff growth and making several positive changes to the facility. Professor Cihak purchased new equipment, reorganized the collection, and as a strong advocate for the library staff, increased professional development opportunities for librarians and staff alike. Librarians working for Professor Cihak throughout the 1990s and 2000s included Sue Burch, Carol Parris, Amy Osborne, Kurt Metzmeier, Shawn Esposito, Matt Morrison, Nancy Fritz, Dee Wood and Ebba Jo Sexton.

In 1997 Sue Burch followed in Dorothy Salmon’s footsteps as President of SEAALL (the Southeastern Association of Law Libraries) and in 2003 served as President of the Kentucky Library Association.

Sue Burch, Rebecca Trammell, Carol Parris and Helane Davis
When Professor Cihak left UK in 2001 to become law library director at Louisiana State University, Sue Burch became acting director until Rebecca Trammell came on board as director in 2002. Professor Trammell oversaw several notable developments in the library’s physical space, including replacement of the decades-old orange carpet in the main reading room and the installation of new tables designed for researchers using laptop computers. In 2003 Carol Parris, one of the library’s most vivacious employees, left the university to become State Law Librarian in Frankfort, a position first held by Dorothy Salmon in 1954. In 2006 when Professor Trammell left UK to become law library director at Stetson University, Helane Davis, previously the law library’s head of public services, was promoted to the position of library director.

The Centennial
In 2007 as the College of Law approached its Centennial, the library’s main reading room was selected as the venue for the kick-off event for distinguished alumni and donors, placing the library in the spotlight for this reception and dinner. By 2008, the law school’s 100th year, the law faculty totaled forty-three and the library’s volume count had grown to 490,000, far surpassing the volume count during its humble 1908 beginning.

For more than a century, the library has adapted and evolved. Renovations have taken place and the staff of the Library has increased and changed. As with all types of libraries, technology has impacted the institution profoundly. While print collections in some areas continue to grow, the proliferation of electronic resources continues to affect the way in which legal researchers conduct their work. Were he to walk through the library today, Dean Lafferty would no doubt be amazed at what has become of the collection for which he provided the foundation. Certainly UK’s law library has been a key element in the education of generations of lawyers and has played a pivotal role within the College of Law. As the library and legal education continue to evolve in the 21st century, there is no doubt that the library and its librarians will continue to serve the legal information needs of the Commonwealth in the fine tradition of Clara White, Dorothy Salmon, and the many other dedicated professionals who have served the College of Law through their work in the library.

Acts of the Kentucky General Assembly. Chapter 42. Page 65. 1924 Print.
“Another Year Added to Law Course: State University is Now Placed on Equal Footing with Any Law
School of the South.” Kentucky Gazette 25 September 1909, 3. Print.
“Baskette Joins Library Staff.” The Lexington Leader 27 Aug. 1942. Print
Borries, Frank “25,000 Volumes, With Value of $150,000 Are Contained in University Law Library Which
New $100,000 Building Will House.” The Lexington Herald 6 Jan. 1937. Print
Bulletin of the State University of Kentucky. 1909: 17. Print
Bulletin of the University of Kentucky College of Law: 1975-1976: 43-44. Print.
Bulletin of the University of Kentucky College of Law: 1977-1978: Print.
“Dorothy Salmon Named State Law Librarian.” The Courier-Journal 2 Oct. 1954. Print.
Dorris, Kenneth. “Law Department of State University is Flourishing.” The Lexington Herald 1914. Print.
Eckdahl, Andrew. “Lafferty Hall Dedicated as Law Students Resume Studies in New Building.” The
Kentucky Kernel
7 Jan. 1938: 1. Print.
Evans, Alvin E. 1941 Report of the Dean of the College of Law: 3. Print.
Evans, Alvin E. 1942 Report of the Dean of the College of Law: 3. Print.
Evans, Alvin E. 1949 Report of the Dean of the College of Law: 10. Print.
Evan, Alvin E. Letter to University of Kentucky President H.L. Donovan. 17 May 1943. Print.
Evans, Alvin E. Letter to President H.L. Donovan. 6 September 1945. Print.
Evans, Alvin E. Letter to Mr. E.B. Farris, Chief Engineer. February 2, 1945. Print.
Frazier, Jennifer. “Date Carol Joined the State Law Library.” Message to Dee Wood. 18 Feb. 2010. E-mail.
Kentucky Gazette. 9 November 1909, 2. Print.
Kentucky Library Association Infocus: A Kentucky Library Association Newsletter. September 1, 2003: 1. Print.
“Lafferty Hall is Milestone In Life of College of Law: College of Law Publishes Leading Periodical.” The
Kentucky Kernel
6 May 1942. Print.
Lafferty, William T. Letter to State University President James K. Patterson. November 13, 1909, Legislative
Vol. 3 1908-1909: 425. Print.
“Law Reports of England Covering Period From 1650 to the Present, Come to State University.” The
Lexington Leader
30 Sept. 1913: 7 col. 2. Print.
Matthews, W.L., Jr. Memo to the Law Faculty, University of Kentucky College of Law. January 2, 1959. Print.
Matthews, W.L., Jr. “Dedication to Miss Dorothy Salmon” Kentucky Law Journal 56 (1967-1968): 715. Print.
Matthews, W.L., Jr. Letter to Mr. Elgan B. Farris Chief Engineer. September 20, 1962. Print.
“New Building Planned for College of Law.” The Kentucky Kernel 8 February 1963. Print.
“New Law Librarian at UK Takes Post.” The Lexington Leader 5 July 1931. Print
Osborne, Amy. “Need Collection Figures.” Message to Karen Nuckolls. 25 Feb. 2010. E-mail.
Stahr, Elvis, Jr. 1954 Report of the Dean of the College of Law: 2. Print.
“To Library Post Baskette is Named.” The Lexington Herald 29 Aug. 1942. Print
Turck, Charles. 1924-1925 University of Kentucky College of Law Annual Report. Print.
University of Kentucky College of Law. 1965-1966 Announcement. Print.
University of Kentucky College of Law. Admissions Bulletin 9. Print.
University of Kentucky. Communi-K. February 27, 1978: Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees June 13, 1921:11. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees January 13, 1926: 11. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees June 1, 1929: 9. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees November 16, 1962: 14. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees June 24, 1968: 35, 36. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees November 19, 1965: 33. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees May 6, 1969: 36. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees March 5, 1974: 2. Print.
University of Kentucky. Communi-K. February 27, 1978. Print.
The University of Kentucky. Minutes of the Board of Trustees April 23, 1919: 13. Print.
University of Kentucky Information Services. UKNews February 21, 1977. Print.
“U. of K. Bequeathed Library.” The Courier-Journal 8 Oct. 1939. Print.
Willis, Paul A. Memorandum to College of Law Self Study Committee. December 3, 1969. Print.
“300 Hundred Books Received for College of Law. “ The Lexington Herald 20 Oct. 1909: 2 col. 3. Print.