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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND LAW LIBRARY

CLEVELAND LAW LIBRARY

The CLEVELAND LAW LIBRARY, 1W Lakeside Avenue Fl 4, one of the largest membership law libraries in the United States, was founded in 1869 by WILLIAM J. BOARDMAN and leading members of the Cuyahoga bar "for the promotion of the science of the law." The library first opened on the third floor of the old Cuyahoga County Court House at 1219 Ontario St. and obtained its first 800 volumes through a policy of offering members stock in the Cleveland Law Library Association in exchange for books. The first librarian, George R. Galloway, served from 1870 to 1874. The Cleveland Law Library expanded the scope of its service in 1872, when the Ohio General Assembly allocated public funds to the library in exchange for providing free access to materials to all county judges and officials. By 1880, the collection size had grown to 4,600 volumes and was becoming too large for its current quarters. County commissioners agreed to plans to move the library to expanded facilities on the fifth floor, after the addition of two stories to the courthouse. After a year at temporary quarters on Seneca Street, the library moved into to its new location on the courthouse fifth floor in September, 1885.

The role of librarian evolved during the tenure of Alton A. Bemis, who took responsibility for overall administration of the library. During his employement from 1883 to 1889, the librarys collection more than doubled. Despite the feminization of librarianship, like the fields of nursing, social work, and schoolteaching in the late nineteenth century, the Cleveland Law Library had only one female librarian during its early history. Frances Johnson served as librarian beginning in the early 1890s, when her husband, the previous librarian, took ill and eventually died in 1892. Johnson continued in the position until 1898.

By the time Ernest A. Feazel began his thirty-four year term as librarian in 1901, the collection was increasing by 1000 volumes a year and again was outgrowing its current home. Feazel was instrumental in negotiations leading to the librarys move, in December, 1912, to the fourth floor of the new county courthouse on Lakeside Avenue. Feazels accomplishments included significant additions of legal periodicals and Ohio and U.S. Supreme Court documents and the creation of a new catalog of the collection. The need for additional space to accomodate an ever increasing number of volumes was a concern throughout much of the librarys history, reflecting the growing magnitude and complexity of legal activity during the period. Expansion of the library to the entire fourth floor of the courthouse occurred in 1978.

Arthur W. Fiske, Librarian from 1941 to 1984, was a leader among law librarians nationally as well as in Ohio, a leader in the effort to compel publication of the Ohio Administrative Code and active in legislative efforts to improve the financing and staffing of Ohio's county law libraries.

The last fifteen years of the twentieth century witnessed a shift in focus from physical materials to electronic resources. In 1986, the Law Library joined the Clevnet consortium for library automation, entering the online era of library services with an online catalog, cooperative cataloging according to the Library of Congress classification scheme, and a structure to facilitate resource sharing. Clevnets membership, mostly public library systems in Northeast Ohio, provides an opportunity for the Law Library to extend its services beyond the legal community. In 2001, the Law Library began providing live web legal reference service as part of Clevnets 24/7 virtual reference service. Jan Ryan Novak began a term as librarian in 1986 and is currently the Library Director.


Browne, J. Patrick. "A Century of Service: The Cleveland Law Library," Cleveland Bar Journal (December, 1969).

Fiske, Arthur W., Annual Report of the Librarian and Treasurer of the Cleveland Law Library Presented at the Centenary of the Cleveland Law Library (1969).