Monday, October 26, 2009
Law Library Invites Attorneys to Check Out Changes
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
As the Los Angeles County Law Library approaches its 119th birthday next year, Executive Director Marcia Koslov says the facility is being prepared to meet the needs of the next generation of lawyers.
“This isn’t going to be your father’s law library,” she jokes, “since we all know there were no women lawyers when the library was built.”
Koslov says she is often told by attorneys that they used to come to the library years ago when they were young associates and “the place hasn’t changed a bit,” but she insists things are about to change.
Having noticed that “the legal community used to pretty much stay away from the library,” Koslov says the facility is “reinventing itself” to “try to bring them back in.”
One way the library is trying draw members of the State Bar is through its new charter subscription program, which launched in July.
Charter subscription members are entitled to benefits such as access to a new “Members’ Study,” which provides attorneys with a more private setting in which to do research, remote access to the library’s online materials, and an e-mail document delivery service.
Two office spaces are available for rent on a half-daily basis to attorney members in need of a secure, temporary workspace, and the “piece de resistance” is the availability of free parking, Koslov adds.
Approximately 30 spots will be available to members on a first come, first serve basis in the library’s underground parking area.
Although the program is mainly geared towards solo practitioners, it is open to any licensed attorney at an annual rate of $350. Group discounts are also available.
The library is also installing a direct phone line for attorney members to the reference desk to help librarians “triage a little bit better,” Koslov says.
“For every five minutes we spend with an attorney, we spend 20 to 25 minutes with the public,” Koslov explains, “and we’re really trying to provide excellent customer service to the legal community.”
Jaye Nelson, the library’s senior director of business operations, admits that the library’s collection “hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years,” and so efforts are bring made to “bring it up to date.”
Koslov says the library evaluated its collection “to see what people were really using,” and brought the most commonly accessed materials—California case law, statutory and regulatory law, and California treatises—into the main reading room, which formerly contained less-utilized regional reporters.
“We have a full collection and we’re going to continue to keep them but we took it off the main floor because all of that is accessible online,” she explains.
The reference desk is also being relocated closer to the entrance of the building, and a new sub-collection consisting of form books and explanatory materials is being developed for self-represented litigants, Koslov adds.
After reorganizing the library’s collection, Kozlov recalls that there were several pieces of furniture which were no longer needed, which she arranged to have donated to L.A. Shares, a nonprofit organization that distributes donated equipment to other charitable organizations and schools.
“They took 14 tables, 130 chairs, and 14 to 15 shelving units and redistributed them to all kinds of groups,” including an elementary school and a gang alternative program, Koslov says. “It went to good homes.…I’m really grateful for that.”
Nelson also discloses that the library building itself will be undergoing changes.
“A lot of it is maintenance,” he remarks, such as new carpets and paint inside the building, with exterior repairs taking place towards the end of the year.
The library itself is not a designated historical building, but as part of the Civic Center, it is within a designated historical area. Nelson says the library is working with the Los Angeles Conservancy to make sure the building’s original architectural integrity is being maintained.
He adds that the building’s façade—which has sustained some water damage—will be replaced this winter and the disabled access ramps will also be re-graded.
According to W.W. Robinson’s “Lawyers of Los Angeles,” when the attorneys of Los Angeles made their first try at organizing themselves into a voluntary bar association in 1878, their sole stated mission was to establish a law library.
While Los Angeles Bar Association lapsed after 1880, articles of incorporation for a “Law Library of Los Angeles” were filed in 1886.
Any attorney who had purchased a share of stock—listed at a price of $100 but later advertised at discounted rates—could use the library, then located at Temple and New High Street and housing 4,649 tomes.
In 1891, these volumes were acquired by the state-sponsored Los Angeles County Law Library, along with the 5,000-some-odd books then reposing in Room 6 of the Law Building at 21 Temple Street.
This library was supported in large part by legislation adopted that same year calling for a $1 contribution to the “Law Library Fund” from those filing state court actions.
Aided by this revenue, the library made its first purchase of foreign law books in 1894 and by 1898 had acquired the “reports of last resort” of all the states then admitted to the union.
The library continued to grow rapidly over the next several decades under the leadership of Thomas W. Robinson, who served as librarian from 1896 until 1938. A bust of Robinson adorns the library lobby today.
By 1905, the library held 15,000 volumes and cash reserves of $5,000 and had relocated to the Merchants Trust Building at 207 South Broadway. Four years later it reached the 20,000-volume mark and moved to the International Savings Bank Building on Temple Street. In 1912 it moved again to the Hall of Records.
As the collection moved past the 204,000 mark in 1950, the site of the present library structure at the northwest corner of First Street and Broadway was acquired and construction began in 1952. The building, designed by the architectural firm of Austin, Field & Fry, opened its doors to the public the next year.
Since that time, Nelson admits, the library has not made any significant changes until now. But when the work is done, Kovlov says, “we welcome you to a brand new 120-year-old library.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company