New Law Library Addition Opens its Doors

The new Law Library is proceeding apace. In July, a temporary library opened in the newly constructed addition. Shelving, furniture, equipment, and part of the collections were moved to the addition from the existing library facility in late June. Some parts of the collection are being stored temporarily offsite. The 1980 library facility is now being gutted as a prelude to its complete renovation. A splendid new library will emerge when what is newly built and what is newly renovated are seamlessly joined late next spring. The project is the culmination of a decade of planning, and the expansion should accommodate anticipated growth in book and journal collections, as well as new and existing technologies.

“We can’t see into the future regarding all electronic technologies,” said Jim Heller, director of the Law Library. “The entire library will have wireless access to the Internet, and several areas will be hardwired.” Heller added that virtually every seat in the library will have electronic capabilities.

Currently, the library can seat 437 people; the new facility will add nearly 100 more. There will be 70 lounge seats in five different areas, 60 seats in 12 group study rooms, 162 carrel seats, all with power, and 199 table seats, all but 12 with power. The four Law School journals – William & Mary Law Review, William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law – will each have office space, and a large suite will be available for the school’s 31 various student groups. The new library will have two computer labs with 37 seats. One lab will be set up for training on online services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. Other computers throughout the library also will be available for patrons.

The library will have two Reading Rooms overlooking the wooded ravine to the east. A new Rare Book Room will display treasures such as Chief Justice John Marshall’s family Bible, and pleadings signed by George Wythe in 1745.

“Since the law library serves as the intellectual center and the heart of the William & Mary Law School,” Heller said, “the new library will offer superior facilities for individual and group study, as well as state-of-the-art, technologically advanced and flexible facilities for instruction and research. It will have energizing space that encourages learning, interaction and the sense of community for which Marshall-Wythe is known.”

The new facility will place William & Mary in the forefront of U.S. law school libraries. The library is designed for those who use it, and makes staff readily available to assist students and other patrons. For example, the Grand Staircase is located in the middle of the library; to use it one must pass the Circulation Desk, the Interlibrary Loan Office, and the Reference Desk. The plans for the Law Library also ensure that all staff and public areas comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to the abundant seating, care has been taken to design tables and other furniture with low profiles so that most areas of the library can enjoy the natural light from its many windows. There will be more than 300 lockers in the new facility, three times the number currently available for students.

The entire project has been a cooperative venture, according to Shelley Dowling, special projects and senior reference librarian. “Law school is an especially intense three years of one’s life, so, in designing the new Law Library, we have tried to address the many ‘quality of life’ issues that evolve.” (Note: William & Mary’s Law Library was one of the first libraries in the U.S. to set up a coffee bar, doing so in 1997). The library has a huge collection of popular law-themed films, and also a large fiction collection.

The schedule for the late spring 2007 completion should be met on time. The move into the renovated 1980s facility is planned, said Heller, to happen after graduation so that it will be the least disruptive to students.