Archive for April, 2009

Renovations at the John Marshall Law Library

The library before renovations.

The first thing most people notice is the light. Many alumni of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago step off the elevators on the 6th floor and exclaim that they don’t even recognize the library. The tall bookshelves that lined the entryway and blocked almost all natural light are gone. The massive and unsightly chandelier that hung over the entrance has been removed. Thanks to increased security at the building’s street level entrance, the noisy turn-styles in the library are no longer needed. These are just a few of the changes that the Louis L. Biro Law Library made as part of its recent renovation project.

One of the main goals of the renovations was to create a more welcoming environment in the library. Removing the chandelier and installing shorter bookshelves in the library lobby allow for more natural light to enter from the floor to ceiling windows that we are so fortunate to have. Even though the library occupies the 6-10th floors of a building in Chicago’s busy business district, the abundance of natural light and the new furniture create an environment more conducive to studying than the previous layout.

After consulting with the students and testing several options, new seating options were selected. The main floor of the library now has clusters of comfortable chairs gathered around low tables in addition to the more traditional long study tables. This floor also houses 24 frequently used computer terminals. The printers have been moved to a small room just outside the library entrance that also contains the Lexis & Westlaw printers which has cut down on the noise levels in the library.

New chairs include built-in desk panels.

Floors 7-10 of the library contain a mix of study carrels with new ergonomic chairs and clusters of low chairs with built-in desk panels. At the request of the students, the library has also increased the number of study rooms from 3 to 8 and installed electrical outlets near every seat. However, the addition that the students seem to enjoy most is the installation of a coffee machine on the 6th floor. We can barely keep the cups in stock…and more importantly the lids!

The final touch on the renovations was the installation of a new combined circulation & reference desk last fall. With the help of Roediger Corporate Interior Planning Inc. the library selected a custom desk built by Hale. After a few delivery set-backs due to the increased security in our area created by then President-elect Obama’s temporary offices across the street, the new desk was installed over the Thanksgiving break. Combining the desks allowed for additional space to be devoted to open seating and has enabled the circulation and reference staff to work more closely together.


In celebration of National Library Week, the library held an open house on April 14th to show off all the beautiful renovations. John Marshall faculty, students, staff and librarians from neighboring law schools all gathered to celebrate the wonderful changes that have been made.

 Jamie Sommer is reference librarian at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.

Architecture : Charlotte School of Law Library

Charlotte School of Law Library

More Pictures


charlotte_side2008 was an exciting second year for the Charlotte School of Law Library. After two years in our temporary location we began construction on a new building, obtained provisional ABA accreditation, and nearly doubled our student body.


Our temporary location, a gorgeous Georgian edifice in the historic Dilworth neighborhood in Charlotte, was beloved by students, faculty and staff but the drawbacks were mounting. The collection was spread across three different buildings, study rooms were an increasingly valuable commodity as our student body increased, and noise was growing.


charlotte_ribboncuttingNew Building

In early 2008 construction began on our new building in west Charlotte’s Bryant Park neighborhood. With the Charlotte skyline looming in the background I remember looking skeptically at the barren construction site. Our new building is not on Google Maps or Live Search Maps, but this is what the location used to look like.


The new building includes:

  • An entire 20,000+ sq ft second floor dedicated to the library. This space includes seating for our entire growing student body, 11 study rooms, a larger computer lab, a library classroom and a great view.
  • Office and cubicle space for all staff with additional room for expansion.  
  • Display space. There is a hallway of shelves and glass display cases for rotating displays and glass cases greeting guests at the elevator.

 Technology and the Library 

IT worked closely with the library to design a building that seamlessly yet subtlety integrates technologcharlotte_fronty into the space. Our goal was to resist the use of technology for the sake of technology and to make sure that each element had a clear purpose. Technology in the new library space includes:

  • Flat screen monitors scattered throughout the library. A powerpoint continuously cycles and displays information on both library and school events. Feedback from students on these displays have been positive and it a great alternative to print flyers that often are easily ignored.  
  • A security badge system makes student and public access to the library easy to control. Each student ID card also controls elevator and door access to the library and allows the library to allow access to the public while still keeping the facility secure. 
  • Wireless Internet is available for students throughout the library. With a laptop requirement policy this is heavily used by students. Additionally there are eight computers available for the public and a 20 seat computer lab for students. In spring 2009 IT introduced wireless student printing from laptops.
  • Library Classroom. The classroom, currently under construction, will include student microphones at each seat, projector/mircrophone/computer for instructors and wireless Internet access.

Additional information on the new library is available on our website, or blog. A virtual tour of the entire building is also available.


Schultze Construction, LS3P Associates (architects), and AI Design (interior architecture) designed and built the project.


Tom Hemstock is reference librarian and adjunct professor at Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina.

A “traditional look” — but look again!

ohio_northern_11 Our dean had been dreaming about creating a beautiful new reading room for more than a decade. Not long after I started at Ohio Northern in 2001, we walked the old space together while he gestured toward the grand “arch” or elegant French doors that he envisioned so clearly in his mind. There would be natural light and long wooden tables — exactly what a traditional reading room should look like. 

It was exciting to share in his vision and enthusiasm. But nagging questions came to mind. Where would we move everything to make room for new tables? How could we finish in just one summer (he always referred to this as a “summer project”)? How could we put in modern technology while still keeping the “traditional look”?


For the first few years I put off worrying about such things because we didn’t have any money. But by 2006 fundraising began to honor a former dean, Eugene Hanson, and the time had come to find some answers.


ohio_northern_2Our “Hanson Reading Room” renovation project was completed during the summer of 2008. Demolition started in May on the day after graduation, and we reopened in August. The construction contract specified a 93-day project. The work was completed in 93 days and one week, after some requested changes.


This renovation represents many things for our school: a traditional law library reading room that is a special tribute for a beloved dean; a fully wired space for research and instruction; and an attractive and flexible setting for special events. The reading room has long tables, built-in bookcases, and skylights with beautiful natural light. Case reporters line the walls. 


All of the tables and chairs were handcrafted in cherry in the Mission Style by Amish craftsmen from Ohio. The custom bookcases, doors, interior windows, and trim are finished in solid cherry wood. 


ohio_northern_3The formal reading room itself seats 54 and encourages students to study and socialize together, fostering a close-knit community. Adjacent to the main space are two alcoves with overstuffed leather seating, accommodating casual groups of six.  Behind the French doors are two seminar rooms for groups of 12.


Yet modern technology is used throughout – just without visible high-tech features. Power and data outlets are located in table aprons (near your hands) with matching cherry outlet covers. Video projectors and screens are concealed in ceilings. Crestron controllers rest in custom-built recesses in the seminar room tables. The wireless network is available everywhere. 


The lighting system provides multi-level, flexible lighting ranging from five new skylights to dimmable pendant fixtures. Directional recessed lights highlight bookcases and study areas. 


Finally, our new reading room was designed to be adaptable space. The hard-wired tables unplug from floor outlets and can be rearranged for special events.  We have held receptions there already. 


And yes, we did find homes for all the books and shelving that we had to remove before construction could start!


Nancy Armstrong is director of the law library at Ohio Northern University Taggart Law Library in Ada.


(Photos by Ken Colwell)

Architecture addicts rejoice!

If you just can’t wait to get your copy of the May architecture issue of Spectrum in the mail (or if you’ve already read it cover to cover and still want more), we have good news: beginning today, three bonus architecture articles will post to the blog this week. (P.S. Don’t be afraid to comment and let the authors know how much you appreciate their contributions.)

Still not enough? Be sure to check out extra photos from the May Spectrum architecture articles online.


May issue of AALL Spectrum online

The May issue of AALL Spectrum is available online in PDF format. This month’s articles include:

Keeping with this month’s architecture theme, the “Member to Member” responses explore your ideas for dream libraries.

Paper copies mailed out to members on Monday, April 27, so look for them in your mailboxes soon.

New Blog for Unemployed Law Librarians

After her reference librarian position was recently eliminated from a Columbia, South Carolina, law firm, AALL member Christine Sellers knew that she wanted to stay connected to the law library profession and at the same time help fellow AALL members and colleagues cope with the current economic downturn. She created the Law Librarians of Leisure Blog to “gather statistics, post jobs and advice, and provide a place where we can stay connected.” Members of the law library community are encouraged to read and contribute to Law Librarians of Leisure; e-mail Christine at with any questions or suggestions.

Register for May AALL Webinar on Libraries and Social Software

What is social software? How and why would you use it? How do libraries use social software as a way to engage staff and patrons in a fast-changing Internet environment? Plan to attend a Webinar on social software on May 20, from 12-1 p.m. EDT, as Sarah Glassmeyer, reference librarian from University of Kentucky, helps us explore social software use in a library context. Register by May 15.

Results of AALL Economic Outlook Survey

In mid-March, AALL conducted a survey of law library directors to understand how the current economic crisis is affecting the profession. The survey was intended to help determine how widespread law library staffs have been affected by layoffs, furloughs, reduction of benefits, and/or budget cuts. More than 400 members responded for a 34 percent response rate.

Overall, 23 percent of law libraries have experienced staff reductions, the overwhelming number ranging from one to five full-time employees laid off. Nearly 20 percent of law libraries have eliminated vacant positions, and more than 63 percent have a hiring freeze in place at this time. Hardest hit have been the private law libraries; 30 percent have had staff reductions, and nearly 72 percent have a hiring freeze in place. Only about 10 percent of academic law libraries that responded have reduced their staffs, but 45 percent have a hiring freeze in place. A little more than 15 percent of state, court, and county law libraries that responded have experienced layoffs, and 57 percent have a hiring freeze.

In terms of budget cuts, more than 60 percent of all respondents have already experienced budget cuts. Again, private law library budgets have seen the most cuts; nearly 73 percent have been cut, and about a quarter of respondents have seen cuts of 15 percent or more. Nearly half of academic law library budgets are so far untouched, and about 40 percent of state, court, and county law library budgets also have remained steady, but many anticipate cuts in the next fiscal year.

Full results of the survey, as well as examples of what law libraries are doing to cope with the current economic situation are available on the AALL Tools for Success wiki.


Vote for Your Favorite Day in the Life Photo

The Day in the Life of the Law Library Community photo contest is in the final stage of judging. Members of the AALL Public Relations Committee have narrowed down the nearly 150 entries to the top five in each category, and you now have the chance to vote for your favorite photos.

This week, April 13-19, AALL members will choose the best photo in each category and one best overall photo. Simply login with your AALLNET members-only e-mail and password. Please note that you will only be able to vote once.

A Day in the Life of the Law Library Community, sponsored by the AALL Public Relations Committee, is a nation-wide photo contest that documents law librarians working, meeting, teaching, and doing all that law librarians do in a given work day. Winners will be recognized on AALLNET, in the July 2009 issue of AALL Spectrum, and during the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Please send any questions or comments to Public Relations Committee Chair Amy Hale-Janeke at

AALL Keynote Speaker Jonathan Zittrain on 60 Minutes

AALL 2009 Annual Meeting and Conference keynote speaker Jonathan Zittrain, Internet cyberlaw scholar and author, appeared on the March 29 episode of 60 Minutes. The episode featured the story, “The Conficker Worm: What Happens Next?” You can watch two online videos of Zittrain: “Is The Internet In Trouble? ” and “30 Percent Infected?

Register for the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference and see Zittrain live in Washington, D.C., on July 26.

April 2009

Share this blog


All ads appearing on the AALL Spectrum Blog are generated by WordPress.