History of the Library

Historical Timeline

This historical timeline is based on PDF iconThe University of Iowa Law Library: The First 141 Years, 1868 - 2009, researched and written by Ellen Jones, Reference Librarian at the University of Iowa Law Library.

The University of Iowa Law Library was founded in 1868 with a collection of 612 books. Today it has grown to over 1.3 million volumes and volume equivalents and is one of the largest and finest collections of print, microform, and electronic legal materials in the United States.


The Old Capitol Years, 1868 to 1910

1865 - Judges George G. Wright and Chester C. Cole founded the Iowa Law School in Des Moines. While located in Des Moines, the Iowa Law School utilized the resources of the State Law Library.

1868 - The Iowa Legislature authorized the establishment of the Law Department of the State University and moved the Law Department to the Old Capitol building in Iowa City. Recognizing the need for legal resources, the Law Department created the University of Iowa Law Library and housed it in the former House of Representatives Chamber on the second floor of the Old Capitol. The legislature initially appropriated $2,000 for the purchase of 525 books for the Law Library.

1875 - Acknowledging that the small room that housed the Law Library could barely hold a quarter of the class, the faculty shifted part of the collection to the law lecture room on the second floor.

1882 - With increased enrollment, the Law Library outgrew its space and was allocated room in the west half of the Old Senate Chamber.

An image of the first University of Iowa Law Library at the Old Capitol, 1905.

1891 - Despite limited and sometimes reduced funding, the collection grew through acquisitions and gifts. The Law Library expanded and occupied the entire Old Senate Chamber. The Law Department recognized the need for a full-time librarian and hired Mrs. Jennie L. Wilson, a recent graduate of the Law Department, to maintain order in the Law Library.

1910 - The Law Library with its collection of approximately 15,000 volumes ranked as one of the best law school libraries in the country.


The Law Building, 1910 to 1961

1910 - The Law School moved into its own building, which is now known as Gilmore Hall. The Law Library occupied the third floor and was considered one of the "show spots" at the University with its "high-arched ceiling supported by two rows of massive scagliola columns."

1913 - The Law School ceased its practice of hiring recent graduates as Law Librarians and appointed Professor Elmer A. Wilcox as the Law Librarian.

1922 - Professor Wilcox gave administrative control of the Law Library to Helen S. Moylan who previously held positions in the law libraries of Harvard University and West Virginia University. During her first year as Law Librarian, the Board of Regents tripled the Law Library budget.

An image of the second University of Iowa Law Library in what is now Gilmore Hall (1924) (Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, University Archives, Dept. of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries)

1924 - The collection, containing more than 30,000 volumes, exceeded the capacity of the available shelving and the Law Library constructed a second tier of stacks to handle the growth.

1934 - Desperately needing more space, the Law Library created a branch library on the west side of the river in the Law Commons, the first and only dormitory specifically for law students.

1946 - Eda Zwinggi, a professional librarian, assumed the position of director of the Law Library.

1955 - To enlarge physical space, the Iowa General Assembly approved building an annex to the Law Commons instead of adding on to the Law Building. At that time, the Law Library's collection exceeded the shelving capacity the Law Building by more than 20,000 volumes.


The Iowa Law Center, 1961 to 1986

1961 - The Law Commons renovation was completed and the College of Law and the Law Library moved into its new facilities now called the Law Center. The Law Library occupied the first two floors.

1966 - A new floor on the mezzanine level increased library space to three complete floors, creating more study space, a typing area, and shelving for an additional 13,000 volumes. Marian Gallagher, the Law Librarian at the University of Washington School of Law, visited the University of Iowa Law Library and recommended that the Law Library add staff and adopt the Library of Congress K classification schedule for cataloging.

1976 - George Strait became the director of the Law Library. Despite runaway inflation and insufficient budgets, the Law Library shelves were ninety-eight percent full with the collection growing at an annual rate of six percent per year. The Law Library created off-site storage in the basement of the Mayflower Apartments and in a former grocery store on South Clinton Street.

1978 - The Iowa Law Center was bursting at the seams. The A.B.A./A.A.L.S. Accreditation Report was impressed with the caliber of the law school but recommended that the law school "abandon efforts to expand or rehabilitate the present building and seek instead to provide suitable housing for the law school in a new building." The Law Library subscribed to Lexis, and the Reference staff trained 271 students to use the computer-assisted legal research system.

An image of students studying in the Law Library at the Iowa Law Center, 1979.

1979 - The law faculty unanimously voted in favor of a new building, and the Iowa General Assembly began appropriating funds for a new home for the College of Law. The Law Library implemented the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), a computerized bibliographic searching and cataloging system, to improve cataloging performance of the collection.

1983 - With RLIN, the Law Library launched a twenty-five month Retrospective Conversion Project to reclassify, relabel, and recatalog the collection in an effort to establish an on-line catalog. The Law Library subscribed to Westlaw, a computer-assisted legal research system.

1985 - The University of Iowa Law Library ranked eleventh among accredited law school libraries. The collection totaled 540,000 volumes and its staff had increased by 17.5 full-time positions during its twenty-five years in the Iowa Law Center. Instead of hiring a new Law Library Director, the College of Law restructured the administration of the Law Library, appointing Professor Arthur E. Bonfield as the Associate Dean for Research and Katherine G. Belgum as the Executive Law Librarian. Under the new management structure, the Associate Dean of Research is responsible for overall library policy and budgetary decisions while the Executive Law Librarian manages daily operations of the Law Library.


The Boyd Law Building, 1986 to Today

1986 - The University of Iowa Law Library moved into its current home, the Boyd Law Building. Occupying more than sixty percent of the 200,000 square feet of building space, the library contained four floors with 111,000 linear feet of shelving to hold 800,000 volumes. Also, the new Law Library contained a locked, fire protected, temperature controlled room for the Rare Book collections. Other improvements included a dedicated room for microfilm and audio visual materials and over 481 study carrels.

1987 - The Law Library established a partnership with the University Libraries to create and operate a joint library automation system. The Law Library installed twelve public terminals to give library users access to the automated University catalog, Online Access System for Information Services (OASIS). In conjunction, the Law Library automated its Acquisitions and Bibliographic Processing units.

An image of the current University of Iowa Law Library in the Boyd Law Building when it opened in 1986.

1989 - Recognizing the importance of technology in the modern legal practice, the Law Library converted two seminar rooms into dedicated Westlaw and Lexis Learning Centers.

1993 - The Law Library created a Head of Public Services position to supervise Circulation, Reference, and the Special Services departments. The Law Library implemented automated circulation on the OASIS system, completing the automation of the library services.

1994 - The Law Library completed its reclassification project, making The University of Iowa Law Library one of the first law school libraries to reclassify its entire collection to the Library of Congress system.

1995 - Katherine Belgum retired and Mary Ann Nelson assumed the role of Executive Law Librarian.

1997 - When Westlaw and Lexis withdrew their support for dedicated workstations , the Law Library converted the former Westlaw learning center and the word processing room into a computer learning center which included 21 workstations attached to the law school local area network, a teaching workstation, a projector and screen and a sound system. At the same time, the Law Library remodeled the former Lexis learning center into a Print Lab, consolidating all student printing options in one location.

1997 - In addition to instructing all first-year students in basic legal research, the Reference staff increased their teaching responsibilities by offering Advanced Legal Research, a two-credit hour course, for the first time. Course offerings expanded in 2003 with the creation of the one-credit hour Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research course and expanded again in 2005 with the addition of Advanced Legal Research to the Law School's summer schedule.

1998 - 2000 - The Law Library implemented a new integrated library system, Alibris’ ExLibris, for managing the library’s cataloging and circulation functions.

1999 - The rewiring of the Boyd Law Building expanded patrons' access to Law Library resources by linking all individual student and faculty library carrels to the Law School LAN, permitting users of all carrels to access Westlaw, Lexis, the library catalog, and the Internet through their personally owned laptop computers.

2001 - The Law Library installed compact shelving on the ground floor, providing an extra 10,322 linear feet of shelving which, based on the growth rate of the collection, was estimated as an additional six years of space.

2004 - 2005 - The College of Law added a wireless system in the Law Library so that students working at all tables in the Library could also access the Internet from their portable computers.

2009 - According to the ABA and AALS statistics comparing American law school libraries, the University of Iowa Law School Library had the second largest collection of volumes and microform volume equivalents and the second largest number of unique individually cataloged titles in all formats including electronic among all law school libraries.

2013 - The University of Iowa Law Library’s collection remained one of the largest academic law library collections in the country. In 2013, the collection contained more than 1.3 million volumes and microform volume equivalents and over one million unique individually cataloged titles in all formats including both print and electronic resources. The Law Library continued to expand its course offerings, adding a one-credit state-specific legal research course and a one-credit legal research course on special topics, such as legal research in Litigation/ADR, Legal History and Business/Tax.

2014 - Arthur Bonfield retired and Thomas Gallanis assumed the role of Associate Dean for Research.


University of Iowa Law Library Directors, 1868 to Present

University of Iowa College of Law faculty, 1868 - 1910

Elmer Almy Wilcox, Professor and Law Librarian, 1911 - 1922

Helen Sarah Moylan, Law Librarian, 1922 - 1941

Lucille V. Clark, Acting Law Librarian, 1936 - 1937

Millicent Derth, Law Librarian, 1943 - 1946

Eda A. Zwinggi, Law Librarian, 1946 - 1961

Caroline C. Heriot, Law Librarian, 1961 - 1965

Eda A. Zwinggi, Acting Law Librarian, 1965 - 1966

Richard G. Hutchins, Law Librarian, 1966 - 1975

George A. Strait, Library Director, 1976 - 1985

Arthur E. Bonfield, Associate Dean for Research, 1985 - 2014

Thomas P. Gallanis, Associate Dean for Research, 2014 - present