On The Books

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Although its formal opening day was delayed due to last week's blizzard, the new Law School Library is now in operation, and offering its users a variety of research and technological resources.

Completed last fall after almost 18 months of construction, the four-story structure represents the first of a three-phase renovation of the Law School. The new building, which replaces the Kenny-Cottle Library, encompasses almost 49,500 net usable square feet and contains over 38,000 linear feet of shelving space. It also features numerous outlets for computer laptop use, including at individual carrels, and is connected to the campus network.

What makes the new library such a key addition to the Law School, said Law Librarian Sharon Hamby O'Connor, is that it was designed specifically for the needs of law students and faculty.

"In a law library, you are not just delivering information, but teaching students to do legal research - an inseparable part of the practice of law," said O'Connor, who is also an associate professor at the Law School. "Part of our job as faculty and as library staff is to show the link between research and practice. So we wanted an environment which would make information as accessible as possible - through text, electronic or audio-visual means - and which allows staff to provide the best service."

To accomplish this, the staff and administrative areas are concentrated largely on the second floor, at ground level. This floor also contains the library's reference area, including a workroom which serves as storage for teaching and exhibition materials, and a computer with multimedia facilities for developing teaching tools. Several staff members participating in a reference project will use the area for planning curricula.

The floor also includes the library's Rare Book Room. Displaying this collection was difficult in Kenny-Cottle, O'Connor said, and the distinctly featured room will play a valuable role. Later this spring, a legal research laboratory with computers and audio-visual equipment for use by reference staff and students will open on the floor.

Periodicals and microforms are housed on the library's first floor, which also contains learning centers for Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw, the two major data bases in the law field.

One innovation found on this and the third and fourth floors are several group study rooms. They are equipped with television monitors and video cameras, so the student groups can record and then review their presentations. O'Connor said these rooms will later be available for teleconferences.

The library's main computer center is on the third floor, offering both Macintosh and IBM models for word processing, computer instruction and use by classes utilizing technology. There are also locked carrels which will be offered to visiting scholars and consultants.

One of the library's most popular features, its Massachusetts Collection, highlights the fourth floor. This collection, O'Connor said, is used not only by students and alumni but by local lawyers. There is also a faculty research complex, designed for faculty needing alternative workspace.

While the building easily fulfills its purpose as a focal point for academic and educational activity, O'Connor added that users will enjoy its more aesthetic qualities, pointing to its lounge and window seating as examples. The Rare Book Room contains a fireplace mantle once used in the White House, she added, and even the stairway interiors, featuring brick walling, are pleasing to the eye.

"We look forward to the months ahead, as we continue to explore and develop the potential this library represents," O'Connor said. "With the remaining renovation phases coming over the next few years, the Law School will be greatly transformed and the new library reflects the changes to come."

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