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History

History of the Law Library

We began serving the legal community and citizens of San Diego County in 1891. In 1895 the Library’s book collection numbered 1,500 volumes and was housed in the judges’ chambers in the Courthouse. This arrangement continued until 1900, when a small room was set aside in the Courthouse for the Law Library, and in 1903 Henry W. Talcott, a local attorney was appointed the first Law Librarian. Two more rooms were assigned to the Law Library in 1920, and in 1923 the Library was moved to the ground floor of the Courthouse Annex.

 

Library exterior, 1958 Old courthouse library entrance Library reading room, 1958

 

By 1935, the book collection totaled about 25,000 volumes. In 1951, Leland G. Stanford, (distantly related to the Stanford University “Stanfords”), an attorney and founder of the Balboa Law School (now California Western School of Law), was appointed Law Librarian. Under Mr. Stanford’s leadership, the Library’s collection grew to 50,000 volumes by 1955 and tripled to 150,000 volumes by 1971, when he retired. During this time, the present building located at 1105 Front Street was planned, built and dedicated in 1958. 

 

After Mr. Stanford’s retirement in 1971, O. James Werner, Assistant Professor and Law Librarian at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, was appointed Library Director. Under Mr. Werner, the collection was cataloged and classified by Library of Congress standards. The Library began computerization of its records in 1982 and by 1987 all of the Library’s major files were computerized.

 

The first branch of the San Diego County Law Library was opened in September 1973 at the North County Courthouse in Vista. Additional branches at the Courthouses in Chula Vista and El Cajon were established in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

 

Mr. Werner retired in June, 1987, and was succeeded by Charles R. Dyer, formerly Associate Professor of Law and Law Librarian at the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law. In 2005, Robert E. Riger became the Director of San Diego County Public Law Library, and was succeeded by John Adkins, our current Director, in 2010.