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Jacob Burns Law Library records

Identifier: RG0129

Scope and Contents

This collection contains bibliographies, floor plans, organization charts, brochures, reports, correspondence, newsletters, guides, and statistics. They range in date from 1904 to 2011. The materials concern the building fund, donations, annual reports, topical research guides, Maury Memorial Law Library, the National Law Center, stockholder reports, the American Association of Law Libraries, building dedications, the National Law Center, and Helen Newman.

Many of these records were formerly part of a vertical files system housed in the University Archives.


  • Creation: 1904-2011

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

The Jacob Burns Law Library is the library for the National Law Center of The George Washington University (GW) . The library building was completed in 1967. The library is named after a prominent New York lawyer, who was a 1924 graduate of the National Law Center and started the building project by donating $500,000. The library began within the regulations of government for the new law school in 1826 stipulated that "Each student before he can receive a ticket to the Professors for admission to the Law Lectures, shall pay ten dollars to the Treasurer of the College, for the purpose of defraying the expenses of, and increasing the Law Library, to be expended under the direction of the Professors of Law, for the sole use of the school."

The Law Library, part of Columbian College's Law School, was first located in Columbia Heights. From 1865 to 1884 the Library was at old Trinity Church 416 5th St. NW and then moved to the University Building at 15th and H St. NW through 1899. During this time the library was a room with an attached reading room. In 1899, the Law Library moved to the Law Lecture Hall on H St. east of 15th St. till 1910. Here the library had most of the third floor and the reading room contained wicker furniture with shelves against the wall. Then the library relocated to the rented upper floors of the Masonic Temple's auditorium's balcony on 13th St. and New York Ave. NW for the next ten years. In 1920, the Law Library transfered to the old Justice Department Building at 1435 K St. NW until 1925. Then the Law Library moved to the fourth floor and part of the third floor of Stockton Hall (720 20th St. NW) through 1967 with intermited storage times in the basement of Linser Library on G St. NW. During the 1950s plans for the National Law Center building were abortive but allowed a partial fund for the Jacob Burns Law Library. In 1967, the Law Library moved into the Jacob Burns Law Library next door to Stockton Hall at 716 20th St. NW. The building is designed to hold 170,000 volumes, four reading rooms, a seminar room, offices, and space for microform readers. In 2005, the library grew to hold over 500,000 volumes.

During 1865-1866, the Law School was revived with the prospectus stating that "the Library of the Law School will be furnished with all the important Text Books, Reports, and other Books of reference. The unequalled collection of the Congressional Library is open during six hours of each day to all who wish to examine any authority, or to take notes from any book of reference, ancient or modern." The Law School focused on the United States courts, the District of Columbia courts, and adjacent states with the knowledge of the Library of Congress's Law Library and the other University libraries could fill in many of the gaps for students. In 1929, the library started a card catalogue using the Library of Congress cards and in 1969 the new Library of Congress KF schedule. In 1932, the Law Library stated a periodical exchange program using "George Washington Law Review" to develop its periodical collection. Under David L. Moore in 1946, the library placed a standing order for all United Nations publications published in English. During the 1950s the University Library acquired the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which the Law Library incorporated part into its holdings. A faculty library committee serves to assist directing the library's development for the Library School.

During the 1920s-1930s an endowment in memory of Professor William Arden Maury, which the collection is named after by faculty vote assisted the library to grow although the endowment did not reach a sufficient sum to endow the library. In 1965 Professor Emeritus James Oliver Murdock established the International and Foreign Law Acquisitions Endowment Fund for the National Law Center Library. This spread the collection to include more international works. Other gift funds assist enriching the library including the James C. Sapienza Memorial Fund.

One of the earliest known librarians for the Law Library was L.A. McGee and Professor W. R. Vance in 1904-1905. Rufus H. Tilton was the Law Librarian around 1909-1911. From 1921 to1922 Frances Elizabeth Park was librarian with around 10,000 volumes to maintain. Miss Helen Catherine Newman became an assistant librarian under Emanuel C. Davidove in 1923 and Ernest H. Oliver in 1925. Miss. Newman was the Law School secretary until she became the law librarian from 1927 to 1942 that started the card catalog and annual reports for the Law Library. Miss. Newman served as the national president of the American Association of Law Libraries, the editor or the "Law Library Journal", served as a GW Board of Trustee for two terms, and as the Librarian of the United States Supreme court from 1947-1965. During the three years after Miss Newman leaving GW, there were three interim librarians in order: W.D. Kilgore, Madora Jane Doherty, and Ellis Champlin. Ella Cooper Thomas then served from 1946 to 1952 to be succeeded by David L. Moore. In 1953, Miss. Bertha M. Rothe served as Law Librarian until 1960 when Hugh Y. Bernard took over the collection of 54,000. Rothe and Bernard were the first to have professional training in law and library science and work at the library. Bernard was the first full-time Law Librarian to be given faculty status in 1962.

This was written in 2005.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains bibliographies, floor plans, organization charts, brochures, reports, correspondence, newsletters, guides, and statistics. They range in date from 1904 to 1999. The materials concern the building fund, donations, annual reports, topical research guides, Maury Memorial Law Library, and the National Law Center.


Organized into 2 series: Records and A legal Miscellanea

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition data is unknown.

Prelminary Guide to the Jacob Burns Law Library records, 1904-1999
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America