State Law Library closing doors

By Connie Cone Sexton
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 28, 2003

It's as long as a football field and about half as wide.

Its 29,000 square feet could never be considered open space. Dozens of mahogany bookcases stand like dominoes, row after row, filled with more than 125,000 volumes.

Welcome to the Arizona State Law Library at 1501 W. Washington St. Closing time is 5 p.m. today. And that's for good.

Since 1991, tens of thousands of patrons made their way to the library, tucked into the foundation of the Arizona State Courts building to examine such materials as U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Arizona legislative bills back to 1899 and case opinions from the 50 states.

But when State Library Director Gladys Ann Wells learned she had to slash her budget by more than $600,000, there was no choice but to cut a few positions and give up the $543,400 a year lease at the courts building.

So now the majority of the library's collection will return to the State Library collection at the Capitol, 1700 W. Washington. The bulk of the move is happening this weekend, and access to the law library collection will be available at the new location by 8 a.m. Monday. Some of the law collection, including primary law materials such as the Arizona Revised Statutes and journals of the Arizona House and Senate will be housed at the old Carnegie Center, 1101 W. Washington St.

Because they simply don't have room for everything, the state library department has to give up some of its legal treatise collection and is handing them off to the Maricopa County Superior Court law library.

Some critics are upset the State Law Library is being split up, but Wells stressed that materials of primary use by the public, legislators, judges and lawyers will remain in her collection.

And anything someone can't find can be retrieved through the interlibrary loan and other document delivery systems.

For Janet Fisher, division director overseeing the law library, the move will be difficult but ultimately rewarding. Some researchers would have to go back and forth between the law library and the main collection at the Capitol. Now, for many patrons, it will mean just the one visit.

Ken Behringer, general counsel for the Arizona Legislative Council, is happy the move is coming.

His office, which is a nonpartisan service agency of the Legislature, is at the Capitol. Behringer is responsible for research as bills are drafted. "So this is a great thing for us," he said of the move.

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