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About the Library

Robert S. Marx Law Library: A Brief History

Beginnings. When Timothy Walker, a protégé of Justice Joseph Story, Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, Edward King, a graduate of Litchfield Law School, and Ohio Supreme Court Judge John C. Wright founded the Cincinnati Law School in 1833, the Law School held the distinction of having the largest law faculty in the country. It was common practice at the time for law professors to make their personal libraries available to their students. The first prospectus of the new law school, appearing in Cincinnati papers in 1833, proclaimed that the Law School had "as extensive a law library as any in the western territory." The claim was probably true for two reasons: (1) there were no other law schools west of the Allegheny Mountains, and (2) contemporary western law practices rarely had more than two attorneys, both sharing office space and their usually meager collection of law books.

Law library holdings grew and shrank with the addition and departure of faculty members in the nineteenth century. Fires twice destroyed buildings that housed the law school, first in 1845 and again in 1869. Each time, donated materials from the Cincinnati legal community and special expenditures from the Law School replenished that part of the library collection which was stored in a common room; professors still preferred to buy their law books themselves and keep them in their offices.

Into the Modern Era

In 1895, then Dean William Howard Taft (Class of 1880) introduced the "Harvard method" of teaching at the Cincinnati Law School. By "Harvard method," Dean Taft was referring to the case method as a pedagogical device practiced by Harvard Law School Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell,and popularized by his successor, James Barr Ames, who transformed it into the Socratic method we know today. Langdell also promoted the case method as necessary to the teaching of law as a science. Dean Taft met with faculty resistance on both fronts. Nevertheless, the importance of the law library rose to new heights. As the place where a specialized body of source materials -- case reports -- resided, the law library became the "laboratory" for Langdellian legal science. "The library is the proper workshop of professors and students alike," wrote Langdell.

The law library grew with law reports—not just Ohio law reports, but with volumes of the National Reporter System which the West Publishing Company began publishing in the late 1880s, plus scholarly works produced by a generation of Langdellian-trained law professors. We can credit Chief Justice Taft with moving our law library to center stage. In 1903, the law library relocated to the Law School's first purpose-built building. The library reading room seated 300 and the collection numbered 12,000 volumes.

Our Mission Today

The mission of the Robert S. Marx Law Library is to provide excellent research collections, quality service, engaging learning environments, and innovative instruction in support of the University of Cincinnati College of Law's comprehensive mission of teaching, research, and community service.

The Law Library supports research, scholarship, and learning for faculty and students in the College of Law. The Law Library also makes its resources available to College of Law alumni, the University of Cincinnati community, and the local bench and bar. Members of the general public, businesses, and organizations may have access to the Law Library's resources on site for the purpose of conducting legal research. Individuals who wish to use the Law Library's collection of U.S. Federal Depository documents are also welcome.

Academic & Research Excellence

The Law Library collection contains 400,000+ volumes in print and non-print formats, plus an ever-expanding array of digital resources. The Law Library aligns its collection development policies and budget with UC|21 academic priorities and ongoing changes in scholarly publishing.

Place Students at the Center

The Law Library participates in the UC|21 Integrated Core Learning initiative by providing individualized instruction in the use of its resources for all University students, conducting workshops for law school students, and making available from its professional staff guest lecturers on legal research topics for University courses offered outside the College of Law.

A Sense of Place. The Law Library provides 24/7 access to our law students and faculty. Responsible for IT operations, the Law Library supports academic computing, provides wireless connectivity throughout the College of Law building, and administers the College's network operations. The Law Library strives to create innovative solutions to accommodate collection growth and diversity, and works closely with the College of Law administration to renovate the College's existing facilities to implement presentation technologies in the classroom.