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The History of the Law Library 

    One of the smaller, but very important libraries in the Ohio Valley –  the Jefferson County Law Library – has been providing legal information to area judges and attorneys for over 100 years.  Established on November 9, 1906, the law library has managed to survive through war times, the depression era, changes in technology and numerous funding struggles. Located on the third floor of the courthouse in Steubenville, the law library was originally created for the use of the judges of the courts of the county and other county officers.  It was also formed for the benefit of the members of the Jefferson County Bar and Law Library Associations.

    The Jefferson County Law Library Association was first originated by several local lawyers who saw the need to have legal information handy to the courts and attorneys of the county.  The founding father of the Jefferson County Law Library was the Honorable Henry Gregg.  Other originators and first trustees were William Alban, David Gruber, Addison Lewis, Judge John Mansfield, Judge Rees G. Richards and Judge John Cook. There have always been five members on the board of trustees and their terms have always lasted five years.  Most were re-appointed and served several terms – some until they retired or passed away.  One exceptionally long term was held by a very dedicated attorney, Robert L. Quinn.  Attorney Quinn was trustee and secretary/treasurer of the library board from 1935 to until his death in 1993.

    The first law librarian was a local attorney and historian – Joseph B. Doyle.  In addition to his legal background, Attorney Doyle was an avid writer who published several significant literary works including The 20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County and In Memoriam Edwin McMasters Stanton.  He was also the city editor of the Daily News and then Herald for 34 years before becoming the Jefferson County Law Librarian.  He held that position for 20 years until his death in 1927.

    In regard to location, the law library was always located in the Jefferson  County  Courthouse.  It did however move within the courthouse to different rooms at various points in time.  Due to the big snow storm of 1950, the top floor of the court house collapsed so the library was moved temporarily to a building on the corner of North Fourth and Washington St. (across from the old post office).  Once the court house was repaired, the law library moved back to the court house and settled into one large room on the third floor where it has remained for more than sixty years.  

    The space, utilities and shelving for the law library have always been provided for by the county.  In 1916 however, a Colonel James Taylor Holmes of Columbus, Ohio, bequeathed his entire library including the wooden shelving to the Jefferson County Law Library Association.  He stated in his will, “It is to be my monument to Jefferson County whose people have been kindness and loyalty to myself, personified, since I first settled among them in December 1859.”  He also meant for his gift to be a memorial to his friend Major Daniel McCook and the 52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry which, during the Civil War Era, was made up of soldiers from the Jefferson County area.  Colonel Holmes hoped that in addition to the eastern Ohio bar members that the attorneys of western Pennsylvania and the panhandle of West Virginia would always be permitted to use the Jefferson County Law Library.  To this day, the law library association has many West Virginia members and is well used by these attorneys. 

    The law library initially started out with 3,535 volumes and now has grown to approximately 18,000 volumes.  Much of what is written in the books can be accessed online with the use of the library’s three computers.  The online databases make legal research easier as far as searching for and printing information.  Nevertheless, because there is still some legal material which is not available on electronic databases and because some attorneys still prefer to use books, the Jefferson County Law Library is trying to keep some printed volumes for as long as it is possibly affordable.  Sadly, it is becoming more expensive to buy law books than to subscriptions to online databases. 

    As for the future of the Jefferson County Law Library, it is important to look to the past.  Generation after generation, there have always been supporters of the law library who realized the essential role that a law library plays in providing legal information to the justice system. Through their concern and management, the law library was sustained even as the world around it changed.  It is very conceivable that this pattern of devotion towards preserving the legal resources of our law library will continue for at least another 100 years.


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