More room means more shelf space means more books; With recent expansion Cooley law library system becomes 2nd largest in the state


By Paul Janczewski

Legal News

Less than a decade ago, students at Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus had to drive about three miles away, to the campus of Oakland University, if they needed a library for their legal research and studies.

But a major expansion to the Auburn Hills campus library was recently unveiled, and the increase there, coupled with total volumes available at Cooley's other three campuses, now makes the Cooley law library system the second largest in the state, surpassed only by the University of Michigan law school library.

"Now, things have grown significantly," said John Nussbaumer, associate dean at the Cooley Auburn Hills campus.

His remarks came March 17 at a grand opening ceremony to unveil the expanded library. Nussbaumer also announced that the library would become home to historical documents and archives of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association.

And coupled with last year's addition of a large portion of the Adams-Pratt legal texts from the Oakland County Law Library, Cooley is becoming a go-to place for legal research for students, attorneys and scholars.

Spread out over two levels, the posh surroundings sparkle with new furniture, desks, study areas and shelving that should take some of the stress away from studying and research work for students.

Before the expansion, the Auburn Hills campus library could only seat 147. Now, 390 people can be accommodated. Nine group study rooms have grown to 19. And shelf space has been increased from 8,100 linear feet to 15,912 linear feet. Square footage of the entire campus library has nearly doubled, from 12,660 square feet to 22,199 square feet now.

And with more room comes more books. There are more than 670,000 volumes at the four Cooley campus libraries -- at Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor.

"Our goal with this expansion was to give students, lawyers, and members of the public a chance to not only have access to these resources, but to give them the opportunity to do so in a comfortable environment that provides an ideal setting to study and research the law," Nussbaumer said.

Helen N. Levenson, head of Public Services for the Auburn Hills law library, said when the library was located at Oakland University, in 2003, it was "pretty tiny." The library was moved to Auburn Hills in 2008, after outgrowing that space, and grew in several phases.

"We really needed to expand for our student body size," she said.

Students and enrollment numbers are growing at Cooley.

Although the work here was completed last fall, the grand opening was put off until all the new furnishings were in place. The library at the Lansing campus, where the law school originated, is still the largest. Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills libraries are comparable in size, and Ann Arbor's is smaller, but is also in the process of growing. According to the latest figures, Cooley has 3,800 total students, with 822 at the Auburn Hills campus.

"We definitely needed a more robust facility for them," Levenson said.

Acquiring more space and legal resources was also necessary to support the law school and graduate programs at Cooley. And those materials that can circulate between libraries are available to all students at any campus by overnight delivery.

"We are the only four-campus law school library system in the country," Nussbaumer said.

Associate Dean Duane Strojny, who is responsible for overseeing all four campus libraries, told the 50 or so people in attendance at the grand opening that there are many definitions for a library, but that facility remains "the heart of research and study" in law school. And since much of the information needed by those students cannot be accessed online by everyone, the law library at Cooley is "a lot more than books," he said.

Myron Lloyd, president of the D. August Straker Bar Association, was also on hand to speak about Cooley's Auburn Hills campus role in becoming home to his association's historical documents and archives. The Straker Bar Association began in 1990 with its mission being to increase minority representation in the legal profession, support and encourage legal practice opportunities for minorities, and facilitate equal justice for underserved members of Oakland County.

The group is named after D. Augustus Straker, an attorney, jurist, author and educator who was the first African-American attorney to argue before the Michigan Supreme Court. Lloyd said he successfully argued that the "separate but equal" doctrine then followed by the U.S. Supreme Court was unconstitutional under Michigan law.

"He was a true trailblazer," Lloyd said of Straker.

Lloyd said Straker's relationship with Cooley has been ongoing, and several Cooley professors and administrators are on Straker's board. When Straker officials were discussing their need to have a centralized location for its historical documents, he said Nussbaumer pushed for Cooley as a location, and talked of the library expansion.

Lloyd said the documents and archives include meeting records, minutes, photographs, and articles written by some of its founders. A framed portrait of Straker was also unveiled, and will be given a place of honor in the library.

"We're just glad to be a part of today's celebration, and we look forward to strengthening the relationship we have with Cooley Law School," Lloyd said.

Last year, about 23,000 volumes of legal materials from the Adams-Pratt collection of legal texts dating back to 1909 and named after Oakland County jurists Clark Adams and Philip Pratt, previously housed at the Oakland County Courthouse law library, also found a home at the Auburn Hills campus. The consolidation plan was designed to save Oakland County more than $1 million in annual operating costs.

Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc said the Cooley library may have "started from relatively humble beginnings" but now has grown immensely. And he said the expansion, and the additions of the Straker and Adams-Pratt materials, is "a great asset for the school."

He said Cooley, the Oakland County bar associations and attorneys, students and the public will all benefit from the resources now available.

Levenson said the library expansion and other amenities show that, despite the rapid rise of the Internet and all the things it can deliver with a click on a keyboard, libraries are not becoming obsolete.

"There are still many valuable legal resources that are available only in print," she said.

"And the library is a gateway in which to access many things electronically."

She said the library remains that road in which much information flows from the publisher to the patron.

"The formatting has changed, but the function of the library, to make information available to the user, is still very much intact, and always will be," Levenson said.

And the main mission of libraries remains to make the greatest amounts of resources available to the community at large. And tax-supported public and university libraries are "pools of resources" that anyone can use.

That may be true at law schools more than anywhere else. Levenson said the Cooley facility is used quite a bit, especially at exam time, which offers a vast array of resources that students cannot get anywhere else, or would be cost-prohibitive. Local attorneys can also use those resources, as can the general public, if they have a legitimate need to delve into a legal matter.

And with the additions of the Straker and Adams-Pratt materials, "it's greatly enriched the collection" of all the things available through the library, she said.

For Cooley students, the library is open from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, with expanded hours during exams.

"It's a fabulous place to study," Levenson said. "The library becomes a home away from home, and now that we have expanded into this beautiful place, with so many rooms with exterior windows, it's become the most popular study space."

Published: Mon, Apr 4, 2011


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