Wisconsin State Law Library

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Celebrating 175 Years of Service

Celebrating 175 Years of Service: 1836-2011

Share Your Stories

Help celebrate the State Law Library's 175th anniversary by sharing your memories of the library. Whether you've been a library user for decades or just a few weeks, please tell us in your own words a favorite recollection or two. Throughout the year we'll highlight your submissions here.

Dennis Austin, Deputy Law Librarian, 1964-1997

Way, way back the library was connected to court chambers by a pneumatic tube which allowed the Justices to send requests for materials to the library staff. This was even before they had the use of law clerks to retrieve materials. The tube was located in the library’s main reading room next to the reference desk. Once the materials were gathered and assembled for delivery I would prepare to go down the internal staircase to the chambers. Decorum in the Supreme Court chambers was very important. I always wore a tie and suit coat even to deliver a book.

Dennis Austin, Deputy Law Librarian, 1964-1997

"The library was located in the State Capitol until 1999. Prior to the renovation project, there was no air conditioning in the building. In order to get some breeze, the staff would open the two windows in the reference office during the working day. Closing the windows at the end of the day was very important. At night, the lights on the Capitol dome made a haven for insects and bats. One evening, the windows were left open and the next morning the office was filled with over 20 bats. Thanks to the maintenance staff and big nets it all ended peacefully."

Jane Colwin, State Law Librarian, 2000-2011

"During the 1984 Presidential race, Walter Mondale, accompanied by his running mate Geraldine Ferraro, spoke at a rally on the Capitol steps. For security reasons, the Secret Service had closed the Library and instructed that we shut all the windows and blinds. Not wanting to miss out on this historic event, we cracked the windows open and peeked out the blinds. It was exciting to be an eyewitness to history."

Connie Von Der Heide, Director of Reference and Outreach Services

"One warm summer day in the late 1990s, I was on the 4th floor of the library doing research in the stacks. The book I needed was on a shelf near a low, open window. At that time, the Capitol was not air conditioned and there were no screens on the windows. Just after I'd laid my research notes on the table next to the bookshelf, a short gust of wind blew one of my papers out the window. It came to rest several feet away on the gravel-covered roof of the story below. I really needed that piece of paper - it probably contained the research requester's name and contact information - so I quickly climbed out the window and retrieved it. How's that for a real-life paper chase?!"

Julie Tessmer, Deputy Law Librarian

"Before the internet existed, attorneys and newspaper reporters would wait in the library for the release of Supreme Court Opinions. Generally, Dennis Austin, Deputy Law Librarian at that time, would get the phone call that opinions were ready to be picked up. I'd run down the internal marble staircase to the Clerk of Court's office to pick up copies for the library. If it was an especially "hot" opinion, we'd immediately start making multiple copies so they were ready for sale."

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