Duke Law dedicates J. Michael Goodson Law Library

November 20, 2008Duke Law News

Nov. 20, 2008 — Prominent law librarians and Duke University leaders praised the Law School’s renovated J. Michael Goodson Law Library during a special event on Nov. 6. The panel discussion and reception were part of the Law School’s weeklong celebration of the renovated library and new Star Commons.

“A great law school, a great research faculty, must have a great library,” said Dean David Levi at the reception held in the renovated space. “We now have such a library. And while we may praise the play of light, the comfort of the space and the chairs, let us also appreciate the skill, the learning, and the helpfulness of those who work in this library.”

Levi offered special thanks to The Duke Endowment, represented at the event by Chairman Russell Robinson II ’56, and J. Michael Goodson ’66 for their support of the library.

”The Duke Endowment’s significant support of this project has been vital,” Levi said. “We are very grateful for our relationship with the Duke Endowment, and with the trustees of the endowment, many of whom are distinguished graduates of the Law School.”

Robinson spoke about the Duke Endowment’s support of the library, and of University founder James P. Duke’s belief in the importance of the legal profession and the written word.

“Mr. Duke, in the indenture that created the Duke endowment and provided for the building of the University, specifically provided that there would be a law school… and mentioned lawyers in that because ‘they are most in the public eye and, by precept and example, most capable of uplifting mankind,’” Robinson said.

“Mr. Duke knew that words matter, and that words are the means by which we conceive and develop and express and preserve the rules and the dreams by which we live. And ever since the beginning of the printed word, libraries have been the essential repository of all of that,” he added.

“We are deeply indebted to J. Michael Goodson for this new library,” Levi said. “His extraordinary commitment to this project marks a milestone in the history of the Law School. It is the largest single commitment ever made to Duke Law School, and it is a transformative commitment, as all of us can see.”

Goodson, who traveled from New Jersey to attend the building dedication weekend events, said the library was “worth waiting for.”

“The heart of the law school is the student body and the faculty, but the library lives on and transcends all these other forces,” he said. “I just thought it was something that needed to be done. The funding was heavy, but the opportunity to be a part of it and have my name associated with Duke Law School — I thought it was a good tradeoff.”

Levi also thanked Senior Associate Dean of Information Services and Rufty Research Professor of Law Richard Danner, Professor Thomas Metzloff, and former Dean Katharine Bartlett, the A. Kenneth Pye Professor of Law for their leadership through the renovation.

In his remarks, Duke University President Richard Brodhead observed that law libraries are the underpinning of legal scholarship and the legal profession. While law is known as a “learned profession,” it really is a “text-based profession,” he said.

“[Law] is based on the writing down of laws, the writing down of opinions… Well before there was a tradition of law schools, the way you could become a lawyer was by reading the law. John Adams became a lawyer without going to law school, Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer without going to law school, John Marshall became a lawyer without going to law school, because somewhere they had access to some group of books from which you could get the fundamental mastery of the law.”

Danner said the renovated library was now equal to the aptitude of the faculty, staff, and students at the Law School, and provided a refuge for reading and reflection with its new study areas and carrels. Danner also said he was grateful to have a fitting room for the Floyd M. and Marguerite F. Riddick Rare Book and Special Collection, accumulated when the late Floyd Riddick was U.S. Senate parliamentarian from 1964-1974.

“The library is fantastic,” said Board of Visitors member K. Morgan Varner ’66 of Atlanta, who was getting his first look at the transformed space. “There was an awful lot to think about in terms of new technology and the way people access information, and the planning of the new library obviously factored in all of those concerns. The key, I think, was Dick Danner, who is at the top of his field.”

Prior to the reception and dedication in the library, Danner convened a conversation about the 21st century law library with Blair Kauffman, Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Yale University, and John Palfrey, the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean of Information Services at Harvard Law School.

“Those of us in the library profession have long admired Duke Law School and the Duke Law Library,” Kauffman said. “We always know that Duke is one step ahead of everybody else. Open access digital repositories — they’ve done it, and Dick [Danner] has written about it. How do you serve this new generation of scholars that are doing empirical legal research? Look to Duke and see what they’re doing.”

Law library renovations have been increasingly common over the past decade, as law schools attempt to keep pace with technological innovation, Kauffman said.

“I think these are strategically wise decisions for law schools to be making,” he said. “It’s money well spent. Even though we have this ‘born digital’ generation of students entering our law schools, they tend to be even higher users of libraries.”