NYU School of Law Library: Background

Until Vanderbilt Hall was dedicated on September 15, 1951, New York University School of Law had occupied the upper floors of a factory building on the northeast corner of Washington Square for over 50 years.1

For several decades thereafter, the Law Library occupied the Main Reading Room and two basement levels in Vanderbilt Hall. Inevitably, however, space ran out, and a new wing was added in 1987 by tunneling under Sullivan Street. That space also extended underneath Fuchsberg Hall, the old building on the corner of Sullivan and West 3d Street, and contained the library's Media Center and the Rubin International Collection. While the new Law School building was under construction, these media and international materials were temporarily relocated. Dedicated in January of 2004, Furman Hall's library space, with an entry from Brown Atrium, includes three large bays of moveable shelving and a beautiful lounge and study area.

To understand our call number systems requires a very brief discussion of the history of cataloging. In the United States, academic libraries typically use a classification system developed by Thomas Jefferson for his library in Monticello, in which the topic "law" occupied the letter K. After the first Library of Congress, created by President Jefferson in 1802, was burnt by the British in 1814, Jefferson (by then in retirement) sold his extensive personal library to Congress to form the core of the new Library of Congress in 1815.2

In 1897, the Library of Congress (LC) began to update and extend Jefferson's cataloging system to other topical areas, an involved process that continues today. LC did not begin classifying law until 1949 and it took until 1983 to complete the majority of the K schedules.3 In the meantime, as law schools and their libraries had existed in the US since the early nineteenth century, the older schools (including Yale, Columbia, and the University of Chicago,4 as well as NYU School of Law, which dates from the 1830s5) created their own individualized cataloging systems out of desperation, as arranging books more-or-less alphabetically became increasingly unsatisfactory. Our system, which consists of all call numbers identified by the letters NYUL, was devised over a period of five years by the late Julius Marke, a distinguished and long-serving NYU Law Librarian,6 and was completed in 1950. But once LC's system was established, it eventually became necessary to convert much of the collection to its new national standard. This reclassification of thousands of volumes is an ongoing project that began at NYU Law School in 1994 and is still in progress. Therefore, when you search our online catalog, named JULIUS in 1989 to honor Julius Marke, you will find both systems, LC and NYUL.

As domestic legal materials fall into a very narrow portion of the alphabet, it is important for you to note not only the call numbers of your materials in JULIUS but also their physical locations. As most of our materials begin with K or KF, the call number alone does not give you enough information to find what you need. Also the "status" column in the record tells you whether the item is available.

Hopefully this information will help to clarify your use of our library.


1 Russell D. Niles, Planning and Building Arthur T. Vanderbilt Hall, 4 J. Legal Educ. 265, 266 (1952). See also, Julius J. Marke, The Mills Memorial Library of the School of Law of New York University, 45 Law Libr. J. 79 (1952).

2 For more information, please see John Y. Cole, Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress, Part I: THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, 1800-1992.

3 Jolande E. Goldberg, Development of a Universal Law Classification: A Retrospective on Library of Congress Class K, 35 Cataloging & Classification Q. 355, 379 (2003). Several subclasses of Class K were not completed until 2001. Id. at 356-57.

4 Julius J. Marke, The N.Y.U. Law Library Catalogue Revisited, 9 Legal Reference Service Q. 11, 15 (1989).

5 Ronald L. Brown, ed., The Law School Papers of Benjamin F. Butler: New York University School of Law in the 1830s (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), 6-11.

6 Julius Marke, Class of 1937, was Director of the Law Library from 1945 to 1982, and passed away in July of 2003.


Prepared by Deborah Paulus-Jagric

This page was updated August 16, 2007