In May of 1838, Charles Daniel Drake distributed a petition and obtained nineteen signatures to form a law library. He modeled his plan on the law libraries he knew in Boston and Philadelphia, which were supported by individual membership dues. When serving in the Missouri House, Hon. John Fletcher Darby (four times mayor of St. Louis) introduced a bill that incorporated the Law Library Association in 1839.
The law library has remained in continuous operation by the Association and is one of the oldest libraries west of the Mississippi River. It moved over the years, but has been located in the Civil Courthouse on North Tucker Blvd. since the Courthouse was built in 1930.
The Law Library has faced varied challenges over the years, including:
- a decline in members due to the Civil War and then the World Wars;
- the cost of mechanisms to convey books from the its earlier location in the Pierce Building to the Civil Courthouse, where it moved in 1930;
- whether to allow smoking in the reading rooms;
- how to provide a free library to the public and a library to members;
- the cost of transitioning from print to digital resources; and
- how to continue to provide services during a pandemic.
But through it all, the Law Library Association has endured and maintained its core mission to acquire, develop and maintain a collection of legal research materials and to offer educational services to meet the needs of a diverse patron community.
Find out more about the early history of the library at https://llastl.org/history.