Dan Scime, ’17, had just finished a round of Law School Jeopardy! in the D’Angelo Law Library conference room, correctly guessing which park was the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.
“I’ll take ‘Around Town’ for 500,” he told law librarians Lyonette Louis-Jacques and Bill Schwesig, before reading the question on the screen and asking, “What is Jackson Park?”
It was a sight probably familiar to second- and third-year students: The library’s fourth annual Fall Fest, an afternoon of games, trivia, and homemade baked goods designed to introduce new students to the library’s staff and resources. As part of this year’s event, students played “Name that Tune” in the Fulton Reading Room; tossed beanbags at wood UChicago cornhole platforms; tried their hands at a mini-golf putting green; and sampled cupcakes, cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, and other treats made by library staff. (A particularly popular item: Margaret Schilt’s pumpkin cupcakes. Find the recipe in the right column). Todd Ito, Coordinator of Instruction and Outreach and a reference librarian, organized this year’s Fest and also planned and staffed the “Name that Tune” station with librarian Thomas Drueke.
Students also talked to Lorna Tang, Associate Law Librarian for Technical Services, about the library’s Chicago Collection, which consists of five shelves of about 250 books — ranging from Jean F. Block’s Hyde Park Houses to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness in the Fair that Changed America — as well as DVDs about Chicago. The collection was first set up with funds donated in memory of Thomas Owens, who worked at the library’s circulation desk for more than 40 years. He was fond of law students — and they were fond of him — and he loved Chicago.
“Many new students don’t come from Chicago, and this collection will give them a little flavor,” Tang said.
The event gave many of the nearly 130 students who attended a closer look at the 695,083-volume library, which was named for alumnus Dino D’Angelo, ‘44, an attorney, real estate owner, patron of the arts, and philanthropist. Students who took time to chat up some of the library’s 25 full-time staff might have learned which librarian brews his own beer, why there’s a chevron “crack” in the floor behind the reference desk, and how the library acquires the nodding justices in its U.S. Supreme Court bobblehead collection.
Didn’t have time to ask those questions? In honor of Fall Fest, we’ve compiled some of our favorite lesser-known facts about the library and its staff.
The library’s staff speaks or reads 16 languages: American Sign Language, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Provençal, Spanish, Romanian, and Russian. “It keeps things interesting,” said Louis-Jacques, who speaks Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and “a little German.”
The most popular of the 1,643 titles in the library’s DVD collection is the television series “The Wire.” Also popular: The Godfather, China Town, Fight Club, and The Godfather Part II.
Edward H. Levi, ’35, started out in the library, and he wasn’t paid very well. Rather than hire him as a full-time professor in 1936, the Law School made him a law librarian and an assistant professor, paying him a total of $3,000 — $125 less than the most junior member of the faculty made at the inception of the Law School in 1902. His library assignment, which accounted for one-third of his original salary, lasted only a year. In 1937, he was hired as a full-time professor and his salary went up accordingly. Levi, of course, went on to serve as Dean of the Law School, President of the University, and Attorney General of the United States.
Library Assistant Steve Coats was a U.S. diplomat in Mexico during the Clinton administration. He worked for several years in the early 1990s in the cultural and press section of the American embassy in Mexico City and the American consulate in Tijuana.
The zig-zagging fissure that runs along the floor behind the reference desk marks the division between the old library and the 1987 expansion. The renovation, which preserved the architectural integrity of Eero Saarinen’s original design, expanded the building by forty-five feet to the south.
The staff has nearly 350 years of combined library experience.
The collection includes about 1,500 books written by alumni. Those titles range from legal practice materials to fiction.
D’Angelo Library Director Sheri Lewis owns two guinea pigs. They are named Gwendolen and Cecilyafter characters in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
The library has 10 SCOTUS bobbleheads: James Iredell, Benjamin Curtis, Harry A. Blackmun, William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The Green Bag issues the dolls and doesn’t ship them,” said Patricia Sayre-McCoy, Head of Cataloging and Serials. “We have to find someone in Washington, D.C., who can pick them up for us and either send them or bring them back to the library.”
Sayre-McCoy is a science-fiction/fantasy writer. She’s been writing stories for about 30 years and has sold two of them to Sword and Sorceress, a series of fantasy anthologies.
The library’s staff manually counts heads five times a day so they know exactly how patrons use the facility. At opening, in the morning, afternoon, evening and at closing, a staff member spends about 15 minutes walking through the library counting the number of people in different locations, including at window tables and center tables, in carrels and conference rooms, and on black sofas and low shelf seating. The counter uses a special form that has a box for each of the six floors and places to record the date, time, day of the week, and academic quarter.
Drueke brews his own craft beer. He particularly likes making low-alcohol English “session” beers.
The Law School was re-created in 800 Legos by Zach Mayo, ’14. It is displayed on the library’s reference desk.
Six members of the library staff have JDs, and all 11 librarians have masters degrees in library science.
Margaret Schilt is an art quilter. The Associate Law Librarian for User Services, who also teaches Writing and Research in the United States Legal System, has been making the quilted hangings for about eight years. There is one in her office now that depicts white cemetery crosses stitched into a backdrop of green panels, and one solitary cross against a red backdrop in the upper-right corner. She calls it “War and Peace.”
The library’s entire sixth floor is devoted to foreign, comparative, and international law. It has a strong collection from the European Union, especially Germany.
Eight members of the library staff have attended the University of Chicago, either the college or one of the graduate schools.
The framed cross-stitch hanging on the third floor was made by Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a senior lecturer at the Law School.
Binding Assistant John Mulholland used to be in the Peace Corps, working as a teacher in Swaziland, Africa, from January 1969 to March 1975. He is also the longest-serving member of the library staff, having started in 1976.
The most popular places to sit are at the window tables on the second and third floors. (Remember the head count? That’s how they know).
Senior Acquisitions Assistant Sheila Ralston has more than 10,000 books in her home. About 500 of them are hers—mostly mysteries and English literature (her college major), true crime, and knitting books—and the rest belong to her husband, a game designer and writer who has been collecting books since childhood. The books are stored in bookcases throughout their home.
Julie Stauffer, Head of Acquisitions and Electronic Resources, is an accomplished knitter who first picked up the craft from a “Coats and Clark’s Learn How” pamphlet as a child. She’s not the only avid knitter, either: a group of Law School knitters meets once a week in Library Conference Room 211A.
The library is busiest at the beginning of Autumn Quarter and during Winter Quarter finals. Students check out the most items between 11 a.m. and noon, 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and two hours before closing. The library space is most crowded between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
A University of Chicago Law School news release