The Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York: A Brief Early History*

by Stephen Weiter, March 03, 2004; rev. October 2004

ALLUNY was founded on June 11, 1954

Founders:

Ernest H. Breuer - New York State Law Librarian
Nancy W. Stirling - Senior Law Librarian, New York State Library
Sidney B. Hill - Association of the Bar
Fred E. Rosbrook - Appellate Division, 4th Department
Michael S. Pulcher - Supreme Court, 5th Judicial District, Utica
Lawrence H. Schmehl - New York County Lawyers
George P. Seebach - New York Law Institute

*Taken from ALLUNY annual reports, newsletters, and other documents, but with many of my observations added..

On March 28, 1952 the New York State Law Library held a conference of law librarians in New York State to discuss specific problems of mutual interest and to acquaint law libraries of the state with the resources of, and the services offered by the State Law Library. As a result of this conference, the Association of Law Libraries of New York State was organized.

On June 11, 1954 , a special meeting of ALLNYS was held at the New York State Law Library to consider the tentative recommendations of the New York State Temporary Commission on the Courts for reducing the cost of appellate records and briefs and its effect on depository law libraries throughout the state. The recommendations threatened the distribution of records on appeal to depository libraries and as a result of this meeting the Temporary Commission withdrew its proposal to curtail distribution of records in original form and to substitute microprint. Ernest H. Breuer, as President of the Association, was authorized and directed to prepare a brief on behalf of the members of the ALLNYS and to present their views at a public hearing before the Court of Appeals on October 15, 1954 . Note: Microforms eventually won out in the end, but ALLUNY (I'll get to the name change) established itself as a strong advocate for legal information services.

In order that more public law libraries could become aware of the resources and the services of the State Law Library, Ernest Breuer - the State Law Librarian - visited nine upstate law libraries between Albany and Buffalo from August 22 to August 26, 1955 . As a result of these visits a formal annual meeting of the Association was held at Cornell Law School , Ithaca , New York on October 28, 1955 . The meeting was attended by eleven members from seven law libraries. Lewis W. Morse of Cornell was our host. A demonstration and discussion of micro-reproduction and microlex was given by William F. Wheatley of Matthew Bender and A. Ross Kitt and John Tarbox of Lawyers' Co-op. The present inadequacy of the New York State code of Rules and Regulations; the lack of a cumulative index for the Attorney Generals' opinions; the monopoly of distribution and price discrimination against out of state purchases of the New Hampshire revised statutes; the suspension of the State Law Index; the advantages of central cataloging by the State Law Library to small law libraries without law catalogers; the problem of lack of uniformity and size of typewritten records on appeal in the Appellate Division, Third Department under its recently revised rules and other problems of mutual interest were discussed.

The president urged all members to attend the Miles O. Price Testimonial Dinner and the annual meeting of AALL in Philadelphia . The group was taken to lunch at the fabulous Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus as guests of the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company.

The following year, (1956) Fred Rossbrook, recently retired Law Librarian of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department was unanimously elected as the Association's first life member. It was at this Second Annual Meeting that ALLUNY adopted a constitution and voted to apply for a charter as a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries. Dues were $1.00 per year. Apparently, at that time if you were a member of a Chapter, and a member of AALL, AALL would refund your dues paid to AALL - at least in part- to the Chapter. So if ALLUNY got a refund of your dues to AALL, then you owed no dues to ALLUNY. Our first Treasurer's Report given by Nancy Stirling showed 54 members a balance of $106.58.

In 1957 the Association met in Syracuse at the newly constructed Syracuse University College of Law (White Hall) At this time the name of the Association was changed, in deference to members of LLAGNY and the concern that ALLNYS was too encompassing and indicated a coverage that overlapped their area.

In 1959 we created our first scholarships. Two $25.00 scholarships to attend a LLAGNY workshop in 1960 were awarded to Alice Caswell of the Watertown Law Library and Jessie M. Lynch from the Eighth Judicial District Law Library in Buffalo.

In 1961 a merger of ALLUNY and LLAGNY was proposed and Ernest Breuer acted as liaison between the groups. It never happened, obviously, but it is an interesting thought. Breuer, among many others, held membership in both chapters. In 1962 the two chapters combined to buy a 5 x 8 blue banner with gold lettering for AALL to display at the national meeting. This may have been AALL's first banner. We also contributed heavily ($100.00 one year, $50.00 the next, for a small organization ) to the AALL headquarters fund in the 1960s. ALLUNY Dues at this time were $2.00 a year. By 1977 the dues had increased to $3.00 In 1978 the dues were $6.00.

We also interacted closely with other regional chapters in the 1970s and 1980s, meeting jointly with ORALL, CONELL, LLNE, LLAGNY, and SNELLA on many occasions. The last of these regional or joint meetings occurred in 1996.

Several of our Presidents were from the LLAGNY region - notably James Lodato and Lynn Fullshire. We still do a joint reception at the national meeting every year. For a long time, we used to hold a chapter breakfast meeting at AALL, but ended (?)

Going through the early minutes, it seems we had a more personal relationship with the various legal publishers. Of course at the time many of them were small family owned companies, and not huge corporations. Fred Rothman, Fred Dennis of Dennis & Co. , William Gaunt and William S. Hein were members as were many officers of Lawyers Co-op. When Matthew Bender III died in 1959, we made a donation in his memory to the American Cancer Society. Bender and LCP were major sponsors in our formative years as an association. Prior to 1969, ALLUNY resisted the urge to let the publishers finance the annual meetings, although the various publishers did host and pay for many of the social events. In 1969 Fred Dennis requested to host and finance the 1970 meeting in Niagra Falls . To this day we still maintain strong ties with our vendors and they generously support our meetings and events.

It seems, too, that members were willing to go very far afield during the meetings to have cocktails and a nice dinner. In 1961, The meeting in Syracuse adjourned to the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles , NY for the banquet and keynote address, some 40 miles away. Many attendees brought their spouses to our meetings, and some still bring their children. In the 1970s Bob Gutz used to bring his mother.

There were member lists kept prior to 1969, but the first official members directory was produced for 1969-70. Matthew Bender & Co. has always supported ALLUNY by paying for the printing and mailing of the directory. There was consistent and sustained growth of membership throughout the 1960s and 1970s The September 1979 newsletter indicates 20 new members joined that year. In 1981 we had 146 active members and 4 life members. This was the high point for a while. The following year there were 129 members and 6 life members. Lay-offs and down-sizing in the Reagan economy hurt membership. In 1984 we were down to 84 regular members. We didn't reach 146 members again until 1987. In 1993 we had 139 active members, 17 associates and 16 life members for a total of 172.

A President's newsletter appeared from time to time, but was never formalized as such. The minutes of the 1969 meeting indicate a lack of news and interest up to that point. The first ALLUNY Newsletter appeared in October 1971, and from its inception through the 1970s was printed and mailed for us through Matthew Bender & Co. The William S. Hein Co. Took over this task in the early 1980s. At some point the distribution reverted to Matthew Bender until 2003. In 2004 ALLUNY switched to electronic delivery. Mary Burch was the first Editor and served in that capacity until resigning in June, 1978. The newsletter has varied in style, format and content to a great degree. We used to have more placement info, news from other chapters, and AALL news than we do now, and recurring columns and committee news have come and gone as their authors came and went, or simply had the time to contribute. In the 1990s Cheryl Wolfe wrote a column called "Dear Diary" that showed great insight and humor. "Technical Tips" by a variety of authors, and Judy Lauer's "Miscellaneous Citings" seem to be the longest running contributions, aside from the President's Letter and the Editor's Corner. Ellen McGrath has been a steady contributor. Minutes from the June 1995 Board Meeting indicate 195 subscriptions to the Newsletter.

Over the years we have held numerous educational workshops on a host of topics, we've had great social events, and a few marriages, births, and alas, passings. We've been activists regarding issues that affect our profession such as publisher mergers, court records distribution, court restructuring, and others. We've incorporated microforms, CD-ROMs and Internet-based resources into our print collections. In the firms we've added document management software and push technologies to our lexicon. Through all that ALLUNY has grown and matured as an organization and been a valuable professional asset to our members for fifty years. We will surely continue to do so for the next fifty.

Landmarks:

Interested in more ALLUNY history? See our 50th Anniversary Brochure & annual meeting program (REVISED 10/2005) (4 MB pdf file) and our 40th Anniversary Brochure (1 MB pdf file).