A Look Back at California Western’s Remarkable Journey
Building the First Law Library of the 21st Century

Phyllis C. Marion already had a hand in building two law libraries when she arrived at California Western in 1995 to join the committee planning the first law library of the 21st century.

Marion is now Associate Dean for Library and Information Resources, and her office sits in a building that still looks as modern as it did in 2000, the year it was dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“We wanted a building that was user friendly,” Marion says. “We wanted a building that was a pleasant place for staff to work in—one that really encouraged library use.”

The building committee also wanted to create a library that was on the cutting edge of 21st century technology—that was and is—seemingly evolving at the speed of an electron.

“We wanted a technologically sophisticated building,” Marion says. “In trying to do that, you’ve got a moving target. We’re always trying to stay ahead with technology.”

As library resources increasingly become electronic, fewer books will sit on the shelves, Marion says.

“Books won’t disappear—certain information is still only available in books,” she says. “But I think there will be fewer and fewer volumes as students will be more dependent upon online resources.”

The old California Western library was not a user friendly or pleasant place at all.

“We were crammed in the basement of the 350 building,” Marion says. “There were no windows, no vista, no ambiance at all.”

That’s why the new library was designed to be everything the old library was not.

“We have wide aisles, lots of windows, lots of vista,” she says.

And lots of ambiance.

“It’s a very enticing building to be in,” Marion says. At the same time, students don’t have to come to the library to access its many resources, but they still do—to study and to get first-rate service from the library staff that Marion is so proud of.

“I love the staff,” she says. “I think they are all talented. They work very hard.”

Thinking back to 2000, Marion feels it was a coup to have Justice Kennedy as the dedication keynote speaker.

“To have him lead the dedication was really good for us,” she says. “And he’s remained a good friend. We have the Kennedy Scholars and he maintains a connection with the school.”

Fourteen years into the 21st century, Marion feels they succeeded in their mission.

“I’m proud of the library every time I walk into it.”