How The Court Works | Library Support
The primary mission of the Supreme Court Library is to assist the Justices in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities by providing them with the best support in the most efficient, ethical and economic manner. To this end, the Library has a dedicated staff of twenty-nine and a collection of over 600,000 print volumes, 200,000 microforms, and a wide variety of electronic resources. The collection is particularly rich in federal and state primary law, British case law, and treatises on constitutional law and history. The electronic resources complement and expand the collection, enabling the Research Librarians to support the wide-ranging legal and non-legal research needs of the Justices and their law clerks.
[Photo Credit: Supreme Court of the United States]
The Library’s resources are available not only to the Justices and their law clerks but also to the Court officers, more than 400 Court support staff, members of the Supreme Court Bar, members of the Congress and their legal staff, and government attorneys. By special written arrangement with the Librarian of the Court, access to the Library is also available to visiting scholars in need of materials uniquely available in the Library’s collection.
The Court Library was officially created in 1935 with the opening of the Supreme Court Building. Prior to that time, the Justices used their personal collections, the collections of the Library of Congress and, by the mid-nineteenth century, a private Conference Room collection. The position of Librarian began in 1887 as part of the Office of the Marshal, to maintain this collection and those in chambers. With the increased library functions in the new building, the Librarian position became the Court’s fourth statutory officer in 1948. Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Supreme Court Building, designed grand spaces for Library use, including a Reading Room for the Bar, a Private Library for the Justices, and a “Special Library” to house a Rare Books Collection. The Special Library never served that purpose, however, and now houses library staff.
For further reading about the Supreme Court Library, please see the following articles:
Clarke, the Library of the Supreme Court of the United States, 31 Law Libr. J. 89 (1938).
Hudon, The Library Facilities of the Supreme Court of the United States: A Historical Study, 34 U. Det. L.J. 181 and 317 (1956) (in 2 parts). Portions of this article were excerpted and reprinted in 19 Fed. B.J. 185 (1959) and 59 Law Libr. J. 166 (1966).
Dowling, the United States Supreme Court Library, in Law Librarianship: Historical Perspectives 3 (L. Gasaway & M. Chiorazzi eds. 1996).
Gaskell, Supreme Service: The Supreme Court of the United States Library, 15 Trends L. Libr. Mgmt. & Tech. 4 (2004)