When the Houston College of Law was founded in 1923 at the YMCA of downtown Houston, under the name of “Houston College of Law School of Law,” the institution owned no books and utilized the collection of the Harris County Law Library. The library’s collection began in 1924, with a gift of books from Judge Edgar E. Townes, establishing a private library of more than 600 volumes. The collection continued to grow over the next thirty years. By 1953, when Herman L. Mead published a bound copy of the Houston College of Law College Law Library Catalog, the bibliography filled 58 pages. The college’s catalog from 1954-55 listed a collection of 7,000 volumes.
John R. Rodell became the first “librarian” at Houston College of Law in 1952, when he was given the title of “Librarian and Bursar.” He was followed by Garland Walker in 1959, who held the title of “Professor and Law Librarian,” before becoming an associate dean and, later, the law school’s dean in 1968. Georgia A. Myers became “Law Librarian” in 1961, and was succeeded by John W. Ellis in 1965.
By 1964, the law school and library had moved from quarters at the downtown YMCA to a building that had housed a former car dealership. Today, that building has been extensively remodeled and is known as the Cullen Building, comprising one of the three sections of the current law school.
Frances H. Thompson assumed the helm in 1966, and served as the college’s sole library employee for seven years before hiring assistants and additional reference librarians. When the college’s 1972-73 catalog was published, the collection had multiplied nearly eight times in twenty years to 55,000 volumes. Under Mrs. Thompson’s direction, the library entered the electronic age. A computer terminal devoted to WestLaw System access was installed in the fall of 1980. The library’s three-section oak card catalog migrated online during the fall semester of 1995, using a cataloging software called Innopac. Mrs. Thompson served as the library’s director for 21 years, until her retirement in 1987.
Ann Puckett, the former Associate Director of the Northwestern University Law Library in Chicago, was named Director of The Houston College of Law Library in 1987. During her seven years of leadership, the library was remodeled and expanded, and several new staff positions were added. The library’s volume count reached a quarter million in 1987, and the college commemorated the event by purchasing a facsimile, translation, and analysis of The Will of Aethelgifu. The Will is historically significant as evidence of female personal property ownership during the tenth century.
David G. Cowan, the current Vice President & Director of Library Services, arrived in 1994 from Baylor University College of Law, where he served as Library Director and head of the legal research and writing program. Professor Cowan has supervised the planning and construction of The Fred Parks Law Library, which was completed in 2001. The new facility has 72,304 square feet of floor space composed of two sections: the renovated original library located in the Cullen Building, and a new six-story library capped by a conference center and terrace. The new library is named after Fred Parks, a 1937 Houston College of Law alumnus who achieved great success as a trial lawyer in Houston. For a biography of Mr. Parks, visit the Fred Parks biography page at: http://www.stcl.edu/library/Fred_Parks.html.
At present, The Fred Parks Law Library has a staff of 11 professional librarians and 14 support staff, in addition to several part-time work-study employees. Ten of the librarians possess a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science; five possess dual degrees -- a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) as well as the Master’s Degree; and four are licensed to practice law, variously in the states of Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas. The library has computer labs for student access, offers laptop hook-ups throughout the library, and has wireless capability. In addition to print and microform sources, the library subscribes to electronic databases and indexes designed for legal and academic research. The library soon will purchase its half-millionth volume. A committee currently is selecting the official 500,000th volume and is planning the celebration.