by Brian Zylstra | June 28th, 2012
The second “candidate” for our June edition of “State Library jewels” is the State Library’s first catalog, created in 1891, just two years after Washington reached statehood.
One interesting feature is the absence of a classification system, such as the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress Classification System. According to State Library staff, the Dewey System was in use by that time and the Cutter System (on which the Library of Congress is based) was proposed, but the Washington State Library had not adopted either.
Instead, the catalog was divided by the two main departments: Law and General. The Law Department section lists all reports, digests, statute law, legal text books, and notes on common abbreviations used in legal reference. The General Department section lists the literary, scientific, historical, religious, and miscellaneous works which grew into the many collections of today’s Washington State Library.
In 1903, the State Library witnessed the creation of a State Library Commission and the separation of the law collection into a Supreme Court Library under the direction of the Assistant Librarian. In 1907, the Supreme Court Library was renamed the State Law Library, now an entirely separate agency. The state created a Law Library Committee to oversee that library. The committee was given the responsibility of appointing the State Law Librarian, who would also serve as the Deputy State Librarian. In this very same year an official card catalog was established.
Philip Dorland Moore, who was appointed State Librarian by Gov. Ferry, reminded the new State Legislature that the new State Library was just as underfunded as the old Territorial Library and “proceeded at once to record in a classified and orderly manner, the books of the library.”
Moore stated in the preface of the catalog that “it is hoped that this Catalogue will prove useful to the large and constantly increasing number of those who make use of the books in the Library.” We echo that sentiment and encourage you to search using the State Library Catalog online and added to daily.
Please do not hesitate to contact the State Library for your reference needs by email (AskALibrarian@sos.wa.gov) or by visiting them online here. The State Law Library today operates at the Temple of Justice, home of the State Supreme Court, and their catalog can be found here.
The third and final “Library jewel” for June will be unveiled Friday.