The Appellate Division Law Library for the 4th Department
was established in 1849 and has a long and distinguished history.
The Library actually pre-dates the court for which it is currently
named by almost fifty years.
When the State adopted a new constitution in 1848, which abolished the Court of Chancery and the Office of the Chancellor, the Chancellor's large legal library in Albany became available for other purposes. After much lobbying from local communities, it was decided to split the Chancellor's collection, sending half to Rochester and half to Syracuse. Those libraries were named Court of Appeals Libraries. The collection of approximately 1,000 books transferred to Rochester became the core collection of the Appellate Division Law Library. This core collection - currently housed in the library's Rare Book Room - is still known today by the name of the last Chancellor, Reuben Hyde Walworth. The oldest book in the collection was printed in 1565. The second Rochester Courthouse was under construction in 1849, and it became the library's first home upon completion in 1850.
The library moved to the third Rochester Courthouse when it was constructed in 1896. This building also housed the new Appellate Division Court. Pursuant to Chapter 258 of the Laws of 1900, the library was renamed the Appellate Division Law Library. Chapter 258 also transferred administrative control of the library to the justices of that Court. By that time, the library had grown significantly from its initial 1,000 volume collection to approximately 25,000 volumes, making it one of the largest law libraries in the nation. It also remained open to the public, making it the only public appellate court library in New York.
As the Library approaches its 160th anniversary, it continues to rank among the largest court libraries in the nation. Its collections have grown to include 300,000 volumes, a massive microform collection, audio and video materials, and many electronic databases. It is also one of the first court libraries to have developed a substantial reference collection available on a free CD-ROM network, and to hire a librarian specifically dedicated to the task of maintaining and enhancing electronic legal resources. Though the CD-ROM network has faded into history, the library now has free on-line access to lexis, loislaw, heinonline and other legal and general databases. Wireless access has been available to library patrons since 2005. The majority of the print collection is shelved in open stacks and is readily available to patrons of the library. Some superseded materials are housed in a basement archive which is not open to the public. The staff will retrieve materials from the archive upon request.
The Library has a staff of twelve. All staff members are available to help library users locate materials, answer questions concerning library content, and explain library services. None of the staff members is an attorney and the staff cannot answer questions which involve the interpretation of laws. Limited assistance is available via telephone.
The Fourth Department consists of the counties within the Fifth (Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, Oneida, Herkimer, and Onondaga counties), Seventh (Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Cayuga, Yates, Livingston, and Steuben Counties), and Eighth (Niagra, Orleans, Genesee, Erie, Wyoming, Chataugua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany Counties) Judicial Districts - twenty-two western New York counties stretching westward from the Adirondack Mountains to Lake Erie.