Tag Archives: Law Center History

Anniversary of the Kent State tragedy

On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on anti-war protesters at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others. The events at Kent State happened just as final exams for the Spring Semester were about to begin at the Georgetown Law Center. On May 6, 1970, Adrian Fisher, Dean of the Law Center, wrote a memo to the Law Center community which addressed the situation. The letter now resides in the Law Center Archives, located in 210 Williams. The memo began:

“Recognizing that the events of the past week – the entry of American troops into Cambodia, the Kent State University killings – have given rise to crises in the consciences of many individuals which affect their ability to follow traditional Law Center procedures, and in order to allow those members of the Administration, Faculty, and Student Body of the Law Center to act upon their individual consciences in this crisis, the Law Center alters the Spring 1970 Term examination schedule in the following way.”

The memo outlined three options for students regarding the taking of final exams or submission of legal writing papers.

  • Take the exam or submit the paper as originally scheduled.
  • Take a delayed exam or submit a delayed paper. The memo specified a due date for delayed exams and papers to be turned in to the Registrar’s Office.
  • Take an “administrative pass”, which allowed the student to opt out of taking an exam altogether. Students had to notify the Registrar’s Office of their intention to exercise this option; for those students a note would be attached to their transcript stating the reason for the administrative pass. If a student later found that the administrative pass would not meet bar admission criteria, he/she could arrange to take a delayed exam at a time to be worked out with the Registrar’s Office.

Dean Fisher’s memo was a sensitive and compassionate response to an extraordinary set of circumstances. However, he made sure to note that the special conditions outlined in the memo applied only to the Spring 1970 term. He noted, “This action relates solely to the situation existing at this time and shall have no precedental force.”

It was 40 years ago this summer …

GU Law Library "Verso", May 4, 1977

GU Law Library “Verso”, May 4, 1977










May 4 marks “Star Wars Day” — May the “fourth” be with you!  The original “Star Wars” was released on May 25, 1977.  Because of all the sequels and prequels it has spawned, it’s now known as “Episode IV”.  Go figure!   How many times did we line up to see “Star Wars” in theaters and marvel at the work of Industrial Light and Magic?!

The summer of 1977 marked a milestone for the GU Law Library, too:  the introduction of the library’s first OCLC terminal. The May 4, 1977 edition of “Verso”, a library newsletter, had this illustration on its front page, a fun comment on library high-tech of the time. “Verso” is contained in the records of the Law Library, part of the Law Center Archives, located in 210 Williams.

The OCLC terminal arrived on June 15, 1977. Automated processes and procedures are now so commonplace in libraries that we hardly think about them. In 1977 they were cutting edge.   The lead story in “Verso” of August 20, 1977 focused on all the untapped possibilities of the new system:

“The uses of OCLC for cataloging are the best known and card production is the most developed function. However, Charlotte Uthoff, our OCLC trainer from George Washington University, made it clear in her talk on June 15 that cataloging is one subsystem of OCLC and that the potential uses of the system are much broader.

Already a number of libraries are checking in serials on-line in a pilot test of that subsystem of OCLC. OCLC can be used by acquisitions as a fast and convenient tool for verifying bibliographic information. Information needed for inter-library loan is available through OCLC as the bibliographic record for each entry includes the symbols of libraries that hold that title. Potentially, a subsystem could be developed so that inter-library loan requests could be generated automatically, just as catalog cards can now be processed by pressing a couple of buttons. Another public service function that could be performed using OCLC is that of compiling bibliographies. While a subject search is not yet available, searches can be made on authors, titles, series, and other added entries such as joint authors or editors. It is also hoped than an automated circulation system compatible with OCLC can be developed.

So when you think of OCLC, think first of cataloging and then beyond!”

Forty years later, the GU Library continues to use technology in many innovative ways to serve Law Center students, staff, faculty, and the wider scholarly world.