Alumni Short

Cornell Law Library Wins AALL Award for Trial Pamphlets Collection

Ithaca, NEW YORK, July 15, 2013

The Cornell Law Library has won the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Law Library Publications Award in the nonprint category for their Trial Pamphlets Collection. Thomas Mills, associate director for collections and administrative services, who oversaw the project, describes the collection as "an everyman's look at legal history of the United States." The collection preserved and digitized contemporaneous accounts of important or particularly lurid trials produced for mass readership in the 17th–19th centuries.

"There's a trial pamphlet on the first time that a mother was given custody of the children in a divorce case," Mills said. "The first time the insanity defense was used. You look at how women and minorities were represented in the pamphlets and reflected in the legal system at the time."

The Law Library had acquired the collection in the 1920s, but the pamphlets were printed on poor-quality paper and were steadily deteriorating. In collaboration with the Cornell University Library Department of Preservation and Digital Consulting and Production Services, the library received a federal Saving America's Treasures grant in 2011, allowing it to preserve the pamphlets and make them available online in fully-searchable form. Mills said that while other libraries had collections that contained some of the pamphlets, few had been digitized.

The Cornell Law Library has been working with New York Heritage, a New York 3R project, to provide access to the collection through their website as well. "A number of them deal with trials held in upstate towns in the 1800s," Mills said of the pamphlets. "People can search by town and see the history of their particular town or any sort of trials that went on there."

Mills said the AALL called him March 4 to notify him that the library had won the award. The award was presented to the Law Library on July 13 at the AALL's annual meeting in Seattle.

"The Awards Committee of AALL was very impressed with the quality and professionalism of the Cornell Law Library Trial Pamphlets Collection," said Elizabeth Moore, the chair of the AALL's Awards Committee.

The Cornell Law Library had previously won the AALL Law Library Publications Award in 1998 for its website, becoming the first to receive the award in the nonprint category.

--Ian McGullam