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The San Francisco Law Library filed a lawsuit this month against the City and County of San Francisco, alleging that officials are violating a City Charter provision that mandates proper funding and adequate space for the law library.
San Francisco has allegedly violated the charter provision since 1995.
The San Francisco Law Library is an autonomous agency established by state law in 1870 to provide free access and use of legal reference materials. It was the first county law library in the state of California, and most of its funding is provided from court filing fees.
For decades, the library shared part of the fourth floor of San Francisco's lovely, domed City Hall with the Superior Courts. It had additional space in the building as well. But then the 1989 earthquake struck. In 1995, City Hall closed for seismic retrofitting, and the library was relocated to the nearby Veterans War Memorial Building.
The library isn't too happy with its "cramped, leaky, and damaged" replacement digs.
The City Charter requires that San Francisco provide "suitable and sufficient quarters for the Law Library," in addition to a Librarian, Assistant Librarian, and funds for utilities. Library officials claim that the current, 14,000 square foot space is too small for the library's collection, and that two-thirds of the collection are housed in "inaccessible and environmentally unsafe" storage.
So far, that may sound like a bunch of whining, but there is a looming threat to the law library: The Veterans building is set to close for renovation in May 2013, which means that the library will be without a home unless the city finds a new space.