Historic Iowa Documents

The following was originally an e-mail, but I thought the information was interesting enough that I wanted to pass it on. So with permission from the author, Mandy Easter, Law Librarian of Iowa Library Services/State Library – Law Library. [Note: I don’t have the rights to a photo of the law library so this is an interesting look at the Old Capitol where the earlier laws are written. It was taken a few years ago during the Herkys All Over art campaign and this is Herbert Hoover Herky with a bag of food relief for Belgium on his back. It was purchased by and now held at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.]

All libraries strive to collect and preserve the documents pertinent to their local histories and those efforts constitute one of the most important and appreciated aspects of our community-sustaining activities.

Last Friday, April 12th, an article entitled “Early Iowa Documents Now Online,” by MacKenzie Elmer of the Associated Press, appeared on page 2B of the Des Moines Register and praised State Library staff for their three-year effort to make more than 450,000 historical state documents available to anyone with Internet access.

Hard copies of every Iowa legislative bill, act and territorial agreement dating back to 1838–eight years before Iowa became a state–were shipped to the Law Library Microform Consortium in Kaneohe, Hawaii to be scanned and posted online.  Most of the work involving 583 volumes of history was done free of charge, saving the state approximately $108,000.  The Law Library Microform Consortium is a 37-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission it is to preserve and digitize legal documents.  Its roughly 500 international library subscribers pay to access its treasure trove of history.  Iowa was the first state to participate in the project and Maine is the second.  The consortium hopes other states will eventually participate, as well.
“Essentially, we’ll have one of the most complete freely accessible collections of historical state legal materials in the country,” Law Librarian Cory Quist says in the article.

The scanned and posted documents include all of Iowa’s historical Codes and territorial laws; Acts of the Iowa General Assembly; House and Senate journals; original legislative bills and amendments, whether or not they became law; Interim Study Committee Final Reports; Iowa Official Registers (Red Books); and legal opinions of Iowa’s Attorney General.  Even the legal publishing giants Westlaw and LexisNexis–which provide access to their databases for a fee–cannot provide this depth of historical access to Iowa’s legal documents.

The “Roses & Thistles” column in the April 14th Sunday Des Moines Register, page 2OP, gives a symbolic “rose” to State Library employees and Hawaii’s Law Library Microform Consortium for the digitization project which “…will make Iowa history easily accessible for future generations.”

These historical documents are posted on the General Assembly’s website at [www.legis.iowa.gov][1].  Click on “Archives” in the top tool bar and then click on “On the Shelves” in the left-hand navigation bar.  The Law Library’s staff is happy to help you and your patrons with requests for historical legal materials.  Some of the most popular questions we’re asked involve the date on which a section of the Code first became law and/or how a particular law read at a specific point in time.  Remember that we also house historical judicial decisions, Iowa appellate court briefs, Iowa’s Constitutional Convention debates, governors’ executive orders, state agency annual reports, and many other materials that preserve Iowa’s legal history for your use today. Call us at 515-281-5124 or toll-free at 1-800-248-4483 or e-mail us at  law at lib.state.ia.us.

Enjoy this week…your week…our week!

Mandy Easter, Law Librarian
Iowa Library Services/State Library – Law Library
State Capitol Building, Room 200
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

I just want to chime in and say how very helpful I’ve found the law library for legal questions both historical and current and it was recently named one of the 6 most beautiful libraries in the world and who can argue? (Although they don’t let you climb the spiral staircases and if any staircase ever called out to be climbed it’s these.) http://ht.ly/km1K3


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Sarah Uthoff - Trundlebed Tales

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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