Five Things You Might Not Know About the Minnesota State Law Library

Five Things You Might Not Know About the Minnesota State Law Library 800x300px

By Sarah Larsen

The Minnesota State Law Library’s mission is to promote access to justice by providing useful, timely, and responsive library services and legal information to the judiciary, legal community, and the public. Most lawyers find us when wanting to check out a book, but the State Law Library has much more to offer Minnesota attorneys. Here are five things you might not know about us:

1. The State Law Library is the oldest library in Minnesota.

The State Law Library has existed in some form for 173 years. It was established by the same enabling act that created the Territory of Minnesota in 1849. The library has a vibrant history: it has been led by 26 State Law Librarians; been housed in a tavern, a market, three State Capitols, and a former Ford factory showroom; and been damaged by three fires and flooded twice.

Currently, the State Law Library is located on the ground floor of the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul. We are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (excluding court holidays). Our current location offers plenty of quiet workspace, access to legal research materials in print and online, and free wifi.  

2. The State Law Library has the second largest legal collection in the state.

The State Law Library currently has around 400,000 books and electronic resources on the law, so chances are we can help you find the resource you need for researching your legal issues. As part of the Minnesota court system, our collection focuses heavily on Minnesota law, but we also have materials on federal issues and primary law for other states. We maintain a large collection of treatises on a variety of topics that might come before Minnesota courts. In addition, we keep older editions of Minnesota primary law, practice materials, and CLEs, so if you ever need a jury instruction from 1995, we can help with that.

As Minnesota attorneys, you can borrow items from our collection. Most items have a three-week loan period, although there are some exceptions for rare resources. We can also offer remote assistance by scanning short sections or emailing items from our online databases like Westlaw, Lexis, HeinOnline, or the National Consumer Law Center Digital Library if you do not have access.

3. The State Law Library is home to several one-of-a-kind collections.

While we provide access to Minnesota and U.S. law generally, the State Law Library is also home to a number of more specialized and unique collections. The most popular of these is our Appellate Briefs collection. The State Law Library serves as an archive for the appellate courts, and our collection includes briefs for published cases going back to the 1860s and continuing through today. (The collection also includes handwritten briefs, which thankfully is no longer the standard for attorneys!)

In addition to the print collection of briefs, we maintain a brief archive on our website. This archive contains digital versions of briefs. The archive primarily contains briefs from published cases from 2002 to present, but we add other briefs on request, so there are some older briefs and briefs from unpublished cases as well.

We also have a large collection of materials related to Minnesota legal and court history. Our collection includes materials written by and about former justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court, handwritten court rules, and other rare legal materials. The most prized item in this collection is undoubtedly the attorney rolls. From 1857 to 1983, attorneys signed the rolls at swearing in and this was used as a record of individuals authorized to practice law in Minnesota. The practice was discontinued in 1983 and moved to a computer database, and the historical rolls were digitized. The rolls contain the signatures of numerous important figures in Minnesota history, including two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, several governors, and other judges and justices. You can see digitized versions of some of our most treasured resources in the Minnesota Digital Library.

Chief Justice Gildea reinstated the practice of signing the attorney rolls in 2018, and shortly thereafter authorized the creation of interim roll books for the missing years of 1983 to 2018. If you were sworn into the bar during those years, stop by the State Law Library for your chance to add your name to a piece of legal history!


4. The State Law Library offers more than books.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but the State Law Library offers something even better: free CLE credits! We aim to offer a free CLE each month with attendance available in person or via webinar. We also have a large library of on-demand CLE credits, including elimination of bias and ethics credits.

5. And most importantly: We’re here to help!

The State Law Library has a reference librarian on duty whenever we are open, and we can’t wait to help you with your legal reference and research needs! We can’t do your research for you or write you a research memo, but we can help you access resources you don’t have at your office, identify resources that might be helpful for your questions, and brainstorm research strategies. If you’re struggling to research a legal issue, reach out to our staff for help.

Even if you can’t make it to the library in person, we can still help you – we also offer assistance by email, by phone, or by chat. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sarah-Larsen-150Sarah Larsen

Sarah Larsen is the outreach librarian for the Minnesota State Law Library.