The St. Louis County Law Library consists of three branches, one in each courthouse in the County. The Library is organized under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 134A, and governed by a Board of Trustees. The Library provides services in the area of law to all area residents.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAW LIBRARY
The St. Louis County Law Library had its beginning in January of 1889. The Duluth Bar Library Association, made up of a group of Duluth attorneys, was organized by Mr. Thomas J. Davis, who was later referred to as “the father of the library”. Contributions of personal legal collections were made by local attorneys and the library was housed in the First National Bank Building on Superior Street.
In 1901 the library was moved to larger quarters in the Torrey Building on Superior Street in Duluth. This move was organized by Mr. Davis, who later retired from his position as president of the library.
The first librarian, Miss Emma Hicks, became associated with the library as assistant librarian and in the year 1903 as librarian and treasurer.
In 1910 the county commissioners and the Duluth Bar Library entered into a contract under which the county furnished the library space on the fifth floor of the new St. Louis County Courthouse and assumed the care of the volumes in the collection. Under the contract the judges of the district court and the county officials of St. Louis County had free use of the library, and the Duluth Bar Library Association agreed to buy all the books and keep them up-to-date. The library was used by attorneys from St. Louis, Cook, Lake, Carlton counties in Minnesota, as well as Douglas County in Wisconsin. Teachers and students were also welcome to visit library.
In 1983 the Duluth Bar Library Association petitioned the Sixth Judicial District court to establish the St. Louis County Law Library, with libraries in the Hibbing, Virginia and Duluth Courthouses. The County and the Association agreed to a joint venture, establishing a Board of Trustees and a system of collecting court filing fees to provide for operating expenses. The library became a public law library, for use by all citizens of St. Louis County. That system continues today.
The Billson Collection:
In 1889, William W. Billson joined the 1st Board of Directors for Duluth Law Library and added his collection to the Law Library. His historic collection can be seen on display in the Billson Meeting Room in the Law Library in Duluth.
Mr. Billson was appointed as a U.S. District Attorney for Minnesota and also served multiple terms in the Minnesota State Senate before returning to Duluth and joining the Board of Directors for the Duluth Law Library.
Mr. Billson was best known for his partnership in the law firm of Billson, Congdon & Dickinson, established in 1893. The firm consisted of Mr. Billson, Duluth business mogul Chester A. Congdon, and Judge Daniel A. Dickinson. This partnership continued until 1902, when Judge Dickinson died, and from that time on, until 1904.
More information about Mr. Billson can be found with his collection in the Billson Meeting Room.