Longtime LIC Director Betty Taylor Honored at Dunwody Banquet
Sir Walter Scott wrote, “A lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; [but] if she possesses some knowledge of these, she may venture to call herself an architect.” Professor Betty Taylor has dedicated her legal career to the study of history and literature – and for the last 40 years her architecture has included libraries, scholarly thought, and the minds of generations of students. Taylor built the Legal Information Center – twice. In 1962, only one month after becoming director, the old library in Bryan Hall and its vast collection were destroyed by fire. She single-handedly marshaled student volunteers, donations, state agencies and the university’s Physical Plant Division to rebuild the damaged collection – no small feat when one knows how difficult it is to deal with varying university bureaucracies. But, as anyone who has worked with Taylor knows, it is that dangerous combination of a strong will and sparkling personality that has always seen her through, no matter how difficult the task. In 1969, not seven years later, Taylor oversaw the expansion of the library to its new home in Holland Hall. Under her stewardship, the library has grown by leaps and bounds. It doubled its holdings in the first five years and has since tripled the collection. Today, Florida’s law library is recognized as having one of the largest collections in the country – more than 600,000 volumes. Like all good architects – those remembered beyond the life of their buildings and who leave an imprint on all works that come thereafter – Taylor is a visionary. She was the first to realize the potential of computers to influence, expand and forever change the scope of legal research. As early as 1971 – before the public envisioned such a thing as personal computers – Taylor was writing in scholarly journals about the impact computers could have on the future of libraries. When computers were still filling large rooms, Taylor was creating indexes and databases to streamline and make readily available the library’s increasing capabilities. These early efforts are the precursor to today’s indispensable Internet-based library indexing and cataloguing and Web-based information resources like Westlaw and Lexis. For these innovative achievements and her outstanding contribution to the profession, Taylor’s colleagues at the American Association of Law Libraries awarded her the prestigious Marian Gould Gallagher Award. And these efforts continue at the law school under her direction – plans for the new Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center call for one of the most technologically sophisticated libraries in the country, and incorporate many of the same visions Taylor had 30 years before. But Taylor’s most influential and beautiful project, her “Montecello,” is made up of the students who have benefited from her years of service. Among her former library workers are Florida governors, legislators, judges and numerous other state and national dignitaries – not to mention, a few former Florida Law Review members. For the last four decades, she has taught thousands of students through a variety of course offerings – most notably, for the last 20 years, her “Computers and the Law” Seminar. And, as busy as she is, Taylor still found time to serve as faculty advisor for the Internet and Computer Law Association. Her influence on students can especially be felt on the Review. Countless research editors and candidates doing Work Quarter Edits have – time and time again – silently thanked Taylor for the completeness of LIC’s paper collection, the ease with which information can be searched, and the knowledge and friendliness she instills in her staff. I know I have. But maybe she has taken such care to do these things because Taylor was a Review research editor herself. Or maybe it’s because she also has written and researched extensively – including four articles with the Review. Her July 2002 Review article, “A History of Race and Gender at the University of Florida Levin College of Law,” is a comprehensive document tracking the history of our institution through the eyes of its students, faculty and administration. And, as the law school begins to build its new exterior, Taylor – serving as her own architect and using history as her brick and literature as her mortar – is building her own monument to the institution she loves; a book detailing the long and storied “History of the University of Florida College of Law.” No doubt, a chapter could be written on her career alone. In the July 2002 issue of the Review, four colleagues wrote a tribute to Taylor to accompany her essay. In concluding, they wrote, “[we] remember Betty as a constant source of help and an equally constant, friendly, and stabilizing presence in the law school. Upon her well-earned retirement, her job will be filled, but the vacuum created by the absence of her personality among us will remain until long after the last of her career-mates has also retired.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.