Historical Sketch of the Faculty of Law Library

First established in September 1899 as the Kyoto Imperial University College of Law Library , the Faculty of Law Library has a history spanning more than 100 years.

In November 1902, when it was still a branch of the main university library, the library already functioned independently under the direction of the branch manager and superintendent of library purchases for the College of Law .

1916 marked the construction of the two-storey brick building known fondly for many years as “the red-brick,” which was used for the College of Law’s faculty offices and the library.

In 1919, the College of Law was reorganized into the Faculty of Law, and its library holdings were brought under joint management with those of the Faculty of Economics which had been established in the same year. Advancements such as the transition to a new classification system in 1929 were achieved under this cooperative arrangement between the Faculties of Law and Economics. However, university libraries were not immune to the economic pressures of the Showa Depression; acquisitions of foreign texts and magazines were affected significantly, and the library was forced to rationalize in such ways as eliminating duplicate acquisitions across the two faculties.

For several years beginning in the final phase of the Second World War, library acquisitions were severely curtailed, and staff numbers also shrunk dramatically as many were called up for national service, leaving just a handful of staff to run the library. This was a time of many hardships, including the work of relocating catalog cards to underground passages to protect them from the flames of war. With staff’s hard work and good fortune, however, the library managed to avoid wartime damage and keep intact its collection of works in law and political science which since pre-war times had been renowned as one of the world’s best.

On May 31, 1949, with the promulgation of the National School Establishment Act , the Faculty of Law made a fresh start as part of the new Kyoto University. As staff members returned to their former duties, the library regained its former vigor. The library’s administrative structure was revised in January 1968, with the pre-existing single library office divided into two sections: one responsible for organizing the collections and the other for user access.

In 1972, in light of the cramped storage space, expanding library functions and other factors, the “red-brick” building was demolished to make way for a new building (the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Economics North Building) with five above-ground floors and a basement to be used for the library and faculty offices for the Faculties of both Law and Economics. The Faculty of Law Library now shares the stack rooms in this building with the Faculty of Economics, with collections divided based on levels under the layout of seven above-ground and two below-ground level.

The library has since continued to respond to the demands of each new era, through initiatives such as expanding eligibility to use the library, extending service hours, and mechanizing cataloguing and lending services. Another way that the library’s services have been enriched is through adaptation to academic information formats in the IT age, including the introduction of online databases in the disciplines of law and political science.

In July 2013, a reorganization of the university’s administrative services led to some work related to organizing library collections being reassigned to a joint (humanities and social sciences) administrative office within university headquarters, and the library’s two sections responsible for organizing collections and user services were re-amalgamated into a single administrative unit, the Library Office. Today this unit works in partnership with the joint administrative office to ensure that existing library services are improved.

Library Holdings and Special Collections

It is no exaggeration to say that the development of the Faculty of Law Library over more than a century encapsulates the history of university libraries in Japan. As of March, 2021, the library’s holdings amount a total of around 737,000 works, comprising 328,000 in Japanese, and 409,000 in foreign languages. This library’s collections cover all fields of law and political science, and their reference value materials is said to be among the foremost in all of Japan.

The library also boasts the following special collections, which are of significance both within Japan and internationally.
Hatschek Collection (2,100+ materials, focusing on public law)
Thaner Collection (2,600+ materials, focusing on canon law)
Tuhr Collection (1,900+ materials, focusing on civil law)
Jescheck Collection (500+ materials, focusing on criminal law)
Kobayakawa Collection (2,000+ materials, focusing on Japanese legal history)


Kyoto University Faculty of Law Library Regulations (PDF)
Enforcement Regulations for the Kyoto University Faculty of Law Library Regulations (PDF)