old black and white image of Chastek Library

 Born under the motto “a first class law school or none at all,” Gonzaga University School of Law opened its doors on October 1, 1912. Its doors happened to be to two classrooms on the third floor of what is now the Administration Building. While the library committee, which included the Law School’s first dean, Edward J. Cannon and Professor Ben Kizer, negotiated the purchase of a complete law library, law students used the Spokane County Bar Association Library.

The History of Chastek Library

In 1912, Gonzaga University decided to establish a law school. But the University’s plans for its new law school included two audacious goals: To produce excellent attorneys and to contribute to the development of the region’s legal institutions. 

The law library grew steadily through its infancy, making good on the promises in the Law School’s 1913-14 catalog which stated that students would “have the use of a well-equipped working library separate from the other libraries of the University.” In January 1913 the library acquired Washington Statutes and Reports and the American Encyclopedia of Law. The 300-volume library, serving the first law class of 19 students, was then given its own room.

As the Law School grew, so did the law library, through the shrewd collection development and acquisition policies that still govern today. In 1937, University President Father Leo Robinson, S.J., raised $500 and bought duplicate volumes from the county law library for 10 cents apiece. But the library’s growth hiccupped on December 10, 1941. Just three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a fire, apparently started by smoldering cigarette butts in a garbage can burned the library’s annex. It took $6,119.06 and nearly a full year to repair the damage.

In the fall of 1948, Miss Emily Ehlinger was appointed the law library’s first full-time law librarian. The library continued to grow and it received many significant donations, such as the 6,000-volume legal library of State Supreme Court Justice W.H. Abel Montesano in 1953. This addition increased the library’s collection to 56,270 volumes. By 1962, the library claimed to be the “only law library in the country that never closes its doors.” Although the library was open 24 hours, the stacks were not open to students, making both students and the American Bar Association unhappy. Both the Law School and its library had outgrown its rooms on the third floor of the Administration Building.


University President Father John Leary, S.J., seized the day when Spokane School District 81 put a nearby vacant grade school up for bid in July 1962. Webster School, built in 1901 and damaged by fire in 1945, had been restored as a trade school only to be left empty by 1962. Father Leary acquired the building for $115,000. The old Webster School would be the home of the Law School and its growing law library for the next thirty-eight years. Until the mid-1970s, the law library was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, often unstaffed and run on the honor system.

In the 1970s, the Law School expanded its night school schedule and began offering day classes for the first time. The Law School grew exponentially. The Law School underwent several renovations in the early 1970s. On November 7, 1971, the Law School dedicated a new wing of the library. Further renovations in 1972 and 1973 also changed the shape of the library.

By the 1990s, the law school had expanded beyond the old Webster School and occupied several adjacent buildings as well. And still the Law School grew. Under Dean John Clute, the Law School kicked off its first major, and very successful, fundraising campaign to build a new law school which opened its doors in May 2000. The Class of 2000 was the last to graduate from the old law building. This building on the banks of the Spokane River has been recognized for not only its aesthetic charm but also its functionality.

The law library, the heart of the Law School, is now named after a distinguished 1940 graduate, longtime professor, and friend of the law school and his wife, Chester and Catherine Herrick Chastek.


Chastek Library is a bit larger now and contains 250,000 volumes and stretches over three floors of the Law School. In recognition of the central role of the library to the Law School community, Chastek Library also houses the Academic Success Program, the Dean of Students, and the Law School’s IT office. Nine library staff members meet the needs of the students and faculty by combining the best of traditional library practices with the best of technology. Chastek Library’s reach has grown past its own collections and extends to the collections of libraries worldwide. With a staff dedicated to meeting the research and information needs of the faculty and students, Chastek Library celebrates its past and looks forward to its future.


Law Library Directors

Emily Ehlinger, 1948 – 1974
Gerald Magavero, 1975 – 1979
Dennis Stone, 1980 – 1984
James Murray, 1984 – 1991
Arturo Lopez Torres, 1991 – 2000
June Stewart, 2000 – 2006
Linda Kawaguchi, 2007 – 2012
Patrick Charles, 2013 – Present