A Bit of CALL History: Portrait of Kurt Schwerin

Artwork from Pritzker Legal Research Center

Kurt Schwerin
This oil painting of Kurt Schwerin (artist and date unknown) hangs in the Pritzker Legal Research Center.

Northwestern University’s Pritzker Legal Research Center is home to several fascinating works of art in a variety of forms, including this oil painting of Kurt Schwerin—a former CALL president from 1958 to 1959.

Schwerin was born in 1902 in Beuthen, Upper Silesia (now a part of Poland). He later moved to the United States, where he earned the following degrees:

  • Master of Social Science, New School for Social Research, New York (1940);
  • Bachelor of Science in Library Science, Columbia University (1944); and
  • PhD in History, Columbia University (1955).

In 1948, Schwerin was employed by Northwestern University’s law library to help develop the library’s foreign law collection, which “would become one of the leading collections of its kind in the country.”* In 1953, he was promoted to assistant librarian, and in 1958, he became an associate professor. Although it was unusual for the head librarian to be chosen from among existing staff, Schwerin held this position from 1964 to 1970. He also served as a professor of law, despite the fact that he never attended law school.

Schwerin’s papers are held by the Northwestern University Library, in its Archival and Manuscript Collection. A guide to Schwerin’s papers, and additional information about his fascinating career, can be found here.

*Chicago Association of Law Libraries, Chicago Association of Law Libraries Handbook for Officers & Committee Chairs (August 2013) 

Kaitlin Gaffney, who submitted this article, was a former Library Assistant at Pritzker Legal Research Center. She is now a Library Specialist and Stacks Supervisor at Emory University’s law library in Atlanta, Georgia.