Know How

The blog of the Great Library

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Finding Hansard Online: Canada and Ontario

It is the universal dilemma of the researcher in the Digital Age: suspecting the information you seek is accessible online, but not knowing where or how to find that information. While not all of the Hansard transcripts (Debates) of the Parliament of Canada and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are available online, a significant portion has been digitized and made freely available on public websites. This blog post is meant to act as a quick guide to finding Hansard online.



Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources

This portal provides digitized versions of the debates, journals, and selected committee documentation of the Senate and the House of Commons from the 1st Session of the 1st Parliament (1867) until the end of the 1st Session of the 35th Parliament (1996).


Parliament of Canada Website

House of Commons

“House Publications” – View sitting dates by browsing through the House of Common sessions from the beginning of the 1st Session of the 35th Parliament (1994) onwards (current day). Also provides access to the Journals and Order and Notice Papers for the same time period.


“Debates of the Hansard (Senate)”– View sitting dates by browsing through the Senate sessions from the beginning of the 2nd Session of the 35th Parliament (1996) onwards (current day). Also provides access to the Journals and Order and Notice Papers for the same time period.


This research tools provides detailed information about federal bills, including direct links to debates of the Senate and House of Commons for all bills starting with the 37th Parliament in 2001.


To find Ontario debates online see our post, Ontario Hansard Then and Now.

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Law Times Ceases Weekly Print Issues

The Law Times recently announced the discontinuation of its print issues. The weekly legal tabloid “covering Ontario’s legal scene” started publishing in 1990. Its last print issue was April 29, 2019 (Vol. 30. No. 15).

Law Times competitor, The Lawyers’ Weekly moved to a digital-only daily format in 2017.

Law Times subscribers now receive a daily e-newsletter highlighting top news stories on the publication’s website.  Starting later in 2019, longer-form, less time-sensitive content will be published in a special new Law Times section in each of the 10 print issues of Canadian Lawyer.

Where to find issues of the Law Times:

  • Past issues

The Great Library has a complete run of the print issues (January 22, 1990 – April 29, 2019) in our Periodicals Collection. Currently, you can access archived weekly issues from 2008 – 2019 on the Law Times website.

  • Current issue

The latest issue, as well as daily news stories, commentary and case law summaries are available on the Law Times website.

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Doors Open: 20 Great Library Facts

It’s that time of year again! As the crabapple blossoms begin to open, Osgoode Hall prepares to welcome the public to another Doors Open Toronto on May 25 & 26. This year’s theme is 20 Something to celebrate the 20 years that the Toronto community has opened its numerous doors to the public.

Osgoode Hall is one of Toronto’s top attractions, welcoming 10,521 visitors at last year’s Doors Open. We are also celebrating the 20 years that we have participated in this wonderful event.   

In honour of 20 years of Doors Open Toronto, we have complied a list of 20 interesting facts about the Great Library.

20 Quick Facts about the Great Library

  1. The library covers three floors and over 20 rooms in Osgoode Hall.
  2. The library’s three principal rooms were built during different stages of the building’s construction: the Reference Office in 1847 (as a courtroom), the Main Reading Room in 1860 and the American Room in 1894/5.
  3. The library’s collection in 1829 consisted of 264 mainly British books.
  4. The library today provides access to approximately 120,000 print volumes and thousands of databases of digital legal information from a variety of countries including Canada, UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand.
  5. Our oldest book dates from 1531 and is a book of Roman law, written in both Latin and Greek.
  6. Last month (April 2019), library staff answered 1,838 questions either in person, by e-mail, phone, or chat.
  7. The library’s Main Reading Room is a triple cube, measuring 40 feet high by 40 feet wide by 120 feet long.
  8. The Great Library got its name in the days when Osgoode Hall Law School was still located at Osgoode Hall. The name “Great Library” was given to distinguish the larger practitioners’ library from the smaller students’ library.  
  9. The floor of the Main Reading Room is covered with cork tiles, installed in 1948. These were thought to absorb sound.
  10. The American Room was the first room in Osgoode Hall be fitted for electric light, though it was converted to gas when it was discovered that the arc lighting (also used for street lighting) was so bright it blinded the patrons.
  11. The Great Library stamped all of its books with a gold-leaf Law Society crest up until 2008.
  12. The letters VR seen in the etched glass windows of the Main Reading Room refer to Queen Victoria, the monarch at the time the room was built.
  13. The most viewed post on the library’s blog, Know How, is Greatest Legal Movies. Coincidentally, the library has been used in several movie shoots, including Flash of Genius (2008) and The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009), both of which feature scenes shot in the Main Reading Room.
  14. The architects Cumberland and Storm, who are responsible for designing the central block of Osgoode Hall (including the Main Reading Room), also designed University College at the University of Toronto.
  15. The Great Library has a staff of 17. Some have worked here for over 30 years; some for just over 6 months. 
  16. There are 16 Corinthian-style columns in the Main Reading Room. They are purely decorative and are not meant to hold up the ceiling as they are made of wood and are hollow.
  17. The Great Library was named one of Toronto’s the Most Beautiful Indoor Places by BlogTO.
  18. The WWI memorial in the library’s Main Reading Room was installed in 1928. However some of the names of fallen soldiers listed on the monument were added afterwards – two as recently as 2015. One of these names was missed when the list was originally copied and the other was added because he died during the war but not in battle.
  19. One of the first shipments of books for the library was lost at sea on its way to Canada from England in 1833. 
  20. A ghost researcher has been seen twice in the Main Reading Room. In the mid-1960s George Johnston, the head librarian, saw someone get up from a desk and walk through a wall. More recently a cleaner saw a man in the library after hours. As he approached to tell the man the library was closed, the man disappeared.

If you still need more convincing to visit us this coming weekend, watch this YouTube video shot during last year’s Doors Open highlighting the stories and experiences of Osgoode Hall visitors and volunteers.

For more information, see Explore Osgoode Hall at Doors Open 2019.

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When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Being as old as it is, it is no surprise that the Great Library at Osgoode Hall harbours many secrets. As we usher in spring (if it ever comes) with our guided library tours and with the City of Toronto event Doors Open, we hope to prepare all those who venture into the Library for the many mysteries they may encounter—and to open some doors of our own.

As grand and as impressive as it is, the Great Library did not always encompass over 20 rooms on three floors. In fact, the library was first built to be contained in a single room. Over the years it became clear that this would not be enough space and so the Library expanded, slowly but surely taking over unused and unsuspecting spaces. Needless to say, most of the rooms which now make up the Library were not originally intended to be used for such a purpose. This is especially evident in the stacks room located on the first floor.

At first, it may appear unassuming—sure, the book stacks may zig-zag through some tight spaces, but nothing truly out of the ordinary. Until, that is, we reach a seemingly ordinary door located at the far end of the room which opens to…

…another door. Which opens to…

…you guessed it—another door.

Now, this last set of doors does not lead to another set of doors, but to a very cold room with a high vaulted ceiling featuring a wall lined with many rectangular compartments.

We can hazard a guess or two on the purpose this room may have served. If we revisit the fact that the room which harbours this mysterious nook was not always a part of the Library, and combine that knowledge with the other clues that the Law Society of Ontario’s curator has discovered and reviewed in her post “It was a Dark and Stormy Night”, we can guess this room may at one point have acted as the vault for a stamp office.

Currently, this room is vacant, and only used by staff when the pages from our loose-leaf materials go missing and the need for a holding cell arises.

Oh, did I say that we had reached the end of the long line of doors?

Not quite. But this is one door that this Librarian does not have the courage (or strength) to open.

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First Time Tips: Going to Court

Leaving behind the familiar challenges of the academic arena for the professional world of legal practice can be a scary move.  While it is what your legal education has been working to prepare you for, there are other resources available that can help make the transition as smooth as possible.

The Student Issue of LAWPRO Magazine is devoted to preparing law students and new lawyers for the momentous and intimidating leap from the academic to the practice setting. From tips on how to avoid cyber dangers to advice on how to prepare for your first day in court—the latter being the feature of this post—LAWPRO Magazine: Student Issue has got you covered.

The First Timer’s Going to Court Cheat Sheet is an excellent resource that explains the ins and outs of court procedure—what to expect, when to expect it and what is expected from you—as well as the do’s and don’ts of counsel’s behaviour. This article offers advice on what to wear, where to stand, how to act and what to say in court. Need to reference courtroom etiquette and procedure in a pinch? Rely on this helpful Cheat Sheet.

And, of course, the Great Library is here to supplement whatever informational resources are available to you. Whether it’s to bolster the legal research skills you’ve developed in law school or to act as a guide through the simpler to more complex research, the library staff is here to help.

Photo of Brockville courtroom by P199