Know How

The blog of the Great Library


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Airing Out the Rare Books

As a library, we often highlight the shiny new books we acquire and neglect those books that have been here for years, perhaps even over a hundred years.

Established in 1826, the Great Library has quite a collection of older books and documents. What might come as a surprise to some frequent users of the library is that there is a small room only accessible to library staff that contains our rare book collection. While the room is staff only, avid bibliophiles and researchers may request items to be retrieved from this collection for study in the library.

The Great Library does not currently collect rare books, and so the contents of this collection has not changed much over the past years. A great many of these books were donated by prominent members of the legal profession back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Signatures or bookplates found in our rare books feature notable names such as John Beverley Robinson, Robert Baldwin, and William Riddell. While the subject matter of many of these donations may seem somewhat out-of-place in a 21st century legal practitioners’ library, the provenance, or history, of the book as an object often provides insight into the history of the legal profession and the Law Society in Ontario. For example, we have beautiful 17th century copies of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. While these types of classic texts were often used as a basis for bar examinations during the 19th century, they are not so relevant to the current law student.

We are now working on a project to clean and assess the condition of our rare books, so that we may continue to preserve them for future research. In doing this work, we have come across quite a few interesting books. Occasionally it’s not even the subject matter of the book that is most interesting, but what has been added by the owners. So far we’ve found letters from the Library of Parliament, dried flowers, beautifully illustrated maps, and tons of signatures and dedications. Stay tuned in the coming months for blog posts that highlight some of the fascinating rare books we have in our collection.


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Another Sign of Summer

This week the Great Library switches over to summer hours. For the months of July and August, we will be closed on Friday evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays.

Great Library Summer Hours

Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Friday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

While we may be closed over the weekends, you can still access great resources and research supports through our website. Check out our updated Research Guides, free Law Society CPD articles on AccessCLE, and valuable tips and articles through this blog.

For additional information about our hours of service see Library Hours.


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Law Society Improves Access to Current CPD Materials by Lifting Embargo

Great news for legal practitioners, researchers and law librarians! The Law Society of Ontario has eliminated its embargo on new CPD materials available through AccessCLE. Now even the most recently added papers from 2019 programs are free to print or download in PDF format.

Continuing professional development (CPD) program materials are an invaluable source of current legal information. Papers typically cover the practical implications of recent case law and legislative developments, and often include useful precedents, procedure and checklists.

You’ll find Law Society CPD papers from 2004 to the current month on AccessCLE. This free resource lets you browse for programs and papers by area of law and year, or search the full-text of these materials by keyword. 

Here’s a sample search for information on adjudications under the new Ontario Construction Act:

The search results below include materials from a June 2019 CPD program, Practice Gems: Working with the New Construction Act.

Papers from the last 18 months were previously available in “read-only” format, but now relevant current materials such as these can be downloaded or printed for free.


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New Books – Early Summer 2019

Recent additions to our collection include books covering a range of topics, from smart contracts and blockchain law to the Colten Boushie trial.

New Canadian titles:

Canadian Construction Contracts Guidebook by Smith. KF 902 S65 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

  • Meant to act as a guide for lawyers, owners, contractors, consultants or any person involved in a construction project in Canada, The Canadian Construction Contracts Guidebook tackles the many issues and challenges associated with the negotiation of a construction contract. This item provides an overview of all the major sections encountered in a typical construction and also applies to different type of contracts such as: fixed price, cost-reimbursable, design-build and construction management. Where applicable, it also includes precedent language which can be used when drafting the construction contract. This item also covers such topics as pricing models, forms and agreements, performance of the work, payment of the work, completion of the work and liability.

Making Parenting Plans in Canada’s Family Justice System: Challenges, Controversies and the Role of Mental Health Professionals by Birnbaum & Bala. KF 547 B58 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

  • Focused on the major challenges in the field of parenting assessment, Making Parenting Plans in Canada’s Family Justice System: Challenges, Controversies and the Role of Mental Health Professionals acts as a guide for mental health professionals and any party that works with high-conflict separating and/or divorcing parents. This item focuses on relocation, domestic violence, special needs children and children’s participation in family law disputes, four substantive topics which legal and mental health practitioners encounter most often when conducting parenting assessments. With other chapters which speak to domestic violence, family court and the law of expert evidence, Making Parenting Plans in Canada’s Family Justice System works to guide the legal or mental health practitioner in conducting informed, comprehensive and competent parenting assessments.

A Practical Guide to Smart Contracts and Blockchain Law by Grinhaus. KF 1030 .E4 G75 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor. 

  • A Practical Guide to Smart Contracts and Blockchain Law works to provide a comprehensive overview of how such financial technologies as Blockchain, smart contracts and distributed ledger technology fit into new and existing legal frameworks. While exploring the trends and developments of financial technologies, this item sheds some light on how their associated legal issues will affect and influence such topics as:  securities issues, tax considerations, business structuring, proceeds of crime and anti-money laundering, smart contracts, fundraising and social causes, security issues for cryptographic assets wallets, insolvency law and risk management for lawyers. With other chapters highlighting intellectual property, Canadian insolvency Law and the risks lawyers face when practising in the Blockchain Space, this item works to provide a deeper understanding of the legal landscape any legal professional should expect to face when working with financial technologies.

A Practical Guide to the Charter: Section 11(b) by Gold et al. KF 9223.4 G65 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

  • This slim but practical guide focuses on how the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 decision in R v Jordan changed the way the Charter’s section 11(b) guarantee of trial within a reasonable time is interpreted and applied. The book alerts counsel to key post-Jordan case law and issues, such as defence delay, over and under ceiling cases and use of Jordan at the sentencing stage. It also includes useful appendices of rules, precedent court documents and case charts.

Public-Private Partnerships in Canada: Law, Policy and Value for Money by Murphy. KF 849 M87 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

  • This text begins by surveying the history and current context for public-private partnerships (P3s) in all Canadian jurisdictions. It then moves on to cover the all relevant aspects of P3s, including procurement, risk allocation financing, dispute resolution and Indigenous P3 projects.

Variations on the Theme of Contract by Fridman. KF 801 F75 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

  • Professor Fridman’s final work is not your standard contract law text, but rather an engaging collection of essays structured around a musical theme. Its “prelude” and “variations” examine key and complex aspects of contract law, including freedom of contract, consideration, privity, estoppel, misrepresentation, mistake, interpretation, contractual terms, performance, frustration and unjust enrichment. Completed posthumously by Professor Rick Bigwood.

Updated Canadian editions:

The Annotated Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 and Regulations by Taylor. KF 2042 .R4 T39 2019/2020 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

Dispositions Without Trial, 3rd ed., by van Kessel and Upenieks. KF 8999 V36 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

The Law of Fraud and the Forensic Investigator, 6th ed., by Debenham. KF 9365 D43 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

Oosterhoff on Trusts, 9th ed. KF 730 O57 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

New U.K. and U.S. titles:

Estate Planning for the Muslim Client by Ali & Shaikh. (U.S.) KF 750 A45 2019 / 1st Floor.

Regulation, Compliance and Ethics in Law Firms by Calvert. (U.K.) KF 300 C35 2018 / 1st Floor.

The Right to be Forgotten: Interpretation and Practice by Lambert. (U.K.) KF 1263.C6 L36 2019 / 1st Floor

Circulating books:

Canadian Justice, Indigenous Injustice: The Gerald Stanley and Colten Boushie Case by Roach. HV 6535 .C22 S27 2019 / Circulating Collection, 2nd Floor.

Two Firsts: Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada by Backhouse. KF 345 .Z9 A1 B34 2019 / Circulating Collection, 2nd Floor.


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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.