Osgoode Hall Law School Library
Osgoode Hall Law School, founded in 1889 by the Law Society of Upper Canada, is Canada’s second-oldest law school and the country’s largest common-law law school. The School takes its name from Osgoode Hall, built on Queen St. in Toronto in 1829, as the home of the Law Society and to the law school until its affiliation with and move to York University in 1968. The library’s history can be traced back to February 2, 1892, when Thomas Brown Phillips Stewart (1865–1892), an Osgoode student-at-law and poet, died tragically at the early age of 27, before he could graduate.
Phillips Stewart bequeathed his estate (the then-considerable sum of $7,599.65) to the Law Society of Upper Canada and directed that the annual income should be “expended by a Committee of Benchers in the purchase of law books for the Law School”. Many of the library’s older books still bear on their spines the stamp “PSL” for “Phillips Stewart Library.” Indeed, it was to distinguish itself from this new “Students’ Library” that the barristers’ library at Osgoode Hall began to refer to itself as the “Great Library,” and is still known today as The Great Library of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
When the Law School was affiliated with York University in the 1960s, Balfour Halévy was appointed founding Chief Law Librarian, with a mandate to design a library for the new school and to build a library collection equal to the school’s status as the largest common-law law school in Canada. Starting with the Phillips Stewart collection, which was moved to York from old Osgoode Hall on Queen Street, Halévy developed a collection that was already the largest law library in Canada. In the process, he assembled a significant collection of early English and American legal materials and, most important, the largest collection of legal Canadiana anywhere. When the library first opened in 1969, it was known as the York University Law Library and functioned as a unit of York University Libraries. In 1998, the Law School assumed full administrative responsibility for the library and its name was changed to Osgoode Hall Law School Library.
Osgoode Hall Law School Library’s mission is to support the intensive research and innovative teaching for which Osgoode Hall Law School is known, by collecting, organizing, preserving and disseminating legal and law-related information in any form; by providing effective service and instruction; and by exploiting electronic information systems to provide access to new information products and services. Our vision is to be a leader in the innovative provision of information and services on Canadian law and law in context.
With more than 500,000 items, the Osgoode Hall Law School Library is the largest law library in the Commonwealth. The Library’s Balfour Halévy Special Collections in the John R. Cartwright Rare Book Room comprise a significant collection of early English and American law books and the largest collection of historical (pre-1950) Canadian legal texts and primary law sources. The library’s print collection of international calibre is supplemented by an ever-growing range of online and digital resources, including HeinOnline, LexisNexis, Quicklaw and WestlawNext Canada, to which all members of both the Osgoode and York University communities have access. There are many country and topic-specific tools which provide researchers with in-depth access to the laws of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, India, the Caribbean, China, and the United Nations.
Access to these print and online resources is made possible by professional law librarians, who are available to assist students, faculty members, alumni and the profession with reference and research inquiries and with training in the use of online resources. Our professional front-line library staff is also available to assist users with borrowing, technical troubleshooting, printing and photocopying, and library use.