Research Tip – Legislative Library of Manitoba

Last month I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the Legislative Library of Manitoba from Member’s Services Librarian, Mirabelle Boily-Bernal. The Legislative Library is the oldest library in Manitoba, whose mandate is to serve the citizens of Manitoba by preserving the published history of our province, support the conduct of public affairs and foster the development of a well-informed society by providing access to specialized information resources. 

The Legislative Library has two locations – a Reading Room located in Room 260 of the Legislative Building of Manitoba, and the other located in the Manitoba Archives Building at 200 Vaughan Street. I visited the Vaughan Street location, just around the corner from the Law Courts Building.

Reading Room at the Leg

Aside from being a fascinating and beautiful historical building (the Library’s foyer space in the Archives Building was the original site of the Winnipeg Art Gallery), it is also an incredible resource for historical Manitoba Government documents. While the Manitoba Law Library has our own collection of government documents to support our members, the Legislative Library’s collection offers an excellent supplementary resource.

One of the resources our members might be interested in is the library’s Hansard collection (also known as Debates and Proceedings). Hansard is a written record of debates in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba (see our guide to searching Hansard here). Before being published by the provincial government in 1958, the debates were summarized in local newspapers and collected by librarians in “Hansard Scrapbooks”. The library has a collection of legislative reporting in early Manitoba newspapers dating back to the 1st Parliament, 4th session, 1873-1874!

The library also houses municipal government documents, including the City of Winnipeg by-laws and City Council Minutes.

For those of us who long for the days of old school library technology, I’m happy to report that microfilm is alive and well at the Legislative Library. The library has an extensive collection of Manitoba newspapers on microfilm (dating back to 1859) that continue to be well used given the delicate nature of newsprint.

Our members might also be interested in the Digital Collection of Manitoba Government Publications, a digital collection of published Manitoba government documents dating back to the early 2000s. The collection includes reports of Inquiry Commissions and Task Forces, Departmental Studies, Annual Reports, and Financial Publications. Much of this collection has been converted using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, meaning that many documents have searchable text.

The Digital Collection is currently undergoing maintenance but copies can be retrieved by contacting the Legislative Library at 204-945-4330 or legislative_library@gov.mb.ca.

Finally, I had the opportunity to see the library’s rare book collection, which is housed in a climate controlled room that helps to preserve the books. The rare book collection includes 350 volumes (including law books) that were part of the Red River Library that served the Selkirk Settlers, as well as a bible belonging to Chief Peguis!

The Legislative Library of Manitoba’s two locations (the Library and the Reading Room) are open to Members and staff of the Legislative Assembly, to government employees, and to the public.

Please visit the Legislative Library website for more information about the Library and their collections.

Many thanks to Mirabelle Boily-Bernal for the tour!