Great Library History – part 3

Manitoba Law Library – A story of change pt. 3

“It’s been here for 100 years, and it will be here 100 more. Just like the law.” – Martin Jandavs, Facility Manager, Law Courts Building Complex

During his tenure as Facility Manager, Martin Jandavs has seen the Great Library and the Old Law Courts Building through some of its biggest changes. I was initially curious about the period of renovation in the 1980s when Library staff were working from a temporary office in the new Law Courts Building at 408 York. The renovations were extensive and resulted in significant architectural changes to the building.

A view of the Great Library prior to the renovation in the 1980s. The cork floor seen in this picture was replaced with carpet during the renovation. (source: Cameron Harvey – The Law Society of Manitoba 1877-1977)

In the library, the staircase leading up to the second floor was added during the renovation in the 1980s. Prior to this, the spiral staircase on the far side of the Great Library was the only staircase and passed through to the floors below. There used to be two old clocks on either side of the mezzanine overlooking the main floor. When the new staircase was installed the second clock was removed and placed in the attic (accessible through the library archives room), where it remains. The building has been refitted for electrical, plumbing, and computer/technology infrastructure. As Martin said to me, it’s a solid building but it has changed.

By way of example, the Government of Manitoba used to operate its own workshop and renovations department. The department employed in-house plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. The workshop, referred to as the “Vine” location, was located at Vine Street and Whyte Avenue in the Weston neighborhood. When the renovations on the Great Library began in 1985, all of the furniture was labelled and brought to the workshop to be refinished. The labelling system was used to ensure that the furniture returned to its proper location, and the burgundy leather chairs in the library still have their labels.

Martin told me about two Hungarian carpenters, “real craftsmen”, who worked on the big round table in the Great Library. The table wouldn’t fit through the library entrance and so it had to be cut in half to be removed from the building. The two carpenters refurbished it, sanding it down and refinishing the wood. I hadn’t realized that the round top of the table was designed to rotate, a feature preserved by the carpenters.

We talked about the trend towards employing contract labour and the eventual shuttering of the Vine Street workshop. About how the history of a building can be lost when contract work replaces permanent staff. Those craftsmen, who knew these buildings inside and out because they had worked here for 30, 40 years, they were like a living historical record. I told Martin about how I felt similarly about the print documents from the library being replaced by digital documents. It’s easier to lose some of the historical record because of the ephemerality of the digital documents. Martin told me how he used to get out the big technical drawings of the building to use for reference because he preferred them, as opposed to the version on his computer. He is also a fan of the giant 1957 Canadian atlas just inside the front entrance of the library.

I asked him what he thought people would be surprised to know about the building, and he spoke about his staff that keep the building looking so great. Having a dedicated staff working behind the scenes who have specialized knowledge of the building and pay attention to the details are an important part of what makes the building so special. These details we might take for granted – the polish of the custom furniture, the emptying of my trash can every night. And just like the people who keep the building alive, the building animates the people that inhabit it.

In a sense, the Law Courts Building is a living thing. It literally contracts and expands with the weather, it houses all of the constituent parts and people that bring it alive, and has gone through periods of renewal and decay. Similarly, the law is a living thing – it responds to changes in our environment, it expands and evolves, and it also undergoes stages of decay and rebirth. As David R. Johnson says, “The law is an organism rather than a mechanism. It is alive.”

The life of the Great Library and the Law Courts Building is far from over, indeed it may still only be in its youth. My season at the library is coming to a close, but I take the knowledge I gained here with me. In my own small way, I take a piece of the library with me and a piece of its history.

I’m grateful to have been able to come to work here every day and to have gotten to know the building a little bit better. And I’m also now a part of its living history.

Part 1

Part 2

Great Library History – part 2

Manitoba Law Library – A story of change pt. 2

“Rather oddly, the [Law Society] Act does not require, nor even explicitly authorize, the Society to maintain a library. But nevertheless it does so;” (Cameron Harvey – The Law Society of Manitoba 1877-1977)

The story of the Great Library and the Old Law Courts Building is fundamentally a story of change. As the judiciary grew to accommodate the growth of the City and Province, so too did the courthouses. From early log cabin style buildings to the original courthouse on Kennedy Street, finally to the construction of the Old Law Courts Building on Broadway, the early story of the judiciary and its buildings is one of expansion.

“Old Law Courts Building on Kennedy Street built in 1882, replaced in 1893. University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections, Art Work on Winnipeg RBR FC 3396.37.A77, volume 6 page 4.” – retrieved from Heritage Winnipeg site

This was also reflected in the need for a law library to serve the city’s legal practitioners, and in 1871, one of the first actions the newly formed Bar Society took was the establishment of the first library in the Kennedy Street courthouse. As the judiciary expanded, so did the need for library services – regional libraries followed suit in the province and the library continued to grow its collection. That said, frugality has always been a hallmark of the library, and the library’s budget has always been one of the cost-saving areas of the Law Society.

Despite the profession’s acknowledgment of the necessity of a library and its usefulness evidenced by its steady expansion, the library (like today) occupied a paradoxical space, caught between a clear need and being one of the first areas to face budget cuts when times were lean. In 1885, for example, despite a majority of the Benchers being in favor of establishing a downtown library branch in the McIntyre Block, a deficit of $700 in the library budget meant setting aside the plans when it came down to a vote. This trend would continue through the twentieth century.

During the Depression, the library suffered drastic cuts to its purchasing capacity, which continued during the war years when members were no longer contributing fees while they were in service. In 1972 the Law Society commissioned a report that would review the adequacy of the library’s resources. The report found that the library was not meeting the needs of the profession and allocated money to hire a full-time librarian and to improve the collection. Not long after, Garth Niven was hired as Chief Librarian and he saw the library through the next three decades of rapid technological and structural change.

After reading the old annual reports during the building renovations in the 1980s, I wanted to find out more about this next chapter in the Library’s history. Karen insisted that the person I had to speak with was Facility Manager of the Law Courts Complex, Martin Jandavs. Martin had been at the Law Courts Complex during the time of the renovation and would know everything about the changes that the buildings had undergone. Martin graciously agreed to speak with me about the Old Law Courts Building, and he did not disappoint. We sat at one of the original carved wooden tables in the Library, and he told me all about the last 40 years at the Law Courts.

Continued in part 3…

Part 1

Great Library History – part 1

Manitoba Law Library – A story of change pt. 1
[Editor’s note: John Bryans is a co-op student, completing his MLIS from Western University in August 2022. This is his final assignment at the Great Library.]

“[…] a lawyer, to be able to function competently, requires more than education: he requires books.” (Cameron Harvey – The Law Society of Manitoba 1877-1977)

Without question, the Old Law Courts building makes a statement. An imposing stone edifice, it evokes strength, rationality, solemnity. We have the feeling of being small within it. With its hidden alcoves and rooms that feel tucked away, the building embodies the at times abstruse nature of the law for those who are not familiar with its intricacies.

The Great Library though, is a soaring room. Designed to house all legal information, it suggests the expansive nature of jurisprudence and the vastness of legal knowledge. It was designed with practicality in mind, in that it could house all of the library’s legal textbooks and reporting series. But it was also designed to encourage study, to impress on visitors the gravity of a learned legal mind.

View of the Great Library and its blue ceiling, gilt detail, classical columns, and the iconic round table. (source: American Courthouses)

When I first met with Director of Legal Resources, Karen Sawatzky, at the Manitoba Law Library to discuss a co-op position as part of my Master of Library and Information Science program at Western, the building was the first thing that struck me. Despite being raised in Winnipeg, I had only set foot in the Old Law Courts building when I was very young, and never the Great Library. Seeing it for the first time, I was of course taken by its impressive beauty. The sky blue and gilt ceiling, the classical columns that line the room, the stately furniture. The room has personality.

Halfway into my semester at the Library, Karen shared with me some old paper documents from the library – old budget documents, minutes from meetings, and year-end reports. One of the reports, from 1987, talked about the reopening of the library after the major renovations to the Old Law Courts Building (in conjunction with the opening of the New Law Courts Building on York). Staff had been working in temporary offices and were relieved to be coming back to the Great Library. One of the final tasks in the renovation was covering the Library’s original metal shelving (still there to this day) using an electrostatic coating process that was described as “tortuously slow” in the report. Funny how time passes so slowly and so quickly.

Reading those old library documents made me think of all of the changes that have happened to the Great Library (and the Law Courts complex) over the years. Not long after staff moved back into the building, a technological revolution started with the introduction of a computer room in 1989. In 1990, the focus of special projects in the library was computerization, with the Manitoba Unreported Judgments project ensuring that each judgment rendered from 1978 onward was re-analyzed, coded, and entered into an online database. The end of the 20th century ushered in massive changes to the world, and the Great Library was swept up in the march of progress. But as Karen pointed out to me on that first visit I made to the Library, the printed word has not yet been made obsolete.

The library, too, continues to have new life breathed into it. The Old Law Courts Building has undergone many renaissances during its relatively short life, and the Great Library has played an important part in that.

In the next two installments of this three part series, I’ll take you on a tour of the history of the Manitoba Law Library and the Old Law Courts Building, and end with a conversation I had with facilities manager Martin Jandavs, about the renovations in the 1980s. I hope you’ll join me.

Continued in part 2…

Journals Update

New articles from the following journals are now available for Law Society members upon request. For a pdf copy of these or other legal journal articles email us at

Canadian Family Law Quarterly. Vol. 40
  • Yousef Aly Wahb. Faith-Based Divorce Proceedings: Alternative Dispute Resolutions for Canadian Muslims
  • Stephanie Dickson, Melanie Battaglia. Child Support for Adult Children and Children with a Disability: The Impact of ODSP, the Disability Tax Credit, RDSP and RESP
  • Rachel Birnbaum, Nicholas Bala. High Conflict Parenting Cases and the Role of State-Funded Agencies in Ontario
  • Vanessa Lam. Determining the V-Date: Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, When Can I Stop Sharing Property with You?
Intellectual Property Journal, Vol 34
  • Lindsay Paquette. Bill C-15 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Proposal for Intellectual Property Law Reform in Canada for the Protection, Preservation and Prosperity of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expression.
  • Muhammand Zaheer Abbas. Revisiting Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime in Response to COVID-19: A Review of the Legislation and Its Underlying Objectives.
  • David Vaver. User Rights in Canadian Copyright Law.
  • Luca Vaez Tehrani. The Modern Library: Ramifications of Controlled Digital Lending on Copyright.
  • Aviv Gaon. Law and Reputation: How the Legal System Shapes Behavior by Producing Information, Roy Shapira (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2020).
Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, Vol. 16
  • Steven Chaplin. Review of: Tom McDowell, Neoliberal Parliamentarism: The Decline of Parliament at the Ontario Legislature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021)
  • Gregory Tardi. Election 44: Connecting the Dots
  • Charlie Feldman. Much Ado about Parliamentary Review
  • Gregory Tardi. Including Emerging Litigation Comprenant Les Litiges en Voie de Développement
  • Priya Dube. The Role of Law in Settling Political Disputes: York University v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), 2021 SCC 32
  • Gregory Tardi. Review of: Stephen Breyer The Authority of the Court and the Perils of Politics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2021)
  • Robin Ketcheson. Unwriting the Unwritten Principles of the Electoral System
  • Susan Keenan. Questions of Central Importance: The Supreme Court’s Diceyan Reserve
  • Michelle Black. Review of: Beverley McLachlin Denial (Simon & Shuster: Toronto, 2021)
  • Jena Karim. Statecraft and Recognition of the Taliban: Crux of Taliban Governance and the Potential Impacts of Recognition
  • Professor Stephen I. Vladeck. Reforming the U.S. Supreme Court by Reforming Its Docket
  • Dr. Ronnie R. F. Yearwood. Barbados’ Transition to a Republic: ‘Republic in Name First, Constitutional Reform after’, ‘Stuff and Nonsense!’
  • J.W.J. Bowden. What’s in a Name? Newfoundland & Labrador and the Constitution Amendment, 2001
  • Caitlin Salvino. A Tool of the ‘Last Resort’: A Comprehensive Account of the Notwithstanding Clause Political Use from 1982-2021
  • Kioko Nzuki Mwania. The Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Culture in Kenya
  • Mohammad Pizuar Hossain. Repatriation of the Rohingya Refugees: Geopolitics and the Potential Role of the International Court of Justice
  • Dave Guénette. Recensement de: Christophe Parent L’État des Fédérations (Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2019) 2 Tomes
  • Julien Fournier. Recensement de: Yan Campagnolo Le Secret Ministériel. Théorie et Pratique (Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2020)
McGill Law Journal, Vol. 66
  • Bethany Hastie. (Re)Discovering the Promise of Fraser? Labour Pluralism and Freedom of Association
  • Amitpal C. Singh. The Body as Me and Mine: The Case for Property Rights in Attached Body Parts
  • Marc-Antoine Gervais. Les Impasses Théoriques et Pratiques du Contrôle de Constitutionnalité Canadien
  • Daniele Bertolini. Unpacking Entire Agreement Clauses: On the (Elusive) Search for Contractually Induced Formalism in Contractual Adjudication
National Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 42
  • Professor René Provost. Remedies for Human Rights Violations–A Two-Track Approach to Supra-National and National Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021, xlix-581pp.)
  • Kent Roach. Principled versus Rule or Text-Based Discretion in Charter Remedies: Conseil Scolaire, Ontario (Attorney General) v. G and Albashir
  • Danielle Pinard. La Temporalité des Jugements D’inconstitutionnalité des Lois au Canada: Les Mesures D’atténuation Prises à L’égard de Leur Rétroactivité et de Leur Caractère Immédiatement Exécutoire
Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 51
  • Le Très Honorable Richard Wagner, C.P., The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Juge en Chef du Canada , Chief Justice of Canada. Allocution du Récipiendaire de Doctorat Honorifique | Speech of the Recipient of the Honorary Doctorate
  • Paul Daly. Plural Public Law | Un Droit Public Pluriel
  • Nicolas Lambert. Effective Remediation in Public Procurement: Contract Damages versus Judicial Review
  • Mari Galloway. The Unwritten Constitutional Principles and Environmental Justice: A New Way Forward?
  • Maureen Irish. The Review of International Commercial Arbitral Awards and the New York Convention: Breaking the Link to Administrative Law
  • Isabel Grant, Crystal Choi, Debra Parkes. The Meaning of Life: A Study of the Use of Parole Ineligibility for Murder Sentencing
  • Jamie Cameron. The Tenth Justice: Judicial Appointments, Marc Nadon, and the Supreme Court Act Reference by Carissima Mathen & Michael Plaxton
  • Robert Hamilton, Joshua Nichols. Reconciliation and the Straitjacket: A Comparative Analysis of the Secession Reference and R v Sparrow
  • Andrew Leach. Environmental Policy is Economic Policy: Climate Change Policy and the General Trade and Commerce Power
  • Abra Martin. Mikisew Cree: A Lost Opportunity for Doctrinal Clarity on Constitutional Principles
  • Carys Craig, Ian Kerr. The Death of the AI Author
  • Stéphane Sérafin. Les Positivismes Juridiques Au XXe Siècle: Normativismes, Sociologismes, Réalismes de Maxime St-Hilaire
  • Hugo Tremblay. Perspectives Critiques Sur le Droit de l’Environnement Face à l’Anthropocène
  • Virginia Torrie. Aspiration and Reality in Legal Education de David Sandomierski
  • Gabriel Poliquin, Ph.D. LL.B. L’art de Juger de l’Honorable Louis LeBel, Sous la Direction de Bjarne Melkevik
  • Michel Morin. Le Secret Ministériel: Théorie et Pratique de Yan Campagnolo
  • Lori Hausegger, Troy Riddell. Judges on Judging in Canadian Appellate Courts: The Role of Legal and Extra-Legal Factors on Decision-Making
  • Léonid Sirota. Immuring Dicey’s Ghost: The Senate Reform Reference and Constitutional Conventions
  • Dan Priel. “That Is Not How the Common Law Works”: Paths to Tort Liability for Harassment
  • Kristen Thomasen. Robots, Regulation, and the Changing Nature of Public Space

Will Week April 2022

Will Week is a week-long series of free public events to bring awareness to the importance of wills and estate planning. Seminars start Tuesday April 26, 2022. Visit the Library’s events calendar for session and registration information.

The event is a collaboration between the Manitoba Bar Association, The Winnipeg Foundation and the Public Guardian and Trustee. To learn more about Will Week, visit the Winnipeg Foundation website.

As part of this year’s Will Week, we have put together a digital book display using our collection of Wills, Estates, and Trusts texts.

To help you browse, we’ve compiled some of our most recent print titles, journal titles, and materials published by the Law Society of Manitoba into this virtual book display.

How to use this display

Click on the image of a title you’re interested in to view the catalog listing (includes the abstract and subject headings).

Our library catalog allows you to create a reading list and keep track of titles. Click “select” at the bottom left of the item’s catalog record. You can add as many titles as you like to your list and email or print it for future reference.

We hope you enjoy this digital book display!


The following print titles are available:

The following print titles are available:


The following print titles are available:

Lewin on Trusts
Oosterhoff on Trusts
Waters Law of Trusts in Canada
Widdifield on Executors & Trustees

Law Society of Manitoba Materials

The following print titles produced by the Law Society of Manitoba are available:


We also subscribe to journals that exclusively cover the topics of Wills, Estates, and Trusts. Journal titles from HeinOnline Law Journal Library are available behind the Law Society Member Portal:

  • Estates Trusts and Pensions Journal (print – current to 2022; HeinOnline – available to 2018 online)
  • Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal (HeinOnline – vol. 1-14, 2008-2021)