Top 5 topics addressed by our Reference Librarians

By Emily Dingwall

At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), reference librarians respond to requests on a wide variety of interesting topics from clients. This blog post outlines five types of reference questions librarians frequently handle and suggests resources to consult on these subjects.

The cover page from Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada with the title “Public Accounts of Canada, for the Fiscal Year ended 30th June, 1884.”

“Public Accounts of Canada” report found in Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1885, Vol. 1, No. 1. (OCLC 1007491677, image from Canadiana)

  1. Federal government documents

Annual departmental reports. Clients are often seeking annual departmental reports. Annual reports from Confederation in 1867 to 1925 are printed in the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada. Learn more about the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1867 to 1925. If you are in Ottawa, you can access the Sessional Papers at LAC by requesting them from staff in the 2nd floor reference room. They are also available through these websites:

Departmental reports post–1925 are published separately from other government documents in the Sessional Papers. You can request 1925–1930 annual reports from LAC staff or through the Internet Archive.

After 1930, search our library catalogue Aurora for annual reports by the name of the department as it was known  during that period.

Beginning with 1995, you can find annual reports at the Government of Canada’s Departmental Results Reports. For more recent years, you can search the specific government department website.

Parliamentary documents. We also receive many questions on searching parliamentary debates, journals and committee materials of the House of Commons and the Senate, such as for a speech made by a prime minister in the House. You can find these documents online:

A typewritten page with two columns of text, separated by a crest. The text on the left is in English and the text on the right is in French.

Front page of the Canada Gazette, Part II, Vol. 137, No. 23, November 5, 2003. (OCLC 1082716964, image from Canada Gazette)

  1. Legislative Research

Librarians frequently receive questions about legislation in print or legislation that can be found online through Justice Laws.

You can trace legislation through these main sources:

  • The Statutes of Canada include all acts and amendments to laws passed during each session of Parliament.
  • The Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.) are consolidations of the Statutes of Canada incorporating amendments and acts that have been added since the last revision. The R.S.C have been published for the years 1886, 1906, 1927, 1952, 1970, and 1985.

The Statutes of Canada and the Revised Statutes of Canada are available in print format in our reference collection at LAC, as well as at many public and academic libraries. They are also accessible through the legal database LLMC Digital, which can be searched onsite at LAC.

To learn more about the Statutes and researching legislation, see the blog post Tracing Historical Legislation.

You can find official regulations and statutory instruments in Part II of the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. Published in three parts, the Canada Gazette is searchable by keyword at these sites:

To learn more about the three parts of the Canada Gazette please see Canada Gazette publications.

Readings of bills, such as the First and Third readings, can be found by searching the library catalogue Aurora.

LEGISinfo, the Library of Parliament’s research tool, provides information on all bills considered by the Senate and the House of Commons since the start of the 37th Parliament in 2001.

An image of a four-column newspaper, Courrier canadien.

Courrier canadien, March 11, 1900. (OCLC 109270836)

  1. Newspaper Research

Librarians often assist clients in searching newspapers for information such as local histories, articles on individuals, or references to a past royal visit to Canada.

We hold newspapers in print and microfilm formats, which can be found through the Aurora library catalogue. We also subscribe to several newspaper databases.

The Geographical microform list names all the newspapers that we hold on microfilm (click on the OCLC number), as well as newspapers available online. The list is organized by province/territory, then alphabetically by location.

Major newspaper titles such as Le Devoir, the Montreal Gazette, and the Ottawa Citizen are available in our self-service microform reading room.

These newspaper databases can be accessed on the public workstations in our reference room: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Paper of Record and Newspaper Archive.

Online newspaper resources include:

The cover page of “Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War.”

Cover page of Colonel C.P. Stacey’s Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume I: Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific. (OCLC 317352934, image from Government of Canada publications)

  1. Military History Research

Librarians receive military history questions from clients looking for published histories of specific regiments/units, recruitment statistics per year, and locations of Canadian units in Europe during World War II.

Resources for military history research include:

An image of a Grand Trunk Railway timetable from 1922.

Timetable of the Ontario lines of the Grand Trunk Railway from 1922. (e011297622)

  1. Railway Histories

Many clients contact Reference Services about railway history research. Examples of questions we receive include the histories of specific train stations, the histories of railway companies (Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railways, Grand Trunk, etc.), and routes of particular railway lines.

We hold railway maps, as well as passenger and employee timetables in print format that can be located by searching Aurora. Many timetables are part of the Merrilees Transportation Collection, which contains about 5,000 publications including books, trade literature, technical manuals, timetables, broadsides, periodicals and pamphlets.

An Ontario railway historian has made rail timetables available on Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages.

Canadian Pacific Railway timetables from 1930–1985 are available through the Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library.

These are two excellent print publications to consult on railway history:

  • Andreae, C., & Matthews, G. Lines of Country: An Atlas of Railway and Waterway History in Canada. Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press, 1997. This publication is a comprehensive outline of railway and waterway history in Canada and includes maps of railways in Canada from early days to the present. It can be accessed in our reference room.
  • Ballantyne, B., and Bytown Railway Society. Canadian Railway Station Guide. Ottawa: Bytown Railway Society, 1998. This publication lists stations, plans and pictures.

 I hope that these resources will help you with your research on these subjects. Of course feel free to ask us a question on any topic, and a reference librarian will be happy to assist you!


Emily Dingwall is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life

By Annie Wolfe

Library and Archives Canada’s newspaper collection is full of stories, both large and small! These true stories make up Canada’s fabric, from politics to the economy, and from the arts to sports, not to mention the obituaries, known to be a gold mine for genealogists.

Local newspapers, in particular, are the voices of regions, cities, villages and neighbourhoods. The information they provide is especially important because it comes straight from those involved in building Canada’s communities. Local newspapers open a window on debates and events that directly affect citizens’ lives. Thanks to local newspapers, communities discover news that affects them directly. Local newspapers are outstanding sources of historical fact.

Here are two examples of local newspapers with valuable information for researchers or the merely curious.

Fort McMurray Today

The daily Fort McMurray Today, founded in 1974, covers the communities of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo, in Alberta. In spring 2016, a huge wildfire raged, forcing the evacuation of the area. The damage was extensive, with devastating effects on the Canadian economy, including reduced oil production.

Fort McMurray Today won the Breaking News award, shared with the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, in 2016 for coverage of the wildfire. (Source: http://nna-ccj.ca/award-archives/list-of-winners-since-1949/#2)

Microfilms of newspapers from 2015 to 2017 were acquired for the national collection to document the history of the community before, during and after the wildfire tragedy.

L’Écho de Frontenac

The weekly L’Écho de Frontenac, founded in 1929, covers the region of Lac-Mégantic, in Quebec. In summer 2013, a railway accident caused an explosion and fire that destroyed part of the town. This tragedy had significant economic, environmental and, particularly, human consequences for the community, which will take years to recover. Even today, in 2018, the courts are still trying to establish what exactly happened.

As a side note, the public library was rebuilt after the fire and renamed for Nelly Arcan, the famous Lac-Mégantic author.

Microfilms of newspapers from 2012 to 2016 were acquired for the national collection to document events related to the tragedy, but especially to show the community’s great resilience.

Local newspapers, being at the heart of Canadian life, are an extraordinary source of information on what is really happening in communities across Canada. They relate and confirm both tragic and happy events. Canada’s history is written in newspapers.

The two newspapers mentioned in this article, Fort McMurray Today and L’Écho de Frontenac, are just a few examples of the newspaper microfilm acquisitions in the national collection. These microfilms are available through interlibrary loan. For more information, please visit Library and Archives Canada’s Loans to Other Institutions page or your public library.

Black-and-white photo of a large church in a small village. Railway tracks can be seen in the foreground.

The Lac-Mégantic church before the railway accident that created a major explosion in the village in 2013. The photograph is dated 1925 (MIKAN 3323453)


Annie Wolfe is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Newspaper Collection website launched

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of a new version of its Newspaper Collection website. The website provides an overview of LAC’s newspaper collection, including a list of newspapers available on microfilm, an index to the Canadian newspapers in its collection and a sampling of online Canadian news resources available from third-party websites.

Highlights of the new version include links to other websites offering free online digitized copies of newspapers, direct links to the AMICUS descriptions, and other improvements that make the website easier to navigate.

How to retrieve a Canadian newspaper when visiting LAC on site

Thanks to our article on “How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm” you may now know how to easily access our Geographical List and how to read a newspaper entry. But how can you access these newspapers while you are on site at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa?

Some of our newspapers on microfilm are available in the self-serve section on the third floor, but most need to be requested via AMICUS, our library catalogue. Once you have located your AMICUS number, you can make a retrieval request in AMICUS by following the steps below:

To access our AMICUS catalogue, go to one of our computer workstations and open the Internet browser. You can access the catalogue by selecting the “Library Catalogue – AMICUS OPAC” link from the workstation homepage.

Use the AMICUS number to get to the correct record by selecting the “AMICUS No.” option from the drop-down menu.

Remember:

Not all the AMICUS records have been updated to show all the newspaper dates available. If you don’t see your date listed in the AMICUS record, don’t worry! You can trust the dates given in the Geographical List even if you don’t see them in the AMICUS record.

Once you have found the right record for your date range, press the “Retrieve” button. Enter your date in the first space provided and don’t forget to enter your user card barcode number.

Your retrieval request will take 2 to 3 hours to process. You can then retrieve your microfilm reels in the third floor Consultation Room. Make sure to search for them under the first letter of your last name. You will find microfilm readers available in the same room. For more information on using these microfilm readers, consult our article “Tips and tricks on how to use a microform reader”.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!