The Oxford Bibliographies Online

An experienced researcher knows the value of a well prepared subject bibliography. An annotated subject bibliography is usually prepared by leading scholars or librarians to provide other researchers with a selected or comprehensive list of research materials related to that subject. Depending on the subject, bibliographies typically include books, peer review journal articles, and other publications such as websites and government documents. In other words, bibliographies are expert recommendations on the best works available in the discipline.

York University Libraries have recently subscribed to the Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO), a database of bibliographies covering a wide range of subjects, including some law topics. The OBO combines the benefits of both bibliographies and encyclopedias and offers extensive annotations to the works included in the bibliographies. It’s both searchable and browsable. Each work listed in OBO includes links to locate it through Worldcat and/or Google books, making it easy to access the item. In the current subject list, “International Law”, “international relations” and criminology are directly related to law. There are nearly one hundred articles (i.e. topical bibliographies) under the subject “international law”, for example, human rights, natural law, use of force, feminist approaches to international law, international environmental law, international financial law, and so on. You can browse the full list of topics by choosing the subject “international law” when browsing the subject list.

For your next research project, please don’t forget to check out the Oxford Bibliographies Online. If you happen to find a bibliography relevant to your research topic, it will save you lots of time!

Legal Research Refresher

The Library is happy to offer a Legal Research Refresher session on Monday, May 5 from 10 am to 2 pm in Room 2003.

These are the topics that will be covered:

10:00-10:25am – Multi-disciplinary research
10:30-10:55am – Foreign and comparative legal research
11:00-11:50am – Legislation and case research
12:00-12:50pm – Secondary sources research
1:00-1:50pm – Legal citation and citation management tools

The session is primarily geared to Research Assistants, but graduate students, Law Journal editors, Innocence Project, CLASP and Parkdale students are also welcome.

A light lunch will be provided.

To reserve a spot please email the library at

Well my day just became much more interesting…

Which is not to say I do not normally enjoy my job, because I do. I consider myself a bookish fellow, so to come to the library and work all day in a room full of old leather-bound volumes hardly even feels like work at all… okay, it feels a little like work. But as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover, so I can’t just sit around and admire them sitting on the shelf. Sometimes, I actually have to open them, and on occasion I find something more than just the printed text.

We’re currently in the process of reorganizing the Osgoode rare book collections by size – a project which will shortly be the subject of another post. As part of the project, I’m reviewing each volume before assigning the new shelf number, updating and upgrading the cataloguing as necessary. Today I came across two rather plain volumes, though nicely rebound in brown quarter-leather with canvas boards, and their spines decorated with gilt rules and red labels bearing the succinct title Precedents / Chitty. Nevertheless, though I think I’d normally leave something like this on the shelf, I was obligated to part the covers and take a look inside.

The front pastedown endpaper proudly bore its York Law Library bookplate, but again that was nothing remarkable, as most of these books do. As I turned the page, however, something caught my eye. On the verso of the front free endpaper was a short inscription. I love finding these notes in books because they are sometimes as entertaining as they are informational. Much of the time inscriptions simply record details such as the name of the book’s owner, the price they paid for it, and when they made the purchase. Today’s inscription looked fairly typical. It was signed “W. David McPherson”, and a quick search revealed him to have been a Member of Provincial Parliament in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing Toronto West from 1908 to 1919, and a lawyer in Toronto before that. It’s always gratifying to pin a book’s provenance to a known historical figure; but McPherson’s status as pre-eminent former owner was short-lived, for his inscription read:

“Purchased this 9th day of December 1891 from Oliver, Coate & Co. on Sale of Law Library of the Right Honorable…”

…and this is when my day got much more interesting…

“…Sir John A. MacDonald G.C.B.”

And not only that, but as my eyes scanned across to the facing title-page, I saw a neat little scribble. Though I might have expected that the Prime Minister’s well-publicized tippling would have produced an unsteady hand, I could clearly read the signature “John A. MacDonald”.

I quickly turned to the second volume which, as I expected, bore the exact same inscription and the exact same autograph. Here I had in my hands two books documented to have been in our first prime minister’s personal library. Not only that, I had his autograph – twice! MacDonald was called to the Bar in 1836, and these volumes were published in 1839, so he may have bought them new; his signature is evidence that they were in his personal possession, evidence supported by the inscription by the subsequent purchaser. The books provide evidence of another characteristic of the early law book trade in Canada: Though Canada was still a British colony at the time, these books were published in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was common practice to import American editions of British legal classics, simply because they were so much more affordable than books imported from the Old World.

This lucky encounter reminded me of a phrase, “discovered in storage”, which you sometimes hear in conversation about museums and libraries. This phrase would apply to an artifact or item that the institution didn’t even know it owned until it was, by stroke of fortune, recovered from obscurity. Such stories are actually quite common.  For museums and rare book libraries, the reason we collect books or artifacts and catalogue them is to protect and preserve them from damage, but also from loss. Still, sometimes it just happens that items of note are lost or forgotten over time simply due to the sheer volume of materials that surround it. In this case, the original cataloguer simply missed the importance of the signature and inscription, presuming they were even noticed. The concept of finding new items in an established collection highlights some of the inherent difficulties – and pleasures! – of librarianship. Effectively, if an item isn’t catalogued, it doesn’t exist; and even if it is catalogued, if no one knows to look for it, isn’t it as good as nonexistent? And then the questions become existential: Why are we even doing this in the first place?! Such are the Borgesian nightmares of librarians. Sadly, this is what keeps me up at night.

Perfect Timing

Just to give you something to look forward to when you’ve finished your exams and papers, the library will have four especially interesting-sounding books available for your reading enjoyment by April 30.

First on the list is The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance and other real laws that human beings have actually dreamed up, enacted, and sometimes even enforced, which is a collection of over 200 real but “wacky” laws, complete with citations.  This book is Osgoode’s first book with sasquatch content, but fear not, other libraries in the York University Library system will be able to meet your sasquatch research needs, with nearly twenty titles from which to choose.

The next book is again a first at Osgoode: The Little Book of Elvis Law.  The book talks of the license agreements respecting the use of his name and likeness in connection with the marketing and sale of consumer goods, the many paternity suits and recording contracts, cases involving Priscilla Presley, a bar called The Velvet Elvis, a death certificate investigation, a 16-hour-long documentary, a magazine photo spread, and an agreement with television host Geraldo Rivera.  If that does not sate your curiosity, again YUL will come to your rescue with another 50 titles on The King, including (electronic) FBI records!

Thirdly, for the sports-minded, we are getting Adventure and the Law, about the law relating to extreme sports.  We already do have a handful of books in the library’s sports law collection, but Scott and Steacie win in the extreme sports division.

The last book is already in the stacks: Canada the Good : A Short History of Vice Since 1500.  If this piques your interest, Osgoode and the rest of YUL do have several other items on vice control in Canada.  Here is part of its description:

This historical synthesis demonstrates how moral regulation has changed over time, how it has shaped Canadians’ lives, why some debates have almost disappeared and others persist, and why some individuals and groups have felt empowered to tackle collective social issues. Against the background of the evolution of the state, the enlargement of the body politic, and mounting forays into court activism, the author illustrates the complexity over time of various forms of social regulation and the control of vice.




The scourge of York?

“Don’t like me? Too bad!”
*blows raspberry*

While the issue of campus safety is one that has always been something of an elephant in the room at York – especially of late – there is another animal that lurks in the periphery of our consciousness and every year rears its head. Of course, I am referring to the Canada Geese that, as of this writing, have returned to campus, along with their incessant squawking, grazing, vaguely malevolent staring from rooftops, and, of course, their rather casual approach to bathroom habits (which, incidentally, in addition to being merely gross, is also toxic). They are rather like an unwanted house guest who make themselves comfortable and refuse to leave, all the while befouling your daily space.

Despite their inarguable nuisance factor, they are a protected species under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, wherein, in a worst-case scenario, the maximum punishment is a million dollar fine and a maximum jail term of three years. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not entirely illegal to kill them – it just needs to be done at the right time and place (i.e. with a license and during the appropriate season). It should also be noted that even if you try your best Katniss Everdeen impersonation on one, it might not necessarily kill it. As is often the case with such legislation, the minutiae are to be found in the act’s regulations. It is curious, though, that even thought it is a protected species under the MBCA, Environment Canada admits that their population growth is outstripping hunting, despite the fact that “the limits have been liberalized to the extent possible within the limits permitted for hunting seasons under the MBCA.”

Looking eastward, another invasive Canadian icon is in the news today, as a class action lawsuit began in Newfoundland over the government’s (in)action in managing the moose population, although personally a Canada Goose is a much less potentially intimidating prospect than a moose.

If you do decide to take matters into your own hands, apparently Canada Goose is lovely with teriyaki sauce.