Library of Parliament
The Library of Parliament (French: Bibliothèque du Parlement) is the main information repository and research resource for the Parliament of Canada
Parliament of Canada
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislative branch of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in the national capital, Ottawa. Formally, the body consists of the Canadian monarch—represented by her governor general—the Senate, and the House of Commons, each element having its own officers and...

. The main branch of the library, which is the focus of this article, sits at the rear of the Centre Block
Centre Block
The Centre Block is the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, containing the Commons and Senate chambers, as well as the offices of a number of Members of Parliament and Senators, as well as senior administration for both legislative houses...

, on Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill , colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildingsthe parliament buildings serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada and contains a number of architectural...

, in Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

, Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, and is the last untouched part of that larger building's original incarnation, after it burned down in 1916. The library has been augmented and renovated a number of times since its construction in 1876, the last between 2002 and 2006, though the form and decor remain essentially authentic. The building today serves as a Canadian icon
National symbols of Canada
National symbols of Canada are the symbols that are used in Canada and abroad to represent the country and its people. Prominently, the use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates back to the early 18th century, and is depicted on its current and previous flags, the penny, and on the coat of...

, and appears on the obverse of the Canadian ten-dollar bill
Canadian ten-dollar bill
The Canadian ten-dollar bill is one of the most common banknotes of the Canadian dollar. It was the first bill printed when Canada changed its banknotes in 2001....


Main branch characteristics

Designed by Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller (architect)
Thomas Fuller was a Canadian architect.He was born in Bath, Somerset , where he trained as an architect. Living in Bath and London he did a number of projects. In 1845 he left for Antigua, where he spent two years working on a new cathedral before emigrating to Canada in 1857...

 and Chilion Jones
Chilion Jones
Chilion Jones was the business partner of architect Thomas Fuller in nineteenth-century Canada. They formed their partnership in the 1850s, together winning the contracts to design the church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields in Toronto and the neo-gothic Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.Chilion Jones...

, and inspired by the British Museum Reading Room
British Museum Reading Room
The British Museum Reading Room, situated in the centre of the Great Court of the British Museum, used to be the main reading room of the British Library. In 1997, this function moved to the new British Library building at St Pancras, London, but the Reading Room remains in its original form inside...

, the building is formed as a chapter house
Chapter house
A chapter house or chapterhouse is a building or room attached to a cathedral or collegiate church in which meetings are held. They can also be found in medieval monasteries....

, separated from the main body of the Centre Block by a corridor; this arrangement, as well as many other details of the design, was reached with the input of the then parliamentary librarian, Alpheus Todd
Alpheus Todd
Alpheus Todd was an English-born Canadian librarian and constitutional historian, most notable for his publications on parliamentary government.- Life :...

. The walls, supported by a ring of 16 flying buttress
Flying buttress
A flying buttress is a specific form of buttressing most strongly associated with Gothic church architecture. The purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards by redirecting them to the ground...

es, are load bearing, double-wythe
A wythe is a continuous vertical section of masonry one unit in thickness. A wythe may be independent of, or interlocked with, the adjoining wythe...

 masonry, consisting of a hydraulic lime rubble fill
Rubble masonry
Rubble masonry is rough, unhewn building stone set in mortar, but not laid in regular courses. It may appear as the outer surface of a wall or may fill the core of a wall which is faced with unit masonry such as brick or cut stone....

 core between an interior layer of finished stone and rustic
Rustic can refer to:*rural*pastoralIn zoology:* Rustic moths, various noctuid moths of subfamilies Hadeninae and Noctuinae, including** The Rustic, * The Rustic , a brush-footed butterfly...

 Nepean sandstone on the exterior. Around the windows and along other edges is dressed stone trim, along with a multitude of stone carvings, including floral patterns and frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

s, keeping with the Victorian High Gothic style of the rest of the parliamentary complex. The roof, set in three tiers topped by a cupola
In architecture, a cupola is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome....

, was originally a timber frame structure covered with slate tiles, but is presently built of steel framing and deck covered with copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

. The initial overall combination of colours grey Gloucester limestone and grey Nepean, red Potsdam, and buff Ohio sandstones, as well as purple and green slate banding conformed to the picturesque
Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal introduced into English cultural debate in 1782 by William Gilpin in Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770, a practical book which instructed England's...

 style known as structural polychromy.

The main reading room rises to a vaulted ceiling and the walls and stacks are lined with white pine panelling carved into a variety of textures, flowers, masks, and mythical creatures. In the galleries are displayed the coats of arms of the seven provinces that existed in 1876, as well as that of the Dominion of Canada, and standing directly in the centre of the room is a white marble statue of Queen Victoria, sculpted by Marchall Wood in 1871. The northern galleries are also flanked with the white marble busts of Sir John Sandfield Macdonald
John Sandfield Macdonald
John Sandfield Macdonald, QC was the first Premier of the province of Ontario, one of the four founding provinces created at the confederation of Canada in 1867...

; Prince Edward, Prince of Wales
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

 (later King Edward VII); Alexandra, Princess of Wales
Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark was the wife of Edward VII of the United Kingdom...

 (later Queen Alexandra); and Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché
Étienne-Paschal Taché
Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché was a Canadian doctor, politician and one of the Fathers of Confederation.Born in St. Thomas, Lower Canada, in 1795, the third son of Charles Taché and Geneviève Michon, Taché studied at the Séminaire de Québec until the War of 1812 when he joined the 5th battalion of the...

The library's collection comprises 600,000 items, covering hundreds of years of history and tended by a staff of 300. Access to the facility is generally restricted to those on parliamentary business, but research publications are produced by the library and are available to the public. The main branch on Parliament Hill is only the central hub of a larger complex that spreads to other parliamentary buildings, where services are offered in a number of branch libraries and reading rooms.


The Library of Parliament's roots lie in the 1790s, when the legislative libraries of Upper
Upper Canada
The Province of Upper Canada was a political division in British Canada established in 1791 by the British Empire to govern the central third of the lands in British North America and to accommodate Loyalist refugees from the United States of America after the American Revolution...

 and Lower Canada
Lower Canada
The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

 were created; these operated separately until the creation of the Province of Canada
Province of Canada
The Province of Canada, United Province of Canada, or the United Canadas was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of...

 in 1841 and the collections were amalgamated and followed the provincial capital as it moved between Kingston
Kingston, Ontario
Kingston, Ontario is a Canadian city located in Eastern Ontario where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario. Originally a First Nations settlement called "Katarowki," , growing European exploration in the 17th Century made it an important trading post...

, Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

, and Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

. The library was to be established in Ottawa after, in 1867, Queen Victoria chose Bytown
Bytown is the former name of Ottawa, Canada's capital city. It was founded on on September 26, 1826, incorporated as a town on January 1, 1850, and superseded by the incorporation of the City of Ottawa on January 1, 1855. The founding was marked by a sod turning, and a letter from Governor General...

 as the new seat for her crown in the Dominion of Canada, and the Library of Parliament Act formed the institution in 1871.

Though construction of the present library began in 1859 and the collection arrived in Ottawa in 1866, work was halted in 1861 and was not completed until 1876, when the 47,000 volumes including several donated by Queen Victoria were installed. Around 1869, the builders discovered that they didn't have the technical knowledge to build the domed roof, meaning that Thomas Fairbairn
Thomas Fairbairn
Sir Thomas Fairbairn, 2nd Baronet was an English industrialist and art collector.Fairbairn was born in the Polygon in Ardwick, near the centre of Manchester. He was the third of eight surviving children of Sir William Fairbairn...

 Engineering Co. Ltd. of Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 had to be contracted to provide a pre-fabricated dome within a few weeks; this gave the Library of Parliament the distinction of being the first building in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 to have a state-of-the-art wrought iron roof. Further, in 1883, the library's 300 gas lights were converted to electricity. However, such additional costs brought the library's price to $301,812, a sum added on top of the total cost for all the parliament buildings, which had already gone far above the original alloted budget. Within only 12 years, the entire roof was stripped of its slate shingles in a tornado that hit Parliament Hill in 1888, since then the roof has been clad in copper.
The library's contents grew over the next five decades and were saved from the 1916 fire that destroyed the majority of the Centre Block; the building was only connected to the main complex by a single corridor and the library clerk at the time, Michael MacCormac, secured the library's iron doors before the fire could spread into that area. Fire eventually broke out in 1952, in the library's cupola, and caused extensive damage through smoke and water. It was then necessary to perform structural work, as well as to install a replica of the inlaid parquet floor and dismantle the wood panelling and ship it to Montreal for cleaning and partial fireproofing. The Centre, East
East Block
The East Block is one of the three buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, containing offices for parliamentarians, as well as some preserved pre-Confederation spaces.Built in the Victorian High Gothic style, the East Block is, along with the Library of Parliament, one of only...

, and West Block
West Block
The West Block is one of the three buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, containing offices for parliamentarians, as well as some preserved pre-Confederation spaces.Built in the Victorian High Gothic style, the West Block has been extended twice since its original completion...

s subsequently received extensive climate control
HVAC refers to technology of indoor or automotive environmental comfort. HVAC system design is a major subdiscipline of mechanical engineering, based on the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer...

 and electrical upgrades, but the library was largely overlooked.

The deficiencies, plus conservation, rehabilitation, and upgrading, were addressed when a major, $52 million renovation was researched in 1996 and undertaken between 2002 and 2006. Public Works and Government Services Canada
Public Works and Government Services Canada
Public Works and Government Services Canada is the department of the government of Canada with responsibility for the government's internal servicing and administration....

 contracted the Thomas Fuller Construction Company (operated by Fuller's great-grandsons) to manage a project that fixed leaks in the roof and crumbling mortar in the walls on the exterior, as well as extensive repairs to the wood and plaster work and the installation of climate control systems on the interior. Also done at the time was a nine metre deep excavation of the bedrock beneath the library building, in order to provide more storage space, mechanical areas, and a link to an existing loading dock. The project used precision survey, laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 measurement, photogrammetry
Photogrammetry is the practice of determining the geometric properties of objects from photographic images. Photogrammetry is as old as modern photography and can be dated to the mid-nineteenth century....

, and the then fledgling technology of Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application
CATIA is a multi-platform CAD/CAM/CAE commercial software suite developed by the French company Dassault Systemes...

. After four years of work, the library was opened to the public, with tours of the library resuming on 5 June 2006, though Thomas Fuller Construction filed a $21 million lawsuit against the Crown for cost overruns.

Past parliamentary librarians

  • 1870 - 1884: Alpheus Todd
  • 1885 - 1920: Martin Joseph Griffin
  • 1920 - 1938: Martin Burrell
    Martin Burrell
    Martin Burrell, was a Canadian politician.Born in Faringdon, Berkshire , Burrell emigrated to Canada as a young man, where he eventually became a fruit grower on a farm about two miles east of Grand Forks, British Columbia...

  • 1944 - 1959: Francis Aubrey Hardy
  • 1960 - 1994: Erik John Spicer
  • 1994 - 2005: Richard Paré
  • 2005 - 2011: William R. Young

Partnerships and collaboration

The Library of Parliament is a member of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries‎.

See also

  • House of Lords Library
    House of Lords Library
    The House of Lords Library is the library and information resource of the House of Lords, the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

  • House of Commons Library
    House of Commons Library
    The House of Commons Library is the library and information resource of the lower house of the British Parliament. It has adopted the phrase "Contributing to a well-informed democracy" as a summary of its mission statement.- History :...

  • Library of Congress
    Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

  • Vatican Library
    Vatican Library
    The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

  • National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
    National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
    The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia is a governmental organization under the Parliament of Georgia. It is the main book depository of Georgia, as well as the most important cultural, educational, scientific, informational and methodological centre....

  • National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine

External links

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