The Nova Scotia Legislative Library is located in Province House, a designated National Historic Site. The construction of Province House began in 1811 and was completed in 1819, making it the oldest seat of government in Canada.
The main reading room of the Library was originally the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. In it many notable trials were held. One of its most famous trials occurred on March 2, 1835 when Joseph Howe was tried for criminal libel. His six and a quarter hour speech in his own defense won his acquittal and was the first time that someone from the press was acquitted from such a charge in the colony.Â His newspaper the next day triumphantly, albeit erroneously, declared, "The Press is Free."Â His trial, however, was an important event in the struggle for Freedom of the Press; a right that was not actually guaranteed until it was entrenched in the 1982 Constitution.
As early as 1845 the Legislature recognized the need for a dedicated library space and in 1847 a Committee recommended that "effective steps ought to be adopted, to have some suitable accommodations provided for the use of the Supreme Court, and other Courts, in order that the room these now occupy may be converted into a roomÂ for a Legislative Library." (NS Journals, 1848 App 53).Â In the Spring of 1862 the Legislative Library opened in the space formerly occupied by the Supreme Court after necessary renovations were completed such as adding alcoves, shelving and a mezzanine balcony. Nova Scotiaâ€™s first Legislative Librarian, James Venables, was appointed in 1862.
The Legislative Library is responsible for providing the information services required by all Members of the Legislature, their caucus and constituency staff and the staff of the Legislature. Members of the Provincial Civil Service are permitted to use the Libraryâ€™s resources and to borrow materials; the Library is also open to all citizens who may borrow through interlibrary loan.
Information services are provided via the Libraryâ€™s specialized in-house and publicly accessible databases. The full catalogue of the Libraryâ€™s holdings is accessible online. The Library provides services directly to the Members including current awareness products, newspaper articles and information obtained from the array of databases to which the Library subscribes.
The Libraryâ€™s collection reflects the concerns of the Legislature and the needs of the Members. Staff collect extensively in the areas of political science, public administration, history, economics, and Canadian statistics. The Library maintains a comprehensive collection of all Nova Scotia government publications in any format on behalf of the Province and produces a monthly and annual checklist of these publications. The Library is also proud to maintain a large collection of rare Novascotiana and Canadiana.
The Legislative Library has a permanent staff of seven and has offices and collections in three other buildings.