The King, the Babe and the Books

It has been six years since I posted the article below and August 16th has come around the horn and landed on my Slaw posting day again. As described below Aug 16 is an auspicious day for a variety of reasons and because of that I felt that it was worthwhile to repost The King, the Babe and the Books, scheduled for reposting in 2019

August 16th is an auspicious day for any number of reasons, the death of the King and the death of Babe Ruth being just two. Whatever cosmic forces make August 16th such an auspicious day are respected even more around the Sir James Dunn Law Library, as today is the 22nd anniversary of the Library burning down. Back in August, 1985 the roof of the Law Library was being re-tarred and in the wee hours of August 16th there was a lightning strike on the roof. Early that morning the custodial staff arrived and turned on the lights and the sparks that had been lingering since the lightning strike soon turned into this:


and this. For those of you who have ever wondered, card catalogues do indeed burn.

At the time the Library consisted of 160000 volumes of that 60000 were destroyed and 90000 were damaged by water and soot. Here are some other pictures (click to enlarge):

Fire  Fire  Fire  Fire  Fire  Fire  Fire

It was through Herculean efforts that the library was rebuilt over the years that followed and became the location that it is today.

How does this relate the technology part of legal research and Slaw? Well, as a direct result of the fire the library was rebuilt and because of that, we had the space to provide the Law Learning Commons that we have today, where a great deal of legal research happens utilizing technology.


As a postscript, two years ago on August 16th (the 20th anniversary of the fire) we arrived at the library to find that a water pipe had burst and ruined several shelves of books. So yes, we do tread lightly around here on Aug. 16th.


  1. I visited Mark in May and got the grand tour of the new facilities, along with the story of the fire — and the flood. (Will it be locusts next time?) The Sir James Dunn Law Library is a great library with a great staff. Thanks for that tour, Mark, and for this post.

  2. Wow. Wow. Those photos make me feel a little queasy. Thank you for sharing, Mark.

  3. As an eerie add on, we had the worst Thunder and Lighting storm I can remember in 10 years of living in Halifax, last Thursday night, Aug. 16th?

  4. This post has been selected for the Carnival of the Infosciences #77 over on Jessamyn West’s blog