Margaret A. Banks (1928-2010)

We note with sadness the passing of Margaret Banks the Doyenne of Canada’s law librarians. She died on Thursday at the age of 81. Slaw readers of a certain age will remember her meticulous work “Using a law library: a guide for students and lawyers in the common law provinces of Canada” which went through six editions between 1974 and 1994.

She also wrote the history of the Canadian Association of Law Librarians and an overview of constitutional law: Understanding Canada’s constitution: including summaries of some reports recommending changes.

As the In Memoriam notice notes, Banks will be remembered by her many friends and colleagues as a loyal and considerate friend, a meticulous scholar and a generous supporter of education, religion and those in need.

She took her Ph.D. in History at the University of Toronto. Her career started as an archivist, but in 1961 she was appointed as the first Law Librarian at the library at the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, even though as she said she didn’t have either a law or library science degree. She was appointed assistant professor with the faculty of law in 1967, although she never taught a law class. While Wes Rayner was Dean, Banks was appointed as a full Professor, in recognition of her role in training thousands of law students. She took her retirement five years early in 1989 and was awarded emeritus status.

She returned to her love of parliamentary history and published Sir John George Bourinot, Victorian Canadian: his life, times, and legacy in 2001. Among her other writings were Privy Council, Cabinet, and Ministry in Britain and Canada: A Story of Confusion, Attitudes in the Philadelphia Convention towards the British System of Government, Constitutional law – citing Canada’s Constitution – problems and proposed solutions; If the queen were to abdicate: procedure under Canada’s constitution; Ontario’s courts, 1867-1987: conflicts and confusion; Parliament, the Executive and the Governor-General; Parliamentary privilege in Canada; Robert’s Rules of Order: editions, reprints, and competitors; The Canada Act 1982 – some facts and comments; The Judiciary in Canada: the Third Branch of Government, and Defining Constitution of the Province–The Crux of the Manitoba Language Controversy. She guided many chairs (or Chairmen as they were known at the time) on the Chair’s Casting Vote: Some Inconsistencies and Problems.

At Western she is remembered by the “Banks Room“, with its glass-fronted wooden bookcases. It is used as a faculty meeting room but also houses various collections such as Law Faculty publications, Law Theses, Law School calendars, scrapbooks from 1959 to 1988, and yearbooks, as well as a Legal Humour collection. A tree will be planted as a living memorial to Margaret Banks.



  1. The 6th ed. of “Banks on Using a Law Library” (1994) is the first book on law librarianship I ever read. I have a copy near my desk at the office. It still comes in handy.

  2. Gary P. Rodrigues

    One of the pleasures of a career in legal publishing is the opportunity that it provides to meet and work with gracious, modest, and intelligent people who devote themselves to gathering and sharing knowledge with others. Margaret Banks was just such a person.

    Her most successful publication, “Using a Law Library” became the starting point for generations of lawyers in their study of law, helping as it did to make sense of the seemingly mindless array of research materials that are available to legal researchers in print. It is now in its sixth edition.

    As Simon Chester has noted, Margaret’s contribution to the University of Western Ontario as the Law Librarian and Professor of Law was recognized by the creation of the Banks Room in the Law School. Her portrait, which presides over the room, was a gift of The Carswell Company on the occasion of her retirement and was given to the Law School in recognition of the importance of her contribution to Carswell and to the legal profession.

  3. Jonathan M. Jacobs

    I only recently heard of Dr. Banks passing.

    While she was a tiny woman, she was a absolute giant in the field of American parliamentary procedure. He influence was strongly felt in the United States.