Toronto Public Library

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Toronto Public Library
Toronto Public Library logo.svg
Country Canada
Established 1884
Location Toronto, Ontario
Branches 100[1]
Size 10.6 million (2015)[2]
Access and use
Circulation 32,505,963 (2015)[3]
Population served 2.79M (2015)[4]
Members 1.2M[3]
Other information
Budget $188,748,470 (2015)[5]
Director Vickery Bowles (City Librarian)

Toronto Public Library (TPL) (French: Bibliothèque publique de Toronto) is a public library system in Toronto, Ontario. It is the largest public library system in Canada and in 2008, had averaged a higher circulation per capita than any other public library system internationally, making it the largest neighbourhood-based library system in the world.[6] Within North America, it also had the highest circulation and visitors when compared to other large urban systems.[7] Established as the library of the Mechanics' Institute in 1830, the Toronto Public Library now consists of 100 branch libraries[1] and has over 12 million items in its collection.[7][8][9][10]


Yorkville Library, one of several Carnegie libraries in Toronto

In 1830, a library was established in the York Mechanics' Institute. In 1882, the provincial legislature passed a free libraries act[11]. In 1884, the Mechanic's Institute's collection became the Toronto Public Library. James Bain was the first chief librarian and he supplemented the collection with $15,000 worth of books purchased on a trip to England in late 1883.[12] Between 1907 and 1916, ten libraries were built with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Trust.[13] Several of these Carnegie libraries continue to be used by the public library; one, the original Central Reference Library, is now the Koffler Student Centre at the University of Toronto.[14]

Henry Cummings Campbell was Chief Librarian of the Toronto Public Library from 1956 to 1978, and the first Chief Librarian to hold a professional library degree. He is credited for having contributed to the expansion of the library and its adaptation to an increasingly dynamic and multicultural city.[15]

Prior to the Amalgamation of Toronto in 1998, each of the former municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto operated their own public libraries.[16] They include:

  • Etobicoke Public Library: in the City of Etobicoke, which established 1950 with 13 branches
  • North York Public Library: in the City of North York, which established 1955 with 19 branches
  • York Public Library: in the City of York, which established 1967 with 6 branches
  • East York Public Library: in the Borough of East York, which established 1967 with 5 branches
  • Scarborough Public Library: in the City of Scarborough, which established 1955 with 19 branches
  • Metro Toronto Public Library: across Metropolitan Toronto, which established 1967 with 1 branch
  • Toronto Public Library: in Old Toronto, which established 1883 with 33 branches

After the 1998 amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto, the individual library boards and the Toronto Reference Library merged into the Toronto Public Library.[17] The merger caused the Toronto Public Library to become the largest library system in North America, serving a population of 2.3 million people with 98 branches at the time.

In 2004, a new library was opened in the St. James Town neighbourhood of Toronto, bringing the total number of branches to 99. In 2014, the city’s 100th library was constructed and opened in Scarborough City Centre.[18]


The Toronto Public Library is governed by a Board appointed by Toronto City Council. The Board is composed of eight citizen members, four Toronto City Councillors and the Mayor or his designate.[19]



The library's collection count is approximately 11 million items.[20]

Notable special collections[edit]

Toronto Public Library's special collections include the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books, and the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection.[21][22][23][24]

Digital Archive[edit]

The library's Digital Archive provides instant access to historical images—including photographs from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive—postcards, maps, rare digitized books and more.[25]

eBook & eMagazine collections[edit]

The Toronto Public Library offers audiobook, e-book, and eMagazine services, including OverDrive eBooks & eAudiobooks, Zinio eMagazines, OneClick Digital eAudiobooks, Safari Tech & Business Books Online, TumbleBook Library, Ebsco eBooks, delivered via the library's website.[26]


The Toronto Public Library technology services include public access computers and free wireless internet access in all branches. The Library also provides access to e-books, music, movies, and other electronic collections. The Toronto Public Library website allows users to reserve materials and have them transferred to the user's preferred branch. [27]


TPL Bookmobile

The TPL operates two Bookmobile buses (24' Blue Bird CS), targeting communities who lack easy access to a neighbourhood branch. There are 32 regular Bookmobile stops in Toronto, including one on Ward's Island.[28] The bookmobile concept was previously used in the library systems of the former municipalities of North York and Scarborough as well as in Toronto as far back as 1948.[29]

Musical instruments[edit]

Since April 2016, the Parkdale branch has a collection of musical instruments including guitars, violins, keyboards, percussion instruments, and others that you can borrow for free with your library card.[30]

Museum + Arts Pass[edit]

The residents of Toronto can borrow museum passes with their library card. Each pass allows maximum 2 adults and 4 kids entering one site. Passes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Passes for popular sites, such as the Toronto Zoo, the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Ontario Science Centre, may require waiting in line.[31]

Digital Content[edit]

Toronto Public Library cardholders can digitally borrow books, music and movies since 2014 by creating an account on the online platform Hoopla[32]. Also, since 2018, the Toronto Public Library has partnered with Kanopy, a free streaming platform with over 30,000 films and documentaries, that lets the library users stream up to eight items per month after registering using their library card.[33][34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pelley, Lauren (20 May 2015). "Toronto Public Library opens 100th branch in Scarborough". Toronto Star. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "2015 Key Facts". Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "Toronto Facts: Diversity". Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "2015 Finance Reports : Library Finance". 
  6. ^ "The Great Equalizer: Toronto Public Library". Cities of Migration. April 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "2009 Annual Performance Measures and Strategic Plan Update" (PDF). Toronto Public Library. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  8. ^ Kupferman, Steve (28 May 2014). "Fort York gets the ultimate condo amenity: a flashy new public library". Toronto Life. Toronto Life Publishing Company. Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Message from the Mayor" (PDF). Toronto Public Library Strategic Plan 2000-2008. Toronto Public Library Board. 2000. p. 4. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "History of Toronto Public Library". Toronto Public Library. 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Bruce, Lorne (9 January 1994). Free Books for All: The Public Library Movement in Ontario, 1850-1930. Dundurn. p. 72. ISBN 1459721071. 
  12. ^ "Topics of the Week". The Week : a Canadian journal of politics, literature, science and arts. 1 (2): 17. 13 Dec 1883. 
  13. ^ 1948-, Murray, Stuart, (2009). The library : an illustrated history. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub. ISBN 9781616084530. OCLC 277203534. 
  14. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "In Memoriam Henry Cummings Campbell" by Paula de Ronde, August 24th, 2009, Hart House, University of Toronto.
  16. ^ Toronto, City of (4 August 2017). "Staff Directory, Divisions & Customer Service" (PDF). 
  17. ^ "City of Toronto Act, 1997, SO 1997, c 2". CanLII. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Toronto Public Appointments Decision Body Profile". Retrieved 2018-01-19. 
  20. ^ "About the Library : Toronto Public Library". Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  21. ^ "Arthur Conan Doyle Collection : Special Collections & Rare Books". 
  22. ^ "Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy : Special Collections & Rare Books". 
  23. ^ "Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books : Special Collections & Rare Books". 
  24. ^ "Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection : Special Collections & Rare Books". 
  25. ^ "Digital Archive". Toronto Public Library. Retrieved 2017-12-19. 
  26. ^ "Downloads & eBooks : Books, Video, Research & More". 
  27. ^ "FAQ : How do I place a hold on the website?". Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  28. ^ "Bookmobiles : Hours & Locations : Toronto Public Library". Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  29. ^ "History of Toronto Public Library : About the Library". Toronto Public Library. Retrieved 2018-01-19. 
  30. ^ "Borrow a Musical Instrument : Toronto Public Library". Toronto Public Library. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  31. ^ "Use Your Toronto Library Card to Visit Museums for Free". 
  32. ^ Slaughter, Graham (7 April 2014). "Toronto Public Library launches Hoopla, Netflix-like movie and music service" – via Toronto Star. 
  33. ^ "Stream free movies, tv shows and docs with Toronto Public Library's new service - Metro Toronto". 
  34. ^ "Kanopy". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]