Toronto Reference Library

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Toronto Reference Library
The library entrance.
General information
TypePublic Library
Location789 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M4W 2G8
Coordinates43°40′17″N 79°23′25″W / 43.6712814°N 79.3903244°W / 43.6712814; -79.3903244
Opening2 November 1977
Toronto Reference Library
Toronto Reference Library as viewed from the 2nd floor, September 2005.
Study space on the second floor.

The Toronto Reference Library is located at 789 Yonge Street, one block north of Bloor Street, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Formerly the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, the name was changed in 1998 when it was incorporated into the Toronto Public Library system.[1] The library operated separately before the amalgamation of the City of Toronto and surrounding boroughs in 1998. It is one of the three largest libraries in the city along with the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto and Scott Library at York University.


The 38,691 m² (416,035 sq. ft.) [1] five-storey building, designed by architect Raymond Moriyama, opened in 1977 and is the biggest public reference library in Canada.

A curving atrium in the middle of the large library creates sight lines across floors, provides natural ventilation and introduces natural light from its sophisticated skylights.

The design of this library was influenced by the hanging garden of Babylon and therefore plants were located around the edge of each floor facing the atrium. However, due to financial constraints, the plants were later removed.

The brick façade of the building creates harmony with the surrounding buildings as well as providing thermal benefits.


The library's collection is mostly non-circulating,[1] although some materials can be borrowed.

The library had 1,653,665 catalogued items in 2010,[1] including:

  • 1.5 Million volumes (monographs and bound periodicals)
  • 2.5 Million other materials (films, tapes, microforms, maps, fine art items, ephemera, etc.)
  • 475 (linear) metres of manuscript materials

The TD Gallery is the library's exhibit gallery, and features exhibits of art, books, documents, manuscripts and other items from the collections.


Poster announcing an event featuring items from European royalty at the Library.

Like all libraries in the Toronto Public Library system, the reference library offers free wireless Internet, as well as computers that can be used free of charge. Many of these public computers are located on the main floor, but they are also available on all floors including the basement. The Digital Innovation Hub, provides access to more advanced software and staff assistance for a small fee.

  • Information and reference services
  • Access to full text databases
  • Community information
  • Art exhibit space
  • Newcomer Information services
  • Piano practice room
  • Reader's advisory services
  • Programs for children, youth and adults
  • Delivery to homebound individuals
  • Interlibrary loan
  • Book discussion groups
  • Free downloadable audiobooks
  • 3D printing

The library's hours of operation are weekdays 9:00am – 8:30pm, Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday 1:30pm – 5:00pm.

Special Collections[edit]

Among the special collections at the Toronto Reference Library are:

  • The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, devoted to the life and works of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, is housed in a room built to look like Holmes's study at 221B Baker St.
  • The Baldwin Room, a collection of books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, broadsides and printed ephemera, maps, newspapers and historical pictures relating to Upper Canada (now Ontario) and to early Toronto. This collection is named for Robert Baldwin, a leading political reformer in Upper Canada and pre-Confederation Premier. However it also includes a Canadian historical picture collection illustrating the history of Canada, originally donated to the library in 1910 by John Ross Robertson (1841–1918), founder and publisher of the Toronto Telegram and a major philanthropist of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, which now contains thousands of historical paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and postcards.
  • The Genealogy and Local History Collection, whose strength is Canadian content but which also includes numerous resources for Great Britain, Ireland and the United States (particularly the northeastern states).
  • The Map Collection of current and historical maps, atlases, gazetteers and cartography resources is international in scope. Some of the resources it includes are: maps of Toronto from 1788 to the present, Toronto fire insurance plans and Goad maps and atlases, as well as current and retrospective topographic and photo maps of the Toronto area.
  • The Art Room containing rare books, photographs, posters and manuscripts, including important costume design and sheet music collections.

The library also has an extensive performing arts collection, including papers and information on many Canadian artists, such as Al Waxman and The Dumbells.[2] Some of the materials in this collection are available online.

The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon[edit]

The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library is an event space located on the second floor of the Library. It opened to the public on September 23, 2009. The Salon hosts free literary and cultural programming organized by the library.

When not in use for library programs, the Salon is available to be rented for private functions.


Renovated library entrance.

The Toronto Reference Library's renovation project was completed in 2012 at a cost of $34 million.[3]

The project included:

  • Glass Entrance Cube, Yonge Street Façade Expansion and a Revitalized Exhibition Gallery Space
  • Special Collections Rotunda
  • Enhanced Research and Study Areas
  • New and innovative technology[3]
  • Basement sponsored by the Toronto Star containing a collection of recent editions of various newspapers from across Canada and around the world
  • Balzac's Café by the main entrance
  • Page and Panel - The Toronto Comic Arts Festival Store on the ground floor, originally a pop-up store in 2014, later became permanent as of 2015

Page and Panel not only sells merchandise pertaining to comic books, but also merchandise pertaining to manga, anime, and Japanese video games, primarily from Nintendo franchises such as Mario, Legend of Zelda, Kirby, and Pokémon as well.


In 2017, the Toronto Reference Library was used as the filming location for The Weeknd's music video for his song "Secrets."[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Toronto Reference Library, from the Toronto Public Library website. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  2. ^ Original scripts from the Dumbells [sic] Collection at the Reference Library Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "Toronto Reference Library Revitalization : Hours & Locations".
  4. ^ "The Weeknd Drops Sensual Visuals For "Secrets"".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°40′18″N 79°23′12″W / 43.671752°N 79.386697°W / 43.671752; -79.386697