History of Toronto Public Library
Date and Event
The Toronto Library, a private subscription library, is founded, 9 December. During the American occupation of York in April 1813, the library was looted, but, in November 1813, Isaac Chauncey (the commander of the U.S. fleet) returned two cases of the library's books, with a note of apology to the trustees.
York Mechanics' Institute is established "for the mutual improvement of its members in useful scientific knowledge... A library of reference and circulation will be formed."
Town of York becomes the City of Toronto, and the York Mechanics' Institute is renamed Toronto Mechanics' Institute. To educate workers (mechanics), the Institute provided a library and offered classes ranging from philosophy and music to science, electricity and architectural drawing.
Scarboro' Subscription Library is established.
Toronto Mechanics' Institute relocates its library and news-room to the upper floor of the new Central Fire Hall (behind the County Court House) on the north side of Court-house lane (now Court Street), west of Church Street between King and Adelaide streets.
Weston Mechanics' Institute is established.
Toronto Mechanics' Institute moves into its new home at the northeast corner of Church and Adelaide streets. Designed by F. W. Cumberland & G. W. Storm, the building contains a library with a separate reading room, a lecture hall and a large music hall.
1870s and 1880s
Mechanics' institutes with lending libraries and reading rooms are incorporated at Scarboro' (1878), Parkdale (1880) and West Toronto Junction (1888); and revitalized and reorganized at Weston (1885).
Free Libraries Act is passed by the Ontario Legislature. Alderman John Hallam leads the Toronto campaign to establish a free public library in Toronto.
Free Library By-Law is approved by a huge majority of Toronto voters, Jan. 1. Toronto and Guelph are the first municipalities in Ontario to create free public libraries. John Hallam becomes the first chairman of the Toronto Public Library Board.
Toronto Public Library officially opens in the old Mechanics' Institute building, Church and Adelaide streets, on 6 March – the city's 50th anniversary.
Toronto Public Library opens its first two branches, Northern and Western, followed in 1888 with another pair, North Western and Eastern, all housed in rented quarters.
Books in German and French are bought, the beginnings of the library's multi-language collections. Literature in Spanish and Italian is added by 1900, and, to meet the needs of recent immigrants, books in several other European languages are added in the 1910s. Cataloguing Department Head Winifred Barnstead reports in 1916: "By the purchase of a Hammond typewriter we were able to type and place in the College Street Branch special catalogues in the Modern Greek, Yiddish and Russian scripts."
Policy to collect Canadiana is established. James Bain Jr., the first chief librarian, begins building the library's special collections of publications and manuscripts documenting Canada.
Mechanics' institutes, renamed public libraries on 1 May 1895, are formed at Highland Creek (1890) Islington (1890), Don (1896) and Bracondale (1898).
Toronto Public Library opens Dundas Street Branch in January 1890 in rented quarters on today's Ossington Avenue north of Queen Street, using furniture and books transferred from the former Parkdale Mechanics' Institute library, annexed to Toronto in 1889.
Scarborough Centennial Memorial Library is built as part of the township's 100th anniversary celebrations.
Public libraries are established at East Toronto (1903), Deer Park (1905), North Toronto (1909) and Runnymede (1909). Toronto Public Library opens College Street Branch in rented quarters at the corner of Brunswick Avenue.
Toronto is awarded a Carnegie grant of $350,000 for a new central library (Opened in 1909) and three branches: Yorkville (1907), Queen & Lisgar (1909-1964), and Riverdale (1910).
Toronto Reference Library is opened at the northwest corner of College and St. George streets with 97,788 books.
Western (now Annette Street) Branch opens. It was built with a $20,000 Carnegie grant to the old City of West Toronto, amalgamated with Toronto in May 1909.
Open shelf system is adopted allowing borrowers in the branches to retrieve books themselves instead of asking library staff.
College Street Branch, previously housed in rented quarters at the corner of Brunswick Avenue, is relocated to the basement of the new Reference Library; it includes a Children's Room.
Toronto Public Library opens branches in storefronts and other rented premises to serve areas recently annexed to Toronto until permanent libraries can be built: Deer Park and Wychwood in 1911; Northern and Earlscourt in 1913, and Beaches and Eastern in 1914. Prior to annexation, some of these areas had their own public libraries.
Municipal Reference Library opens in Toronto City Hall. This is the start of special services for civic officials and business people.
John Ross Robertson Historical Collection is presented to the Toronto Public Library.
Dewey Decimal system of classification is adopted for all books except fiction. Toronto Public Library's Cataloguing Department prepares An Extension of the Dewey Decimal Classification applied to Canada.
Lillian H. Smith is hired to head Toronto Public Library's new Children's Department, and inaugurates story hours and other innovative services for children.
Dovercourt (now Bloor/Gladstone) Branch opens. It is the first library to be financed fully by the City of Toronto.
Mimico Public Library Board is established, opening a Carnegie-funded library in the village in 1915.
Weston Public Library Board, established in 1912, opens a Carnegie-funded library in the town.
A camp library is established at Exhibition Park for troops training to serve in the First World War. Toronto Public Library is the first library in North America to provide this service for soldiers.
Three identical branches, Beaches, High Park and Wychwood, open. They were built with a $50,000 grant to Toronto Public Library in 1908.
Library associations are formed at Agincourt, followed by Swansea (1919), established "as a Memorial to our Swansea men who have seen active service in the Great War."
To provide extra service for inner city children, Toronto Public Library opens a library in Central Neighbourhood House. Children's libraries soon are started at other settlement houses: St. Christopher House in 1920, University Settlement House in 1921 and Memorial Institute in 1931.
Six new branch libraries open in Toronto: Earlscourt (1921, now Dufferin/St. Clair), Eastern (1921, now Main Street), Northern (1923-1975, later St. Clement's), Gerrard (1924, now Gerrard/Ashdale), Downtown (1927-1965), and Danforth (1929, now Pape/Danforth).
Association libraries also are organized at Birch Cliff (1920), New Toronto (1921), Scarboro Bluffs (1922) Long Branch (1923) and Humber Bay (1925).
Boys and Girls House opens on St. George Street. It is the first library devoted exclusively to children in the British Empire.
The assocation library at New Toronto transfers its assets to the newly-created free public library board, which opens a new library building in 1928.
Canadian Catalogue of Books is started, an annual list of "books published in Canada about Canada, as well as those written by Canadians." Toronto Public Library continues to prepare and publish this forerunner of Canada's official national bibliography for 28 annual instalments. The National Library of Canada takes over the project in 1951, renaming the bibliography, Canadiana.
Chief librarian George H. Locke is the first Canadian to be president of the American Library Association, 1926-27. During his presidency, the American Library Association held its annual meeting in Toronto, June 1927.
A free public library is organized in York Township School Section 28, Mount Dennis.
A public library association is organized in Oakwood (1933), which never operates, and association libraries close at Don, Islington, Long Branch, Runnymede, and Scarborough Bluffs, followed by Birch Cliff in 1944.
Central Circulating Library is added to the Reference Library.
Toronto Public Library extends service to Thistletown Hospital for Sick Children, the start of its extension work to hospitals, old age homes and other institutions.
Runnymede Branch opens.
Military Camp Library is established at Exhibition Place for the troops in training there.
An association public library is organized in Leaside, and opens a library in rented quarters at 645 (now 1645) Bayview Avenue. The Leaside Public Library Board, formed in 1944, opens a library at 165 McRae Drive in 1950.
A children's library opens in R. H. McGregor School, East York on 7 November 1944. The Township of East York Public Library Board is established in 1946, opening a library at the northeast corner of Coxwell and Mortimer avenues in 1950.
Township of York Public Library Board is formed, taking over the assets of the Mount Dennis Library, which operated a small branch in rented quarters above a store.
In 1948, it begins the first bookmobile service in Toronto area. A Main Library on Eglinton, and two new branches, Jane Street and Mount Dennis, open in 1951.
Long Branch Public Library Board holds its first meeting on 22 January. In 1955, it opens its own library building on Lake Shore Boulevard.
The Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books is presented to the Toronto Public Library Board by Edgar Osborne; the collection represents English children's literature from the 14th century up to 1910.
George H. Locke Memorial Branch opens, TPL's first new branch since the Depression and the Second World War. It is named for Toronto Public Library's chief librarian, 1908-1937.
More about George H. Locke
Two new branch buildings open in Toronto: Deer Park (1952) and Parliament Street (1955).
Township of Etobicoke Public Library Board is established. During the 1950s, when Etobicoke's population tripled, branch libraries are opened at Humber Bay (1951), Brentwood (1955) Alderwood (1958) and Rexdale (1959), while a bookmobile serves many neighbourhoods.
North York Public Library opens on the ground floor of the new North York Memorial Community Hall, Yonge Street, south of Park Home Avenue. By 1997 it has grown into a system of 19 library locations, providing a tiered model of service with a central library, and regional and satellite branches.
Forest Hill Public Library Board is established, with assets transferred from an earlier association library. A new library opens in the village's municipal building built in 1962.
Scarborough Public Library Board is established, bringing together the Agincourt, Highland Creek and Scarboro library associations, and opening the Golden Mile Branch in 1956. By 1997, it has developed into a system of 19 libraries including neighbourhood and community branches, and three district libraries.
Twenty-four new libraries open in Metropolitan Toronto: Jones (1962), Parkdale (1964), City Hall (1965) and Charles R. Sanderson (1968, named for the chief librarian, 1937-1956) in Toronto; Eatonville (1964) and Albion Mall (1965) in Etobicoke; Evelyn Gregory (1968) in York; McGregor Park (1960), Bendale (1961) Taylor Memorial (1962), Cedarbrae (1965) Morningside (1968) in Scarborough; S. Walter Stewart (1960) and Todmorden (1961) in East York; Don Mills (1961), Bathurst Heights (1962), Downsview (1963), Woodview Park (1964), Bayview (1966) Centennial (1966), Amesbury Park (1967), Victoria Village (1967), Black Creek (1968) and Brookbanks (1968) in North York. In addition, the old Carnegie library at Mimico is replaced with the Mimico Centennial Library.
City Hall Branch opens in Toronto's new city hall. As well as a circulating library it houses a business and municipal reference collections.
Public library boards at Forest Hill (est. 1954) and Swansea (est. 1923) are amalgamated with Toronto Public Library Board, when their municipalities became part of the City of Toronto.
Township of East York and the Town of Leaside are amalgamated to form the Borough of East York. The East York Public Library Board is established, amalgamating the public library boards of the former Township of East York (est. 1946) and the Town of Leaside (est. 1944). By 1997 it had five branch locations.
Borough of York Public Library is formed bringing together library facilities from York Township and the Town of Weston; by 1997 it had six branch libraries.
With the amalgamation of the Township of Etobicoke with the towns of Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch, the Etobicoke Public Library Board is formed. Its ten branch locations increase to 13 by 1997.
Metropolitan Toronto Library Board is established. The Central Library collections and other special collections were transferred from the Toronto Public Library to the new Metro Board.
Eighteen new branches are opened in Metropolitan Toronto: Palmerston (1971), Northern District (1975), Spadina Road (1977), Perth/Dupont (1977) and Queen/Saulter (1979) in Toronto; Albert Campbell (1971), Cliffcrest (1972), Guildwood (1974), Port Union (1974), Bridlewood (1976) and Woodside Square (1977) in Scarborough; Thorncliffe Park (1970) in East York; York Woods (1970), Fairview (1972), Humber Summit (1974), Hillcrest (1975), Pleasant View (1975), and Flemington Park (1978) in North York.
Judith Merril donates her collection to the Toronto Public Library, the beginning of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy.
Shut-in Service is inaugurated at Toronto Public Library, and in Etobicoke in 1971.
New Metropolitan Toronto Library opens at 789 Yonge Street at Asquith Avenue.
Eleven new branches are opened in Metropolitan Toronto: St. Clair/Silverthorn (1981), St. Lawrence (1982), College/Shaw (1984) and Danforth/Coxwell (1989) in Toronto; Malvern (1982), Maryvale (1982), Steeles (1987) and Kennedy/Eglinton (1988) in Scarborough; Armour Heights (1982) and Jane Sheppard (1989) in North York; and Elmbrook Park (1988) in Etobicoke. In addition, North York Central Library opens in a new facility in 1985.
Four new branches are opened in Metropolitan Toronto before amalgamation: Goldhawk Park (1992) in Scarborough; Northern Elms (1991) and Humberwood (1996) in Etobicoke; and Oakwood Village (1997) in York. In addition, several branches are replaced or renovated.
The City of Toronto Act (Bill 103) is passed by the Ontario Legislature, amalgamating the seven exisiting municipal governments of Metropolitan Toronto.
Seven library boards in Metropolitan Toronto are united into one library called the Toronto Public Library. With 98 locations, it is the largest public library system in North America serving a population of 2.3 million.
Josephine Bryant is appointed as the first City Librarian of the newly-amalamaged Toronto Public Library.
Burrows Hall is the first branch opened by the new Toronto Public Library Board.
Integrated online catalogue of the Library's collections is completed, giving unified access to nine million books, magazines, CDs, CD-ROMs and other materials in a hundred different languages.
Virtual Reference Library is launched, providing Internet access to information on key subject areas through a series of gateways, digitized collections and research databases.
Installation of more than 400 Internet workstations acquired through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
First strategic plan of the amalgamated Toronto Public Library is prepared to guide the library into the new millennium.
Toronto Public Library becomes the world's second most used public library by circulation after Hong Kong.
Launch of Historicity: Toronto Then and Now, an award-winning Internet gateway to the history of Toronto and its neighbourhoods.
Leaside Branch, officially re-opened on June 11, 2002, replaces the old Leaside Branch (1950).
Toronto Public Library hosts the American Library Association Conference, June 19-25.
Toronto Public Library launches its second strategic plan for 2004-2007: Urban Stories: The Next Chapter.
St. James Town, Toronto Public Library's 99th branch, opens October 14.
Beaches (January 20), Malvern (January 28), Northern Elms (April 16), Runnymede (June 8) and Long Branch (September 27) all officially reopen after extensive renovations.
Morningside Branch reopens (May 30), after relocation and reconstruction.
Pape/Danforth Branch reopens (August 29) after a major renovation.
A site is acquired for Toronto Public Library's 100th Branch at Bathurst Street and Fort York Blvd. Project is expected to commence in 2008.
Woodside Square Branch reopens after relocation and expansion (April 30).
Yorkville Branch, Toronto Public Library's oldest building, celebrates 100 years of service. (June 16).
Three branches reopen after major renovations: Jane/Dundas (February 4), S. Walter Stewart (May 28) and Dufferin/St.Clair (October 28), and Cliffcrest Branch reopens after a relocation and an expansion. (April 3).
Josephine Bryant announces her early retirement (February 21) and Jane Pyper is appointed as the new City Librarian (September 2).
Toronto Public Library publishes its third strategic plan since city amalgamation for 2008-2011, Our Shared Stories.
Jane/Sheppard Branch closes for relocation (January 31) and reopens in new location (April 2).
Two branches reopen after major renovations and expansions: Kennedy/Eglinton (June 25) and Bloor/Gladstone (July 23).
Toronto Public Library Foundation launches a five-year, $34 million revitalization of the Toronto Reference Library.
The Bram and Bluma Appel Salon is opened in Toronto Reference Library (Sep 17).
Annette Street Branch celebrates 100 years of service in the Carnegie building. (Sep 12).
Public consultation begins for a new library branch, Scarborough Centre (Feb 17).
Two branches reopen after major renovations and expansions: Thorncliffe (Apr 13) and Cedarbrae (Dec 6).
Brentwood Branch closes for a major renovation & expansion (Sep 25).
Riverdale Branch celebrates 100 years of service (Oct 2).
Public consultation begins for a new library branch, Fort York/Bathurst (May 10).
Urban Affairs collections and services are relocated to the Toronto Reference Library (Sep 15) and a new glass entrance cube opens as part of a 5-year $34 million revitalization of the Toronto Reference Library (Dec 24).
Brentwood Branch reopens after a major renovation. (Nov 2)
Fairview Branch closes for a renovation. (Oct 6)
Mount Dennis Branch reopens after a major renovation. (Mar 11)
Public meetings are held to begin to plan the major renovation of Albion Branch, the exterior renovation of Northern District Branch and the relocation of Bayview Branch.