George Herbert Locke was the second chief librarian of the Toronto Public Library, serving from November 1908 until his death on January 28, 1937. He is credited with having "transformed a small institution into one of the most respected library systems on the continent."1 During his 29 years at Toronto, Locke established children's services, introduced books in many languages, and opened a new central library and 16 branches. As a mark of respect, all of the libraries in Toronto were closed on the day of Locke's funeral and hundreds attended a memorial service at the Central Library.
Locke was born at Beamsville, Ontario on March 29, 1870 and educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto. He taught at Toronto, Chicago and Harvard universities and was dean at the School for Teachers, Macdonald College, Montreal, before coming to Toronto Public Library. Locke promoted library training and professionalism, helping establish the Library School at the University of Toronto and serving as president of the Ontario Library Association (1916 - 1917) and the American Library Association (1926 - 27) — the first Canadian to hold this office. He was a popular public speaker and the author of many books and articles on literary, historical and professional themes.
Locke received honourary degrees from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada erected a plaque commemorating Locke, unveiled at Beamsville on October 26, 1948. An oil portrait of Locke by Curtis Williamson (presented by library staff in 1933 in recognition of Locke's 25th anniversary of being chief librarian) now hangs at the George H. Locke Memorial Branch of the Toronto Public Library, opened in 1949.