Toronto Public Library plays a vital role in the life of our city. We provide school and work related support, vital public space and ensure that all Toronto residents have access to books in all their forms, for all their needs. Our collections and free programming enrich and transform lives and we're committed to providing the highest quality and most relevant library service possible.
We had many testimonials from our customers about how we've been able to help them this past year. Here are just a few.
The National Post's Peter Kuitenbrouwer wrote a short succinct piece about what our city does right. Hint: it's our libraries!
At 10 a.m. today, for reasons too long to explain, I ended up in Gerrard India Bazaar, near Gerrard Street and Coxwell Avenue, cold and somewhat disoriented. Nothing was open and I needed to make a few calls and get organized. Lo and behold, there stood the Ashdale Branch of the Toronto Public Library, just opening its doors to greet the new day.
The library had everything I wanted: a bathroom, a Toronto telephone book, a map of Toronto, all the morning's newspapers, warmth and friendly staff. Frequently in this space we critique the things the City of Toronto does wrong, so I just want to take a second to praise something this city does right: maintain 99 branches of the library, the biggest borrowing library system on the continent. It's a beautiful thing.
Toronto Public Library's Home Library Service is available for Toronto residents who are homebound for three months or longer due to age, illness or disability. A variety of library materials, including books, paperbacks, large print books and talking books, are selected and delivered to you free of charge. This past year, we brought joy to many, especially to this one grateful customer with limited mobility who sends us this lovely note:
I know that I am often sleepy and sometimes not very sociable when the library delivery person arrives at my door once a month. I have let myself become even more a night person. I always was, but I got up and went to work in the morning like everyone else. Now, I really am a night owl. It's after 3 a.m. as I type this up.
So, this is just to explain my grogginess when you arrive. I am so grateful that you bring me the books. You bring me ideas. You bring me sanity and a way to lose myself in someone else's thoughts.
The books are really important to me. The books are not the same as taking pills for my maladies and watching my cholesterol intake. The books feed the part of me that is still free, and still, somehow, young.
So when you come to my door, and I seem a little fraught, please remember how much I appreciate it that you come, and bring me the books that are now a really big and important part of my life.
Mystery author Gail Bowen, a former writer-in-residence for Toronto Public Library writes a very nice letter to libraries in one of her blog posts.
The Most Important Building in the City
Last year when I was Writer in Residence at the Toronto Reference Library I took the subway to work. I am of an age where men offer me their seats on public transit, and I welcome the courtesy. One hot day when we were hurtling along, a young man who appeared to be of mid-eastern descent offered me his seat. He asked if I'd had a good day, and I said yes. He asked where I worked and I told him. His face lit up at the mention of the Toronto Reference Library. He told me that when he came to this country, Toronto Reference Library was the most important building in the city for him. He explained that he knew that everything he needed to make a new life was in that building, and he went there every day.
That young man was just one of many. Every morning, the lobby of the library was packed with people waiting to get inside. Most, like most of us, were immigrants and like the young man on the subway and like generations of people who came to this country in search of a good life, the people in that lobby knew that the key to the good life was the library.
I was born in 1942, and when I started going to Earlscourt Public Library in Toronto, it was filled with what were unkindly referred to as DP's – Displaced Persons. As ugly as that term is, it offers a useful perspective for understanding what the library meant to people who came to Canada during those first post-war years. Libraries offered the displaced a place of belonging – a place where they could learn to shape their lives to become the citizens they wanted to be.
Like many people of my generation, I was the first in my family to attend university. When I started at the University of Toronto, my classes were filled with the students who had sat beside me at the shining oak tables in Earlscourt Public Library. Like me, they went on to live lives that would have been beyond the imagining of their grandparents, and they were able to do this because the libraries of this country have always offered people the tools to build new lives.
Here in Calgary at my home library, Memorial Park, and at Central Library, I've seen students studying quietly after school. Memorial Park and Central are both downtown libraries and many downtown students don't live in homes that offer them a place where they can study, read, think and dream. Ernest Hemingway wrote a fine story about the human need to have a place where, whoever they are and whatever their circumstances, they are treated with dignity, as valuable members of the human race. The story is called "A Clean Well-Lighted Place". For generations, libraries have offered us all a clean well-lighted place to become the people we want to become. I hope we never lose sight of the value of that gift.
Share your stories
We'd love to read, listen to or view your own story. Please feel free to share your memories about the impact Toronto's public library has had on your life by emailing us at: