Toronto Public Library Homepage

Toronto Reference Library

789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON
M4W 2G8


Branch has Telephone Typewriter Service Teletypewriter (TTY): 416-393-7100
Branch Hours
Day Opening Time Closing Time
Monday 9:00 a.m. 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. 8:30 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. 8:30 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. 8:30 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 1:30 p.m. 5:00 p.m.


Closest major intersection Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Located one block north of Bloor Street on the east side of Yonge Street.

Public Transit

TTC subway station Yonge. Walk to library north on Yonge Street.


Paid - parking lots on Cumberland Avenue, Asquith Ave and Church Street.


Map to library branch


General Features

  • Adaptive Technology Centre
  • Asquith Press
  • Balzac's Café
  • Bennett Family Foundation Canadian Literature Collection
  • Book Discussion Group: contact the branch for more information
  • Book Drop - 24 Hours
  • Borrow a Laptop
  • CD/LP/DVD/VHS Listening/Viewing Stations (8)
  • Digital Innovation Hub
  • ESL/Language Learning AV Stations (6)
  • Express Checkout
  • Intellisearch - Custom Research
  • Microform Reader Scanner Printers (17)
  • Newcomer Information Service
  • Page and Panel - The Toronto Comic Arts Festival Store
  • Piano/Practice Room
  • Picture Collection
  • Public Phones (inside)
  • Seating for 1250
  • Study Pods (15)
  • TD Gallery
  • TTY Service
  • The Writers' Room
  • Toronto Star Newspaper Room

Equipment for persons with disabilities

  • Book stand(s)
  • Braille writer (Perkins Braille typewriter)
  • CCTV (closed circuit TV also called print magnifer)
  • Computer with Kurzweil 1000 software and scanner
  • Computer with at least 29” clearance under table top
  • Computer with screen reader software (JAWS)
  • Computers with screen magnification software (Zoomtext) (6)
  • FM Amplification System
  • Height adjustable table or desk
  • Magnifiers - hand held or stand
  • Page turner
  • Study carrels with at least 29” clearance under table top
  • Study tables with at least 29” clearance under table top
  • TTY telephone device for the deaf



  • Arthur Conan Doyle Collection
  • Arts Department
  • Audiobooks on CD
  • Baldwin Collection of Canadiana
  • Browsery
  • Business, Science and Technology
  • Career Information Collection
  • English as a Second Language Materials - Adult
  • Genealogy and Local History Collection
  • Government Publications
  • Humanities & Social Sciences Department
  • Language Learning Kits
  • Languages & Literature Department
  • Local History & Genealogy Collections
  • Map Collection
  • Picture Collection
  • Resource materials for people with disabilities
  • Special Collections in the Arts
  • Toronto Star Newspaper Room
  • Toronto Star Photograph Archive
  • Urban Affairs Collection
  • Very large collection of books in other languages. In addition to those listed for Toronto Reference Library, the many languages of the Americas, Africa, the South Pacific and some languages spoken in Europe are not included - nor are languages with collections under 50 volumes.


  • Large collection in Arabic (books only), Chinese (books only), Czech (books only), Danish (books only), Dutch (books only), Estonian (books only), German (books only), Gujarati (books only), Hindi (books only), Hungarian (books only), Italian (books only), Japanese (books only), Korean (books only), Latvian (books only), Lithuanian (books only), Panjabi (books only), Persian (books only), Polish (books only), Portuguese (books only), Russian (books only), Spanish (books only), Swedish (books only), Tamil (books only), Turkish (books only), Ukrainian (books only), Urdu (books only), Vietnamese (books only)
  • Medium collection in Bengali (books only), Bulgarian (books only), Croatian (books only), Finnish (books only), Greek (books only), Marathi (books only), Norwegian (books only), Romanian (books only), Slovak (books only)
  • Small collection in Afrikaans (books only), Albanian (books only), Amharic (books only), Armenian (books only), Azerbaijani (books only), Basque (books only), Catalan (books only), Esperanto (books only), Frisian (books only), Hebrew (books only), Icelandic (books only), Indonesian (books only), Irish (books only), Kannada (books only), Macedonian (books only), Malayalam (books only), Maltese (books only), Serbian (books only), Sindhi (books only), Sinhalese (books only), Slovenian (books only), Somali (books only), Swahili (books only), Tagalog (books only), Telugu (books only), Thai (books only), Welsh (books only), Yiddish (books only)

Branch History

Year Details
1830 York Mechanics' Institute founded to promote adult education by providing a library, lectures and night classes; renamed Toronto Mechanics Institute in 1834, when the Town of York became the City of Toronto. Toronto's Historical Plaques
1833 Mechanics’ Institute Library housed in Timothy Parson's straw-bonnet and drapery warehouse on King Street between Yonge and Bay.
1846 Moved from rented premises to the second floor above the Court Street Fire Hall.
1854 Cornerstone laid for the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute’s permanent home, Church Street at the northeast corner of Adelaide Street East, 17 April.
1861 Toronto Mechanics's Institute opened at the northeast corner of Church and Adelaide streets. The building included a library with a separate reading room. Architects F.W. Cumberland & G. W. Storm.
1882 Ontario Free Libraries Act passed by the Ontario Legislature, the first such act in Canada.
1883 Toronto voters approved a free public library bylaw to establish a public library, January 1. Toronto Mechanics' Institute building and collections transferred to the new Toronto Public Library Board, March.
1884 Toronto Public Library officially opened, March 6, the fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Toronto.
1903 Carnegie Corporation of New York granted $350,000 to TPL for a new central library and three branch libraries on the condition that the city would provide the land and guarantee $35,000 a year to support the library. Toronto's Carnegie Libraries - Central Reference Library
1904 Site for a new central library acquired at the northwest corner of College and St. George streets.
1906 Chief Justice Falconbridge, chairman of the Library Board, lays the cornerstone on 27 November 1906.
1908 A circulating library, College Street Branch, opened in a 100- by 40-foot space on the first (ground) floor of the new Reference Library, College and St. George Streets, 9 December. The collection was transferred from the old College Street Branch, located in rented premises at College Street and Brunswick Avenue, 1900-8.
1909 Public Reference Library officially opened, September 8. Wickson & Gregg and A.H. Chapman, associated architects. Reference collection transferred from old Central Library (renamed Church Street Branch). Circulating collection transferred from College Street Branch, which had been located in rented premises at College Street and Brunswick Avenue, 1900-8.
1927 Reference Library extension to cost $400,000 approved by TPL Board, 9 December. The cornerstone for the addition laid on 28 March 1929.
1930 Addition for a new Circulating Library officially opened, April 21. Architect, Chapman & Oxley, in association with Wickson & Gregg.
1953 Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto established, providing upper-tier municipal government for the municipalities of Toronto.
1960 Dr. Ralph Shaw recommended that a library board be established to provide a reference library for Metropolitan Toronto. The collection would be based on the reference and circulating departments of Toronto Public Library's Central Library, and be located in the existing Central Library until a new facility could be built. Addition for book stacks and a reading room officially opened, April 4.
1966 Metropolitan Toronto Library Board established, by an amendment to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act. It was "to provide reference services to the metro area, promote interlibrary lending, and provide co-ordinating services to local library systems." (Penman, A Century of Service, 70).
1972 Site acquired on Yonge Street, at the northeast corner of Asquith Avenue, for a new reference library
1973 College and St. George street building listed by Toronto City Council listed on the City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties, 20 June. Designation by-law passed by Toronto City Council, 26 November 1975.
1974 Raymond Moriyama appointed architect of the new Reference Library.
1977 New reference library officially opened, 2 November. The old reference library taken over by the University of Toronto for a student centre and a bookstore.
1994 Addition to the Reference Library opened.
1997 The City of Toronto Act (Bill 103) passed by the Ontario Legislature, amalgamating the seven existing municipal governments of Metropolitan Toronto.
1998 Seven library boards in Metropolitan Toronto united into one library called the Toronto Public Library. Within the newly amalgamated library system, the Toronto Reference Library assumed its role as a Research and Reference Library.
2001 Digital Design Studio opened to public, 26 February. Information Commons opened to public, 4 July. Toronto Star Newspaper Centre refurbished, 20 November.
2002 Virtual Reference Desk introduced 4 November.
2003 Computer Terrace opened.
2004 Two new Learning Centres opened.
2006 Introduced Browsery Collection. Atrium stage opened.
2007 New hours, 8 January. Hours open per week increased from 54 to 60.
2009 The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, multi-purpose event and conference facility opened. Consumer Health Information Service closed, March.
2011 The Urban Affairs Library at Metro Hall (55 John Street), staff and collections were integrated at the Toronto Reference Library, 15 September. Completion of new Cube entrance and expansion of Browsery, December.
2012 Reorganization of subject collections; integration of periodicals in the subject departments, February. New subject departments established: 2nd floor - Humanities & Social Sciences, 3rd floor - Business, Science & Technology, 4th floor - Languages & Literature, Special Collections (temporary location), 5th floor - Arts. The new TD Gallery opened to the public, June. Balzac's Cafe opened, July.
2014 Completion of the revitalization project.
2014 Digital Innovation Hub opened to the public, 4 February. Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre opened 21 February. Asquith Press opened 9 June.
2015 Writers' Room opened to the public, 19 January.

Meeting Rooms

To book Room B-1, please call 416-397-5969.

Bram and Bluma Appel Salon booking information

Room B-1 (Lower Level)

  • 305 sq. ft.
  • Seats 15. Fire Code Occupancy: 15.
  • Equipment:
    • flip chart stand
    • overhead projector (additional charge)
    • table & chairs
    • whiteboard
  • Wheelchair accessible washroom on main level.


Closest major intersection Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Located one block north of Bloor Street on the east side of Yonge Street.

Public Transit

Closest major intersection Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Located one block north of Bloor Street on the east side of Yonge Street.


Paid - parking lots on Cumberland Avenue, Asquith Ave and Church Street.

Upcoming Events

Mon, Oct 24 - 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Mon, Oct 24 - 2:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
Mon, Oct 24 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Regular Programs

Tue, Oct 25 - 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Thu, Oct 27 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

All Branch Programs & Events