The Best Public Libraries in Toronto

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The 100th branch, Photo via Toronto Public Library

Toronto has some of the best public libraries in Canada that reflect the multicultural diversity of our great city. There are 99 library institutes (with another one coming soon) and innovation has come along way since the days of pre-internet checkout, subscriptions and VHS rentals. Yorkville was the first library system opened in the early 1900s, paving the way for additional services, thanks to a large Carnegie grant. Today’s modern libraries are a digital innovation hub for 3D printing, writing pods, and interactive author events.

With the Toronto Public Library’s 100th branch opening near the Scarborough Civic Centre this spring, local artist Daniel Rotsztain is celebrating his love for books. In his art new project called  “All the Libraries,” Rotsztain is aiming to visit and sketch every single branch to understand its rich history and architecture. One of his favourites? The Runnymede Library at Bloor Street West because of its gothic decor and worn brick exterior.

Here are some of the best Toronto Public Libraries.

Toronto Reference Library
The reference library on Yonge Street is easily the most popular building in the city for students, writers and budding entrepreneurs. Officially opened in 1977, the institute is the largest public reference library in Canada with incredible architecture, thanks to a recent renovation. The building was updated with a new entrance way, glass meeting rooms, study pods and a Balzac’s Cafe. It’s the main hub for technology with new 3D printers, digital workstations and equipment for persons with disabilities. Want to get married at the library? Wedding packages are available for fellow book lovers.

Lillian H. Smith
The library around the corner from Kensington Market has been in the area since it moved homes in 1995. The library features special  exhibits like the rare collection of early children’s literature, along with author events and kid’s programming. Who was Lillian H. Smith? She was a prominent children’s librarian and lecturer in the 1920s.

Maria A. Shchuka
The Eglinton West library was named in honour of the head librarian and renovated in 2003 by Diamond & Schmitt Architects. The glass cube building offers a historical book collections and local programs geared towards the neighbourhood.

Fort York
The Fort York Library is the Toronto Public Library’s 99th branch recently opened in 2014. It’s a hi-tech glass structure with 16,000 square feet of books and digital innovation. It’s also the ultimate condo amenity for book lovers, adjacent to the new Library District Condos at Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard.

Mt. Dennis
The library, located near Weston Road and Eglinton, is revitalizing the neighbourhood with its modern renovation and urban space. The new build, a standout design for the area, won the 2013 Award for Excellence by the Toronto Urban Design Awards.

What is your favourite Toronto Public Library?


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