Toronto Reference Library in Toronto

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The Toronto Reference Library is located at 789 Yonge Street, one block north of Bloor Street, in Toronto, Ontario. Formerly the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, the name was changed in 1998 when it was incorporated into the Toronto Public Library system..

The 38,691 m² (416,035 sq. ft.) five-storey building, designed by architect Raymond Moriyama, opened in 1977 and is the biggest public reference library in Canada. The library's collection is mostly non-circulating, although some materials can be borrowed.

The library operated separately before the amalgamation of the City of Toronto and surrounding boroughs in 1998. It is one of the three largest libraries in the city along with the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto and Scott Library at York University.

The library had 1,653,665 catalogued items in 2010 , including:

  • 1.5 Million volumes (monographs and bound periodicals)
  • 2.5 Million other materials (films, tapes, microforms, maps, fine art items, ephemera, etc.)
  • 475 (linear) metres of manuscript materials

The TD Gallery is the library's exhibit gallery, and features exhibits of art, books, documents, manuscripts and other items from the collections. The Gallery is currently closed for renovations.

Like all libraries in the Toronto Public Library system, the reference library offers free wireless Internet, as well as computers that can be used free of charge. Many of these public computers are located on the main floor, but they are also available on all floors including the basement. The Digital Design Studio, provides access to more advanced software and staff assistance for a small fee.

Special Collections

Among the special collections at the Toronto Reference Library are:

  • The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, devoted to the life and works of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, is housed in a room built to look like Holmes's study at 221B Baker St.
  • The Baldwin Room, a collection of books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, broadsides and printed ephemera, maps, newspapers and historical pictures relating to Upper Canada (now Ontario) and to early Toronto. This collection is named for Robert Baldwin, a leading political reformer in Upper Canada and pre-Confederation Premier. However it also includes a Canadian historical picture collection illustrating the history of Canada, originally donated to the library in 1910 by John Ross Robertson (1841–1918), founder and publisher of the Toronto Telegram and a major philanthropist of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, which now contains thousands of historical paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and postcards.
  • The Genealogy and Local History Collection, whose strength is Canadian content but which also includes numerous resources for Great Britain, Ireland and the United States (particularly the northeastern states).
  • The Map Collection of current and historical maps, atlases, gazetteers and cartography resources is international in scope. Some of the resources it includes are: maps of Toronto from 1788 to the present, Toronto fire insurance plans and Goad maps and atlases, as well as current and retrospective topographic and photo maps of the Toronto area.
  • The Art Room containing rare books, photographs, posters and manuscripts, including important costume design and sheet music collections.

The library also has an extensive performing arts collection, including papers and information on many Canadian artists, such as Al Waxman and The Dumbells. Some of the materials in this collection are available online.

The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon

The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library is an event space located on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library. It opened to the public on September 23, 2009. The Salon hosts free literary and cultural programming organized by the library.

When not in use for library programs the Salon is available to be rented for private functions.


The Toronto Reference Library's renovation project will be completed in 2012 at a cost of $34 million.

The project includes:

  • Glass Entrance Cube, Yonge Street Façade Expansion and a Revitalized Exhibition Gallery Space
  • Special Collections Rotunda
  • Enhanced Research and Study Areas
  • New and innovative technology

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