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Books Around Town: Toronto Reference Library

July 13, 2018

Toronto has a rich literary community with tons of places to read, buy, and talk about books! Books Around Town is a series that explores some of the city’s most popular places for book nerds to gather and share their love of reading.

The Toronto Public Library has 100 branches throughout the city, but the Toronto Reference Library is the biggest—and one of the biggest libraries in the entire city, even when you count university libraries.

The Reference Library first began operating in 1830 as the York Mechanics’ Institute, but the library was only incorporated into the Toronto Public Library system in 1998.  It’s most well-known for the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the library’s fifth floor. Other collections include the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, the Baldwin Collection of Canadiana, picture collections that contain over a million images, and the theatre and performing arts collection.

There are also exhibits you can visit in the TD Gallery. On now is an exhibit called Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity. Until July 29, you can check out works by Canadian comics creators. On Tuesdays you can even go on guided tours! The Alter Ego exhibit was launched during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), an event that takes place annually at the Reference Library.

If you need a break from research or need a team meeting spot, you can stop in at Balzac’s Cafe downstairs for some coffee. Or you can check out some of the regular programming: The library hosts book clubs and writers’ groups like the Non-Fiction Book Club and the Historical Fiction Writers’ Group. If you’re a teen, there’s a storytelling workshop series run by Indigenous spoken word artist Mahlikah Aweiri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw called Stories Make Us Whole

Or you could make your own books using the Asquith Press book printing service. You can print your own paperback for low prices and no minimum order! The library even gives you free access to materials to help teach you how to design your book.

Open even on Sundays, there is something for everyone at the Toronto Reference Library.