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Discovering Toronto’s Hidden Libraries

Discovering Toronto’s Hidden Libraries

Discovering Toronto’s Hidden Libraries

Did you know that the Toronto Public Library (TPL) is the largest public library system in Canada? Their collection has over 10.2 million items in a variety of languages, including books, audiobooks, e-books, magazines, newspapers, music, movies, and videos.

With access to TPL’s network of over 100 branches all over Toronto, it’s easy to love books and literature. But, as always, Toronto is full of pleasant surprises.

Aside from its famous public libraries, TO has hidden spots for bookworms too. Here are some hidden libraries you need to check out:

Discovering Toronto’s Hidden Libraries

Caven Library

Address: 59 St George St, Toronto, ON M5S 2E6, Canada

Phone: +1 416-978-4504

Hours: 

  • Monday to Friday 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Website

Caven Library at Knox College, nestled within the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, is one of Toronto’s underrated libraries. The library was created as part of Knox’s current building, which opened in 1915.

Inside, you’ll find a collection of about 80,000 items like books, journals, and videos. They focus on Christian theology and other related interdisciplinary subject areas. 

The library especially provides resources for topics like Presbyterianism, biblical studies, and theology. They also have materials on preaching, Christian education, and, more recently, counselling and spiritual care.

Pro Tip:

While borrowing materials is only available to Knox students, staff, faculty, and alumni, their Reading Room is open to the public. You can also access their collection if you have a UofT TCard.

Arthur Conan Doyle Room

Address: 5th floor, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto

Hours:

  • Monday to Friday 9:00 AM – 8:30 PM
  • Saturday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Website

Calling all Sherlock Holmes fans! Head over to the Arthur Conan Doyle Room located on the fifth floor of the Toronto Reference Library to know what it’s like to be in Sherlock Holmes’ apartment at 221B Baker Street, London.

As its name implies, this hidden library is dedicated to the life and work of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The library was first opened to the public in 1971, thanks to donations and the growing collected works from the renowned author.

The collection in the Arthur Conan Doyle Room includes books, stories, essays, and other materials by and about Conan Doyle. There are also many rare and unique items, such as the first edition of the first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet” (1887).

Pro Tip:

The library is open to the general public, but to access and borrow the items, you’ll have to fill out a form and present your library card or a proof of identity if you don’t have one.

Great Library at Osgoode Hall

Website

Address: 130 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N6, Canada

Hours: 

  • Monday to Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The Great Library at Osgoode Hall is probably one of the grandest libraries in Toronto, but for some reason, it stays as a hidden gem. They’re open to lawyers, paralegals, law students, and the general public for research purposes. 

It boasts a beautiful space with a soaring ceiling, ornate woodwork, and a reading room divided into three sections, each with its own fireplace and chandelier. 

The library was established in the late 1850s and is one of the largest private law libraries in Canada. It holds approximately 125,000 volumes of books, journals, and electronic resources on law practice, cases and legislation, and historic legal materials.

Pro Tip:

The library offers a variety of tours, including a free public tour that’s offered every Wednesday at noon.

Hart House Library

Address: 7 Hart House Cir, Toronto, ON M5S 3H3, Canada

Hours:

  • Monday to Friday 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday to Sunday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Website

Hart House, a historic building on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, has a cosy library with detailed Beaux-Arts style architecture. 

The building itself is worth a visit, with its stained glass windows and historic ambience and while small, is rarely ever full. 

The Hart House Library is a special collections library featuring about 5,000 books, artworks, scripts, maps, and periodicals from the 16th century to the present day. The space welcomes U of T students, faculty, staff, and alumni. 

Pro Tip:

While Hart House is known for accepting private hosting of events, the Reading Room is unfortunately off-limits. Instead, you can rent The Great Hall, which is the largest space in the library.

Music Library

Address: 80 Queens Pk Cres W, Toronto, ON M5S 2C5, Canada

Hours:

  • Monday to Friday 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday to Sunday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Website

Housed in the Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto’s Music Library is another rarely-visited library. You’ll find it hidden between the ROM and the Faculty of Law.

It has the most extensive music research collection in the country, boasting over 300,000 books, scores, and periodicals and around 200,000 sound recordings ranging from wax cylinders to Blu-ray.

The collection covers many music topics, including Western classical music, jazz, popular music, world music, and ethnomusicology.

Pro Tip:

Don’t miss out on the library’s special collections! They have a number of rare items, including the J.W. Pepper Collection—a compilation of music scores published by J.W. Pepper, the famous American sheet music retailer—and the Canadian Music Centre Archives, which feature scores, recordings, photographs, manuscripts, and other materials related to Canadian music. 

Royal Ontario Museum Library

Address: 100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6, Canada

Hours:

  • Tuesday to Friday 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Website

Well, you’ve probably heard about the iconic Royal Ontario Museum or, as we locals call it, the ROM, but unbeknownst to many, there’s a small library tucked in a corner away from where the crowds flock.

It features a comprehensive collection of books, journals, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other materials related to the natural world, world cultures, and the history of art and design.

Take note that the ROM Library is open to the public, but borrowing privileges are limited to ROM members and researchers. 

Pro Tip:

If you want to access their archives, you’ll have to set an appointment through this link.

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