The Toronto Public Library, which unites almost a hundred branches and accumulates more than 11 million books, periodicals, electronic resources, and other publications, is the largest library system in Canada and the second busiest in the world, yielding only to the Hong Kong Public Library. The Toronto Library system is divided into neighbourhood branches, with each serving a particular geographical community of the city, larger district branches, and vast Research and Reference libraries intended to serve students, scientists, and researchers, as well as the general public of Toronto. Access to services is equitable and free of charge. Every year, this major library system provides Torontonians with over 30 million books and other items containing human experience, knowledge, ideas, and a vast range of diverse information. Advanced technologies and a supportive environment help to extend public access to library services and global information they provide.
The Toronto Public Library started small in 1830 on the basis of Mechanics' Institute of York (former Toronto). In 1884, the Library grew big enough to get separated from the Institute, and was given its present name. A year later, its collection was enlarged by a number of publications in foreign languages, in order to meet the demands of numerous immigrants arriving to Toronto from all over the world. A bit later, James Bain, the chief librarian, started building there a unique collection of documents, manuscripts, and other historical and contemporary publications about Canada. In 1923, the Library began featuring Canadian Catalogue of Books - an official national bibliography of Canada's authors and publications (the Catalogue was renamed into Canadiana in 1951).
Since 1999, the Toronto Public Library has completed its integrated online catalogue in a hundred of languages, launched virtual reference services, and installed over 400 Internet workstations to provide Torontonians with modern Internet access to its information and resources.