Lillian H. Smith Toronto Public Library – Toronto, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

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Lillian H. Smith Toronto Public Library

This historic library honors the legacy of the British Empire's first children's librarian. 


Opened in 1995, this site was named posthumously in honor of Lillian H. Smith, the British Empire’s inaugural children’s librarian. The library itself is part of Toronto Public Library (TPL), Canada’s largest public library system.

During her 40 years with TPL, Smith greatly influenced the city’s library system as it exists today, for example introducing story hours for children and establishing staff training programs. In 1927, the library issued Books for Boys and Girls, a reference book edited by Smith that is still used as a guide for libraries within Canada and elsewhere. A remarkable feat for a woman during the Edwardian era, Smith’s mark upon the country’s public library system has not gone unnoticed.

Within the circular building itself, the third and fourth floors host two world-class collections. On the third floor is the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy. Ascending to the top floor, there is the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books. This area hosts rotating exhibitions, often topical, showcasing books and other ephemera brought up from Library’s archives.

Library staff are on hand during open hours to assist with any questions, as well as lockers on the fourth floor while you peruse unique books, magazines, and paintings; all chronologically set out to provide a timeline of the subject’s wider cultural influence and development. On your left as you enter the collection, you will find what used to be one (of 200 copies) of the World’s Smallest Book, just visible by microscope. You’ll need a keen eye—this book is about the size of the tip of a pin.

Beside the library is Lillian H. Smith Park, where visitors are welcome to sit for some quiet reflection steps away from the bustling College Street area. The Park has a number of vegetable patches, tended to by a local community group in the warmer seasons.

Know Before You Go

The Library is located at the College/Huron intersection in downtown Toronto, open to all regardless of membership. The closest TTC connections are Queen's Park subway station and the #506 streetcar that runs along College Street.

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