The best public library in Toronto might be the one near where you live, or the one where you grew up, or the one you'll travel to because of the books in its collection, or a well-lit space by a window with a view. In any case, the Toronto public library system is a hundred-year accident that saw a philanthropic impulse meet with a rich man's generosity and the tiny library systems set up a dozen townships and municipalities to coalesce into the constantly evolving network of bookrooms all over Toronto.
Toronto's public libraries began over 200 years ago with a subscription reading room in Elmsley House, Upper Canada's parliamentary building. Over the decades, subscription libraries and reading rooms began springing up in fire halls and Mechanics Institutes all over what would eventually be called the GTA. City Hall created the public library system with the Free Library By-Law in 1883, but it was Andrew Carnegie who helped turn Toronto's libraries into esteemed parts of the streetscape