A strong library system is the cornerstone of a strong community.

It facilitates equity of access to information and contributes to education, literacy and life-long learning in Ontario communities.

Municipal by-laws create Ontario's public libraries and public library boards govern them.


First libraries

Ontario’s first free public libraries were established in Toronto and Guelph in 1883. Between 1903 and 1922, 111 Ontario libraries were constructed with more than $2.5 million in funding from American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Library cards

Over 4.2 million Ontarians, or nearly 33% of the population, hold a public library card.

Volumes and access

Ontario libraries have nearly 28.5 million print volumes available to borrow. That’s equivalent to 2.49 books for every Ontarian. They also have over 21.6 million e-resources including e-books. Every library branch in the province provides access to electronic information through the internet.

Service delivery

Over 99% of Ontarians live in communities served by a public library.

In 2020, Ontario public libraries served the public through 1,113 library service points (main libraries, library branches, deposit stations and bookmobile stops) and circulated 83,563,248 items. Public libraries received almost 23 million in-person visits, more than 112 million electronic visits and delivered thousands of programs including:

  • 22,006 early literacy and early learning programs with 713,405 attendees
  • 2,329 programs for immigrants and new Canadians with 33,714 attendees
  • 3,652 maker space, digital media and self-publishing programs with 73,615 attendees
  • 409 career, job help and skills programs with 6,643 attendees

Ministry responsibilities

The Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries is responsible for:

  • administering the Public Libraries Act and statutory grants under the Act
  • developing provincial policies for public libraries
  • funding Ontario Library Services agencies including the Ontario Library Service
  • conducting stakeholder relations with Ontario library sector organizations such as the Ontario Library Association and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries
  • publishing the annual Ontario Public Library Statistics
  • delivering the annual Ontario Public Library Service Awards

List of public libraries

  1. A

  2. B

  3. C

  4. D

  5. E

  6. F

  7. G

  8. H

  9. I

  10. K

  11. L

  12. M

  13. N

  14. O

  15. P

  16. Q

  17. R

  18. S

  19. T

  20. U

  21. V

  22. W