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Virtual Reference Library

Explore Ontario, present, past and future, through historic photographs, maps, digitized books, videos, and blog posts.

The Virtual Reference Library (VRL) is a suite of online resources that provides high quality e-content to all Ontarians.

The Virtual Reference Library provides access to content and services specifically targeted to Ontarians of all ages, ethnic origin and from all parts of the province. The VRL was launched in 1999 and created and maintained thanks to:

Toronto Public Library is the largest public library system in Canada with 100 branch locations and two Research and Reference Libraries - the Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge Street and the North York Central Library at 5120 Yonge Street.


The Virtual Reference Library provides curated content which connects users with history, culture, and ideas, with a focus on Canadian and Ontario-specific content.

The Virtual Reference Library helps users to find meaning as well as information. It engages the imagination and supports personal development through learning and creativity.

The VRL promotes free and equitable access to online resources and tools in Ontario.


The VRL provides free and equitable access to online services that meet the changing needs of the people of Toronto and Ontario. It supports learning and engages the imagination.

The VRL preserves and promotes universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas in a welcoming and supportive environment.

The VRL is available around the clock on the Internet.

Toronto Public Library provides the leadership, human and technical resources, and contributes to the funding that supports the VRL.

The VRL plays a key role in the delivery of Toronto Public Library electronic services.

The VRL develops and creates content and tools for all Torontonians and Ontarians including:

The VRL takes advantage of the dynamic nature of the web and creates a framework that enables growth and expansion over time.


For a number of years the Province of Ontario, through legislation, has recognized the Toronto Public Library (which includes the former Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library) as a "special library services board... [which] may provide library resources and services to the Ontario library community". The current legislation authorizes the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to "specify additional resources and services to be provided by the Board" and also states that the Ministry "may make grants to the Board" to deliver services to the provincial library community.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport intends through its support for the development and operation of the Virtual Reference Library to: