Virtual Reference Library homepage

About the Virtual Reference Library

The VRL is a subject-based, reliable, Internet information source with special focus on Canadian and Ontario information.

Read the VRL Vision Statement.
Read the VRL Mission Statement.

The Virtual Reference Library works in partnership with library systems across Ontario to provide access to content and services specifically targeted to Ontarians of all ages, ethnic origin and from all parts of the province. The contributions of the public libraries of Ottawa, Markham and Kitchener are acknowledged with thanks.

The VRL was launched in 1999 and created and maintained thanks to:

  • the leadership and the human and technical resources of Toronto Public Library
  • funding from Toronto Public Library and the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. More about sponsorship

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.

Vision Statement

The Virtual Reference Library aims to be a subject-based, reliable and easily accessible source of information on the Internet with an emphasis on Canadian information.

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 through collaboration and partnerships with libraries, governments and other organizations across the province.

The VRL aims to pursue partnerships with other libraries and agencies to share data and information as part of an international network of web portals.

Mission Statement

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 works in partnership with libraries across Ontario to select, develop and create content and tools for all Torontonians and Ontarians including

  • Students of all ages
  • Specific audiences such as Seniors, Entrepreneurs, and New Canadians
  • People seeking information for personal growth or interest and life-long education
  • 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:

    • support lifelong learning and literacy skills of all Ontarians;
    • increase public access to reliable reference information;
    • complement and broaden the reference capacity of public libraries throughout the province;
    • enhance small library's local collections; and
    • to increase the Canadian content of information available through the Internet and other electronic means.

    Supported by: The Government of Ontario and the Toronto Public Library

    Toronto Public Library homepage

    Government of Ontario homepage

    Financial support from the Ontario government is gratefully acknowledged