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Public libraries in Ontario

A library is a powerhouse of knowledge and plays a very important role in shaping an entire society. 

There is a famous quote by H.W. Beecher - "A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life". True to that, Canada houses more than 600 public libraries. Out of these, more than 250 are in Ontario. Moreover, Ontario houses one of the largest public library systems in Canada - The Toronto Public Library. It has 100 branches and is acclaimed as the largest neighbourhood-based library system in the world. 

The first free public libraries in Ontario were set up in the year 1883 in Toronto and Guelph. Ontario's public libraries are governed by Ontario's Public Library Act (PLA). Its objective is to provide equal and universal access to information and establish free public library services in Ontario through governance and regulations.

Almost every city in Ontario has a public library system. These library services aren't just limited to providing free access to books but diversified. 

  • With a library membership, one can access thousands of books (hard copy, ebooks, audiobooks) covering all genres, not just educational, cultural and historical titles, newspapers and magazines 
  • Few libraries lend movie DVDs, music CDs, video games, musical instruments like guitars, drums, keyboards, xylophones, etc. 
  • Certain libraries have toys, board games, sports items like basketballs, croquet sets, hockey skates, snowshoes, trekking poles, etc. too for public usage
  • These libraries also provide free passes to selected local museums and parks
  • One can use the free wireless internet, printers and scanners available at the libraries 
  • With an advanced reservation, computers, laptops and tablets can also be used 
  • Members can access multiple learning courses available on the libraries' website 
The public libraries conduct lots of programs and events around the year that are absolutely free of cost, for all, and don't even require a membership.

  • Some of those include virtual or in-person classes for people of all ages, starting from 0 years to high school kids, teenagers, college-goers and senior citizens. Baby time for just born babies to 1-year-olds, Storytime, Math learning for toddlers, English and French learning, craft learning for school children and tweens, Tech help for senior citizens are a few programs organized by the library in our community. The online courses organized by them were of great help to engage my toddler during the lockdown, last year. It served as a great chance to connect with other kids and parents online. The efforts staff put in, in planning and conducting the classes are remarkable. 
  • If you are new to your city or the country, the first place you could visit is the nearest library. They provide newbies and immigrants with all the necessary information about the community and enable them to connect with new people, learn new skills and resources. 
  • The libraries also assist the public in seeking employment opportunities. They conduct special programs on effective resume writing, improving interview skills, employment services orientation, etc. for enabling the unemployed and those trying to switch jobs.
  • For bibliophiles (book lovers), libraries in Ontario are not only the treasure-trove of books, but offer a great chance to connect with fellow bibliophiles through their book clubs. They serve as a fantastic means to know and read new titles and connect with like-minded book lovers.
  • Libraries also conduct various contests (art, photography, poetry, song writing, etc.), again open to all. In an attempt to promote and encourage local skills and talent, they conduct a Writer-in-Residence contest, where local unpublished authors are provided an opportunity to discuss their writing with an acclaimed author 
  • They also provide space and organize corporate events, wedding ceremonies, birthday parties, etc.
  • Interested ones can take part in the volunteer programs and campaigns that the libraries conduct regularly

These are just a few services public libraries offer in Ontario. If you are new to Canada or on a short stay or a long-timer, do visit your local library, enroll yourself and enjoy the benefits they offer. Introduce library and reading to your kids as well. Kids who develop reading habits from a young age not only broaden their knowledge but also improve their vocabulary, communication skills, confidence and focus. 

Happy Learning!!!

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