Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Librarians do it better

Read more articles by

While certain civic bureaucracies continue to confound and anger many Torontonians, the Toronto Public Library seems to be doing everything right. They’ve hosted rock bands, extended their hours (perhaps soon until midnight), continued their general bookishness and today we discover the Toronto Reference Library finally has Wifi. While this is one of Toronto’s most wonderful places, the lack of wireless internet has been the only drawback, as laptops get lonely when they can’t connect to anything, and sometimes books just aren’t enough.

There are little signs around the library directing people to the 1st and 2nd floor to connect, but I’m on the 4th floor now and my Powerbook is picking up a usable signal. This place, along with Wireless Toronto locations in Dundas Square and Dufferine Grove park, provide Toronto with some great wired public spaces. Cafe’s and bars with free wifi are good and should be encouraged and patronized (tell them that’s why you buy stuff from them) but sometimes you don’t want to buy something to rent out the seat. Best part of the TRL wifi is all you do is hook up, check a box that says you agree to terms and conditions, and that’s it, you’re on. None of the overly paranoid and secure network policies you might expect from a bureaucracy.

Now, if only we could get the TPL folks to run the TTC too.

(Picture of brand-new Reference Library atrium from 1977 when only Al Gore knew about the internet.)



  1. Nothing but love for TPL as a former patron and current library worker in another part of Canada. They set the bar high for everyone.

  2. The TPL is great! I was also on the 4th floor today w/ my powerbook and noticed that reception is better the closer you are to the main open space area (which makes sense).

  3. The contrast with the TTC is interesting. There was a time when the TTC was the envy of other cities, but if any city agency has that distinction now it’s the library. (The TPL system is the second-busiest in the world, after Hong Kong.)

    With a flurry of branch renovations over the past few years, they’ve found that well-designed, well-kept public space boosts the number of people who use the system. (Surprise!) Sadly, it’s been a long time since that sort of thinking was seen at the TTC.

  4. I’ll just add my voice to the others and say that the TPL makes me proud. The service they provide is amazing, most of their buildings are a credit to the city, and they seem to be more, not less, relevant every year.

    Maybe we should give them the TTC to run?

  5. Ben> I wasn’t ripping — I know the urban myth, but he’s still one of those politicians who are ahead of the curve, on technology or the environment, so I was getting at that.

    I still have never been able to reconcile how he is married to Tipper — especially when seeing footage of those PMRC hearings where she interrogates Frank Zappa and that guy from Twisted Sister.

  6. I never get tired of that late 1970’s interior design feature of built-in planters filled with hanging long vines that drail down the side of a wall into an atrium. As corny as it may be, I absolutely love it.

  7. thick> Me too. In the past year, the plants are coming back, and hanging over the sides again. I always say, when modernism is working on all cylinders, nature and human-made environments blend together perfectly. Inside is out.

    All that carpet muffles the sound too.

  8. In NYC most of the public libraries have free wi-fi. I hope that more and more libraries will introduce this as a service….

    Makes it great for traveling also (i.e. using voip enabled wireless devices!)

  9. It’s great that they finally have wifi there, but it’s 2007 and they only offer it in one of their 99 branches. Coffee shops offered more complete coverage five years ago.

  10. The library is one place you would expect free wifi. If only all libraries looked like the TPL, though. By the way, did you guys hear about the guy in Alaska who got his laptop taken away by the police for using the library’s Wi-Fi after hours? Lets hope that it’s only an isolated situation.

  11. great article. I hope that more places and cities provide free Wifi in the future. When this happens hopefully high speed internet providers will lower the costs of broadband=)