Toronto Public Library may be the finest library I’ve seen

I’m here in beautiful Toronto. It’s my first time since high school, so it’s my first really experiencing this city. Is it cold? Duh. But holy cow does this place a-shimmer with Christmas lights.

First stop I made was the Toronto Public Library, the Reference Library to be exact. I’ve visited libraries in New York, Chicago, Milwaukie, DC, Knoxville, every major library in Ohio (except Toledo), but I’ve never seen a library quite like this. It’s truly breathtaking. The first floor with its fountain, glass elevators, televisions, comic/pop culture store, used bookstore, rotating exhibit gallery, MakerSpace (with a friggin’ printing press so patrons can literally self-publish their books), a sea of isolated computer stations and tables full and bubbling with patrons hard at work…that’s just the first floor, people. That’s not even mentioning the beautiful stacks throughout the other four floors.

I made my way to the fifth floor where I was met with an astounding sight. A special research/rare books room which contained a vast, awe-inspiring collection of books, letters, manuscripts, and artifacts pertaining to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective. After seeing my excitement, a research librarian let me in to see the collection and gave me lots of information about Toronto’s library system. She also called in the librarian who was once responsible for curating the Conan Doyle collection and had acquired most of the items.

She brought out some special items that aren’t accessible to the public, including original notes and letters (yes, I was face-to-face with the handwriting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with no glass between us), and the “red book.” The “red book”, it turns out, is a copy of the first published appearance of Sherlock Holmes in Beeton’s Christmas Annual from 1887. I KNOW!

They truly gave me the star treatment, and I feel my love for Conan Doyle reinvigorated. And it turns this collection is one of three of its kind in the world, one in Minnesota, the other in England, so now I have something to add to my bucket list. If you are ever in Toronto, I will be ashamed of you if you don’t visit this library.

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