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Artists Focus on Toronto Public Library

by on February 22, 2016

There’s an explosion of library related art in Toronto. Local artists, inspired by the now hundred-branch library system, created love letters to the library through art; via the power of social media, the library took notice. Two projects that are getting international attention are the Toronto Library Passport and All The Libraries Toronto.

The Toronto Library Passport, which encourages people to visit various branches and complete small tasks at each one, started as a project by graphic designer and web developer Noah Ortmann. After tweeting a picture of the thirty-six-page booklet at the library, the project gained international attention, and the initial print run is now sold out. “One of my goals was to get Torontonians to become tourists in their own city and to engage (or re­engage) with the library,” Ortmann told CityLab.1 The passport highlights unique features of the library system by asking people to, for example, read a mystery in the Arthur Conan Doyle Room, which is modeled after Sherlock Holmes’ study and houses a research collection about the author. Every branch is represented with spaces to jot down your impressions of each one. The book also features branch hours and fine information.

Artist Daniel Rotsztain also created library art with his coloring book All The Libraries Toronto, featuring drawings of library buildings that people can color in. Rotsztain, who goes by TheUrbanGeog on social media, also tweets about his library travels using the hashtag #allthelibrariesTO. He began the project as “a way to explore every corner of the city,”2 and to document “a wide range of Toronto’s eclectic architecture, including styles that aren’t often documented or appreciated.”3 Using an adult coloring book as his medium also tapped into the wider coloring craze to bring attention to the library. Though neither project was commissioned by the library, both have the library’s support. Rotsztain’s designs were even turned into commemorative tote bags handed out at the opening of the 100th branch.

Founded in 1810 as a private subscription library, the Toronto Public Library grew rapidly in the 1970s and ‘80s to become the largest public library system in North America. It boasts seven Carnegie Libraries, which have their own Pinterest page for history buffs to explore, and two bookmobiles. Some of its unique features include a poetry map, an annual comic book festival, and Digital Innovation Hubs.


  1. Jennifer Leigh Hester. “A Scavenger Hunt Through All of Toronto’s Public Libraries,” CityLab, December 29, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Daniel Rotsztain. “why am I drawing all the libraries?,”All the Libraries Toronto (blog).

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