The 20th Week

Canadian Libraries

How many libraries are in your city
Public libraries are a good source of information for new immigrants. How many libraries are in your city? Just look in telephone book or use the Internet. Take your ID and a document with your address, for example the phone bill and go to the local library where you will be given a library card.
In Toronto, there are almost 100 libraries and your card is valid for all of them. Ask for a booklet with the library addresses, phone numbers and locations. The Toronto local system is designed so that you can borrow books in any library and return them to any other library.

Services that libraries offer
You can read and borrow books, magazines and newspapers, view videos and listen to audio tapes in English, French or your language. Some libraries join with the Library Settlement Partnership ( to offer immigration consultants, meetings with immigrants and lectures on adaptation and employment. By the way, in most libraries, books and brochures on employment are collected in one place which the librarian will willingly show you.
The library system usually has a site on the internet; in Toronto, see the site: By using this site in the library or on a home computer, you can find and order any book, see how many and what kind of books are on your account and if necessary, renew them. Each library has free access to computers and the Internet; there is a large reading room, photocopiers and information stands where there is background information on the library collection, including information for immigrants. Some libraries have comfortable study rooms where you can go in and arrange to meet someone. Many libraries print a monthly calendar of lectures and workshops.

How to find books you need
You can find any book using the electronic catalog by typing key words indicating the subject of interest, the author, or the book title. However, it is best to apply directly to the librarians. If you want to work in the library as a volunteer, contact the administration; perhaps, your offer will be accepted.
All libraries have children's and youth sections. In some libraries, you can also play chess and watch TV. By visiting a book club, you can meet known writers and talk about their work. Many libraries offer to sell very cheap books and provide free tickets to exhibitions and museums.
It should be mentioned that there are libraries in all colleges and universities. For example, the University of Toronto has about 50 libraries and most of them have free entrance.

Help in studying the English language in libraries
Libraries can provide you with considerable help in studying and improving your English language. First of all, each library has an English as Second Language (ESL) section. Ask a librarian on duty at your home library where this section is and carefully familiarize yourself with its contents. There are books in English, perhaps even ones recommend by a teacher of language courses. Most textbooks are tied to your first language. There are original dictionaries, which can be convenient to use to translate any immigrant’s first language. Some dictionaries just show pictures and give the English names.
In addition to textbooks and dictionaries, you can find books in this section which are created for beginners. Pay attention to the back cover of the book where the level of language skills you need to read this book is usually given. Those who are preparing to pass the language IELTS and TOEFL exams will find manuals to prepare for these exams. Of particular interest are the sets which include a booklet and audio cassette. Taking such a set, you can first read the brochure and then listen to the tape or on the contrary, learn to understand the text after hearing it.
In Toronto, the library regularly publishes the magazine "What's On", which lists the programs and services provided for immigrants by all libraries. You will find "English Conversation Circle" and "English as a Second Language (ESL) Reading Circle" programs where you can practice the spoken language and reading.
At the library of Toronto, you can meet with a consultant and for 30-60 minutes, you can talk about topics that interest you regarding the selection of books. Such a meeting should be scheduled in advance by calling 416-393-7201.

The largest library of your city
Of course, the larger the library is, the more materials you can find. The largest library in Toronto is the Toronto Reference Library (TRL), located at 789 Yonge Street. In this library, half of the fifth floor is assigned to learning the language. There are textbooks on grammar and idioms, guides for reading and writing, books on how to prepare business letters, manuals for IELTS and TOEFL exams and much more. In addition, there is the Laringofone Cabinet where you can listen to and view the training materials. The librarian on duty will explain to you the rules of using the Laringofone Cabinet.