Learning English at Toronto Reference Library: The largest ESL collection in Toronto

January 15, 2013 | Iana

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Did you know that the Toronto Reference Library is home to the largest public collection of ESL (English as a Second Language) materials in Toronto?


ESL centre at TRL 4th floor[A view of the Languages and Literature Department and the Information Desk, 4th floor, Toronto Reference Library. Behind the desk there is a large reference collection of ESL and Languages Learning materials - books and CD/DVD sets that you can browse and "sign-out" to use at the library. Staff at the desk will be happy to help you with all your questions.]


While every branch of Toronto Public Library has a smaller ESL collection of materials that can be borrowed, and while many learning materials can be reserved ("placing a hold") through the library website catalogue - the ESL centre at the Toronto Reference Library is by far the largest one in our 98 library branches and offers unique and rich materials for all learning levels.


It is located on the 4th floor of the Toronto Reference Library (Bloor/Yonge subway, 789 Yonge Str.) - and is part of the "Languages and Literature Department". You will find there many books, CDs and DVDs on various skills like pronunciation, listening, reading comprehension, grammar, English for work (for a full list of all fourteen categories of languge skills see further below); course books, dictionaries, exam preparation such as TOEFL and IELTS. Some of the materials in the ESL centre can be borrowed to use at home, some are "reference" and can only be used at the library. There are tables equipped with CD and DVD players so that language learners can practice and study with the latest reference materials.


If you take the beautiful glass elevator or climb up the stairs to the 4th floor of Toronto Reference Library - you will find helpful staff and a cosy, well-light, welcoming space busy with visitors and learners at any time of day - there are recent immigrants, international students, teachers and many others who regularly use the languages collections and the "A/V desks".


ESL collection at Toronto Reference Library[Partial view of the largest ESL collection in Toronto - 4th floor, Toronto Reference Library.]


  • Materials for use IN LIBRARY only (they have location "Audio Desk" in the catalogue).
  • Materials that you can TAKE HOME (these are "circulating" books to be borrowed).
  • CDs, DVDs, videos and cassettes.
  • A selection of ESL books for TEACHERS.


The materials on the shelves are organized in fourteen ESL (14) categories to help visitors find and select the appropriate books for their language level and the skills needed, in such a large collection.  


These are the fourteen ESL categories:

  1. Easy Readers
  2. Communication and Life Skills
  3. Job-Related English
  4. English through pictures
  5. Grammar
  6. Idioms
  7. Writing Skills
  8. Pronunciation
  9. Reading Improvement
  10. Spelling
  11. Tests - TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, CAE, MELAB etc.
  12. Vocabulary
  13. Multi Skills
  14. Listening Skills



If you plan to continue your studies at university, you would need to pass the IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, CAE, or other tests. The ESL centre at the Toronto Reference Library has many books and audiovisual courses (sets of books and CDs/DVDs) to help you prepare for these tests.


ESL centre at TRL 4th floor 2 [Partial view of the Languages & Literature department with the biggest ESL collection in Toronto. There are A/V desks equipped with CD and DVD players for practicing ESL and other "Languages Learning" materials.]



There are other related services offered through the Langages and Literature Department:

  • Tours of the ESL Collection and Languages & Literature Department - teachers can call for an appointment at 416-393-7085.
  • ESL Reading Circle @ Toronto Reference Library - a free drop-in program at the Beeton Auditorium on selected Fridays, 2-3.30pm. Practice your English by reading with others from great books and sharing your ideas about them. Check on the website or call Anwerline (416-393-7131) for upcoming dates. For this current season the dates are: March 8, March 22, April 5, April 19, 2013.
  • Book a Librarian - free personalized appointment with a librarian for 30-60 minutes for research or library information - you can get questions answered at a time convenient to you. For example: how to find ESL materials, books in your language, find citizenship information etc.
  • Multilingual collection - the largest in Toronto - the Languages & Literature Department also has books in more than 60 languages - that can be borrowed and used at home (and you can conveniently return them to your closest local TPL branch).
  • "Languages Learning" and "French as a Second Language" collections - along with the ESL materials, you can also find "Languages Learning" materials to help you learn and practice many other languages - for example French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Greek, Hungarian, Hindi, Tagalog and many others. Some of those materials you can borrow, some can be used at the library only ("reference").



The ESL centre (and the Toronto Reference Library) is open Monday to Thursday 9.30 to 8:30; Friday 9:30 to 5:30; Saturday 9:00 to 5:00; Sunday 1:30 to 5:00 (open Sundays from September to June). Call the Information Desk at 416-393-7085 for more information.


For more articles about learning "English as a Second Language" at the Library - please read our earlier posts from the New to Canada blog:


 Visit the ESL centre and good luck with your studies!