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STORIES / Lillian H. Smith

Lillian H. Smith

Lillian H. Smith, the first children’s librarian in the British Empire, established guidelines for the inclusion and classification of children’s literature in Toronto libraries.

A portrait illustration of Lillian H. Smith.


The first professionally trained children’s librarian in the British Empire, Lillian H. Smith was hired in 1912 as the head of Toronto Public Library‘s Children’s Department. ​​She expanded the Library’s collections and services for children, opening new Children’s Rooms at multiple branches and introducing staff training in children’s literature and programming. To meet rising demand, the Library purchased 40 St. George Street in 1922 and transformed it into “Boys & Girls House,” a new space dedicated to children’s books and activities. Recognizing Smith’s efforts in advocating for children’s literacy, the Toronto Public Library named a branch after her in 1995.

Smith’s efforts laid the foundation for modern children’s library services, leaving a lasting impact on Toronto’s library system and the countless readers whose lives have been enriched by the libraries she helped shape.

Explore more women who transformed Toronto.

Further Resources
Learn more about Smith from the Toronto Public Library
Explore community stories and histories connected to Smith’s eponymous library branch

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