Reference and Research Assistance

Reference service

Fisher reference deskIn order to provide assistance to readers, the Reference Desk and Reading Room are always staffed whenever the Library is open. The Reference Desk staff offer assistance in locating material in subjects and areas of interest. Although the majority of the collection is represented by records in the University of Toronto Library catalogue, a limited amount of material is described only in on-site finding aids or card files. The Reference Desk staff are able to assist readers in recommending search strategies in the online catalogue to help in locating relevant material at the Fisher Library. The Reading Room staff supervise the operations of the Reading Room, and can assist with queries about reproduction, holds, and the physical use of the material. A copy of the Reading Room rules is made available at each desk.

To email us, use our Ask a Librarian service.

Telephone inquiries are answered Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5:00 pm at 416-978-5285.


Bibliographic access to the majority of the book collections is through the University of Toronto Library online public access catalogue (OPAC), which includes the holdings of all the University of Toronto libraries, at all three campuses. Searches can be restricted to the holdings of the Fisher Library, by using the library facet that appears on the left-hand side of the hitlist. The Library's specialized Reference collection, which includes imprint, author and subject bibliographies, library catalogues, biographical dictionaries and other secondary sources on all aspects of the history of the book is available for consultation at the library. Bibliographic records for the reference collection are included in the OPAC.

Bibliographic records for serials including current periodicals are included in the OPAC. For most items, detailed holdings are displayed as part of the online record, but in some cases the complete record of serial holdings is still maintained in manual files in the Fisher Library. Please note that the library often has only incomplete runs of individual serial titles. If in doubt about which issues are held by the Fisher Library, researchers are asked to call the reference desk at 416-978-5285 for assistance or use the Ask a Librarian service. 

For many years the Library maintained a series of paper indexes in order to document provenance, bindings, distinguished printers, and other physical attributes of the book to facilitate research in our collections. This is now being encoded within existing online records whenever possible, but the retrospective card files are still a useful source of information. The reference area also houses card files and local databases for certain uncatalogued collections. Please consult the Reference Librarian for assistance when onsite or use the Ask a Librarian service. 

Finding Aids

Records for the majority of our manuscripts, including both manuscript collections (personal, literary and historical papers) and individual manuscripts, are included in the UTL library catalogue. The records for manuscript collections also include a link to the full online finding aid, as a searchable pdf file. An A-Z index to Manuscript Finding Aids is also available separately to facilitate access to these collections. Individual manuscripts which have not yet been fully catalogued in the UTL library catalogue are listed in our finding aid to general manuscripts.