Toronto libraries lift ban on eating, drinking

A long-standing tradition has quietly come to an end in Toronto's public libraries.

A long-standing tradition has quietly come to an end in Toronto's public libraries.

Readers are now allowed to eat and drink in most of the 99 branches, as the Toronto Public Library tries to create a more welcoming environment. Anne Bailey, director of branches for the Toronto Public Library, says times have changed and people want a more relaxed atmosphere.

"Nowadays if someone wants to bring a drink into the library or have a snack in some areas of the library, we allow that to go on," Bailey said. "It's for the enjoyment of the library." 

Food and drink remain prohibited in areas where valuable works need to be protected.

At the city's oldest branch on Yorkville Avenue, Betty Mirembe relishes the thought of food and drink while she works at a computer.

"Most of us are responsible adults, and we think that having a latte … would be really good, because at home I'm used to having a coffee while reading," she said.

But some people are resistant to the change. 

"When I grew up the library was a place of quiet," said Joe Carol. "You could concentrate on what you were doing. And it's changed a lot since then. It's noisier. It seems to be a free-for-all for everybody. To allow food and drink is absurd."

Jessica Byeon also thinks the ban should remain, even though she admits to having sneaked a sandwich into the library.

"It was strange, because in Korea it is not allowed. We just drink drinks, but no eating, because when you eat you make a sound and you get crumbs on the table."

Despite the criticism, Bailey said the new policy stands, pointing out that libraries have never had control over what people do at home with their borrowed books.