This article is a case study of Toronto Public Library's (TPL) early collaboration with social workers through its participation in the settlement house movement from the 1910s through the 1930s. While the image of the public library as a social equalizer is often attributed to its origins in the free libraries movement, and while the first chairman of its board characterized TPL as a "literary park" for "the rich and poor alike," historical efforts to extend the public library into social work–like activities remained short-term, ad hoc experiments that failed to generate transformational change. This article presents the challenges faced by a large Canadian urban public library as it attempted to position itself not only as an educational institution but also as a social service. TPL's activities in settlement neighborhoods reinforced rather than subverted the cultural status quo largely because it had no intentions to make radical program departures.