The old Reading Room - used since 1990 for committee meetings and receptions - received an elaborate classical treatment recalling the dignity and stateliness of the English Palladian style. Architect John A. Pearson paid a great deal of attention to the Reading Room's interior finishing, hiring the famous mural painter, Arthur Crisp, to produce seventeen canvases for the new room. This choice of decoration reflected the great interest in mural art in Canada after 1900.
When the panels were installed, critics described them as fine specimens of mural art, typical of Crisp's bold and colourful style. Toronto Saturday Night published photographic reproductions of the paintings, and commented on their artistic qualities and sublime effect on the room's interior decoration.
The most prominent murals are located on the south and north walls. Their appropriate themes, warm colours and imposing compositions play a key role in creating the atmosphere of the room. Two panels, centred on the south and north walls, celebrate the art of printing. Four other sizeable paintings, located at the corners of the south and north walls, portray the regional economic development of Canada in the 1920s.