An ode to the Ottawa Public Library

by DaniGirl on April 28, 2009 · 12 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Ottawa's hidden treasures

It was a rainy Saturday morning, and we were on the way to the library. “I think the new door is finally ready,” I told the boys.

“Wow!” replied Simon. “This is the BEST day of my LIFE!”

(I don’t know where they get their tendencies to hyperbolize. Ahem.)

The new door is a construction project that’s been underway at the Barrhaven branch (more formally, the Ruth E Dickenson branch) of the Ottawa Public Library since some time last summer. Before, you had to go up to the second floor and across the length of the community centre, go in through the main door and then go down to the children’s library. The new door gives parking-lot access directly to the children’s library.

They’ve done a lovely job not only of adding in a new door, but of making the library a cozy place for kids to visit. There is a small area with chairs and tables bathed in the light from a wall of picture windows, a stack of board games and some toddler toys, brightly-coloured throw rugs and computer stations. What more do you need to keep kids happy on a rainy Saturday morning? When I praised the librarian for the great job they did, she turned all the praise to our city councillor Jan Harder, saying without her the changes never would have been made. Thanks Jan Harder! We love the new library!

Have you seen what’s new at the library lately? It’s not just about the books anymore! I don’t know how it is in every city, but here’s some of the cool stuff the Ottawa Public Library has going on.

  • Looking for a great free program for the kiddies? The Ottawa public library offers some excellent baby-time and toddler-time programs. (Simon, Lucas and I used to haunt the 4 – 6 year old story time at our branch last fall, before I went back to work. Stories, crafts, circle-time — it was really great, and completely free.)
  • Want to get out on the town? You can “borrow” a pass to the Museum of Civilization, the Science and Technology museum, the Nature museum, and other Ottawa attractions. Or, if you’re feeling the need to just get out and walk, you can borrow a pedometer!
  • They’ve compiled a great list of Web sites for all aspects of life in Ottawa.
  • The online card catalogue and request-a-book features are favourites of mine (they’ll call you when the book is available), or you can download audiobooks and ebooks directly to your devices (and they’ve overcome the recent problem of not being able to download to iPods)
  • They even have a dedicated section with “e-books for e-kids.”
  • I used to love pulling out the little drawers and just flipping randomly through the cards in the old card catalogues (am I dating myself if I admit they were still using them when I started university? Hard to imagine now!) but I get almost the same sense of serendipitous discovery clicking around in the virtual reference library.
  • Interested in genealogy? It’s amazing what’s available! (Scroll down for the research databases and Web links.)
  • Two local branches are even setting up Wii video game consoles in an effort to draw more teens into the library!

The library has always been a part of my life — I remember haunting the bookmobile with my mom when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I read every single title in the astronomy section of our local branch when I was a young teen. I’m so happy to be living in a community that cares enough about its library to offer such amazing services and resources. Thank you, Ottawa, for this wonderful gift that I promise I will continue to share with my family for many years to come! (And I promise I’ll take care of those library fines really soon, too. Could you maybe work on a self-returning library book, or one that at least crawls out from under the bed or behind the curtains a few days before it’s due?)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elise April 28, 2009 at 9:21 am

Hey ! I’ve written the same kind of post about the Toronto public library, on my porject 365 blog. I am also in love with the Toronto public library.

BTW, I’ve never told you that I started a porject 365 after reading and seeing yours. Yes, I copied you, but I mentioned your blog :

I’ve always wanted to tell you and never gotten into it. All done ๐Ÿ™‚

About the Toronto public library, they do also have another feature here : you can call a number and “someone” will read a story to your child. He can choose the story. Isn’t that great, too ? Better than TV as a babysitter (though I haven’t used it yet, Souleymane, my son, is too young still).

2 DaniGirl April 28, 2009 at 9:34 am

Hey Elise, that’s terrific! I’m always so honoured when people tell me that they’ve taken an idea from here and made it their own. I just took a quick peek, but I love your 365 blog — good for you!

And how cool is that, having someone read to your child on the telephone? I’ve never heard of that one before!

3 Mom on the Go April 28, 2009 at 10:26 am

It’s good to see the Ottawa Public Library getting the good press. You could also mention the Summer Reading Program that will be starting soon and the myriad of activities that run out of the libraries, like Scrabble clubs, book clubs, etc. The Preview magazine is always worth the read. I couldn’t have lived without the request-a-book feature when Reid was small. I requested books that they said were on the shelf so that I only had to walk in, pick up the book and walk out, if that was the kind of day that we were having.

Btw, the audio books are “self-returning”. They disappear from your computer automagically as I understand it.

4 Rebecca @bitofmomsense April 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

This is a great reminder to introduce reading early to our kids and to appreciate the traditional paper-based book. Thank you!

Alos, it should be mentioned that some braches have used books for sale as part of their fundraising efforts – there are some real finds for only $1 or $2 – worth a look!

Props to the Cumberland Branch on 10th Line ๐Ÿ˜‰

5 Erica April 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Two weeks ago I e-mailed the Ottawa Public Library – help from a librarian address. I was looking for a book that I read as a kid – I had a vague recollection of the name and knew that it was likely originally in dutch but had no luck with my on-line searches.

I was thrilled when I received an e-mail five days later – telling me that Toronto Public Library had a copy of the book which I could borrow through inter-library loan. The librarian also included a link to a wikipedia page about the author and a review of the movie that had been made from the book. I LOVE the LIBRARY.

6 XUP April 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I love the library, too — a library is always one of the first places I go when I move to a new city or even visit one for a longer period of time. I’m pretty happy with our little branch, too. I was really excited about the free passes thing when I first moved to Ottawa and signed up for one immediately. Unfortunately, they are in such high demand that by the time our turn finally came (I think it was at least a year later), we’d already been to the place(s) we wanted to see and decided to leave the pass for the next person. It made me wonder how many people actually end up using their passes after waiting so long? It’s a great idea though – for families who might otherwise be able to attend some of these venues. I believe there are also certain afternoons when some of the museums and gallleries are free as well.

7 colleen April 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I now wonder how many of us are doing Project 365 because of you. There is Elise and myself and I am sure there are others. The power of suggestion!

8 Fawn April 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I love the library, too! I never used them when I lived in Ottawa, but now that I’m in Whitehorse we’re there all the time! When I’m not on mat leave, I’m there at least once a week because my office is attached to the library building. Now on mat leave, I’m there once a week for the toddler programs. I could do the baby one, too, but there’s so much stuff to do everywhere!

I LOVE being able to do inter-library loans. The only book I have ever had trouble getting is one written by Alexander Key (of “Witch Mountain” fame). It’s out of print now and I remember loving it as a kid: The Magic Meadow. I’ve seen copies on Chapters’s “Used and Rare Books” for $80! For a short paperback!

Oops, sorry about the tangent. I’m going to the library tomorrow for toddler time and to pick up a book that’s waiting for me. Ahhh, love.

9 Susan April 29, 2009 at 7:56 am

We love our library too. The kids love that they can get pretty much anything they want in there and I never say “no”!

10 alison April 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

Another library lover here. Rachel was practically born in the Carp branch, lol. What I like is now I get my book notifications via email instead of a phone call. Very cool.

Our librarians are just the best. They are so friendly and helpful and knowledgeable. Our branch (Carp) is cozy and welcoming, and the girls and I spend a lot of time over there. I’ve bought a bunch of books through the second-hand book sales area too.

If you ever find a self-returning book, let me know about it, lol.

11 mamaonthego May 2, 2009 at 4:05 pm

as a library worker and a mother, i love that others love the library as much as i do! it is great that you are tapping into all its many resources.

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