Libraries enjoying surge in popularity

As our on-screen life expands, people increasingly value the human contact and the “memory” capacity of libraries.

Ottawa Citizen, December 27, 2016

Berthiaume and McAvity: In a digital age, more people than ever are visiting libraries, archives and museums. We can learn from that

Dr. Guy Berthiaume is the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Photographed at Library and Archives Canada Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2015.  (Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen)
Dr. Guy Berthiaume is the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Exciting times lie ahead for ‘memory institutions,’ he says. Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen

These are exciting times for the library community in Canada’s capital and many other cities across the country.

And yet, the digital era often gives us the impression that memory itself is becoming obsolete. What is the use of memory institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs)? Aren’t Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter and the mind-blowing speed of their algorithms good enough for “remembering”?

From time to time, seemingly logical questions come up in the media. Is it still appropriate to build new libraries, given the increased popularity of ebooks? Aren’t virtual museums the best response to the need to make culture accessible to people across the country and around the world? Aren’t the archives’ holdings all digitized and accessible on either their own platforms or those of Ancestry or Findmypast?

Yet, in fact, the patronage of GLAMs is increasing. The number of visits to public libraries in the United States increased by four per cent in the past year. The new Halifax Public Library received double the expected number of visitors in its first year (1.9 million compared with the 900,000 expected), and it is anticipated that the new Ottawa Central Library will welcome at least 1.6 million visitors each year. As for Canadian museums, they attract 62 million visitors per year, up 10 per cent from 2013.

This counter-intuitive data led the British Library to conclude:

“The more screen-based our lives, it seems, the greater the perceived value of real human encounters and physical artefacts: activity in each realm feeds interest in the other.”

With this paradox in mind, the Canadian Museums Association, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and Library and Archives Canada hosted the Summit on the Value of Libraries, Archives and Museums earlier this month.

The summit brought together nearly 300 people and some 30 speakers, one-quarter of whom were international. Key points about memory institutions in the early 21st century were highlighted:

• Technology is a source of both challenges and opportunities. In terms of challenges, there is the need for financial resources necessary to acquire these technologies and to secure the human resources capable of getting the most out of them. In terms of opportunities, there is the democratization of culture that is the result of reaching citizens in their homes thanks to digital technology. There is also the increased use of GLAM spaces, following these virtual visits. Increased consultation of resources on the Web is increasing the appetite of the public to visit reading rooms and exhibition spaces.

• Memory institutions are playing new roles – welcoming newcomers, providing access to high-speed internet for the less fortunate, et cetera.

• Finally, the position of memory institutions in the creative ecosystem cannot be reduced to the functions of collecting and preserving works. They are also present at the beginning of the creative chain, providing inspiration and material to artists of all disciplines – not just authors and poets, but also digital artists, musicians, painters, directors.

Beyond sharing knowledge, the Ottawa Summit also revealed a unity among memory institutions, which had previously tended to focus on what makes them unique rather than looking for common denominators. In practice, the distinctions have been fading for years: for example, all major museums host archives, and even libraries.

The participants of the summit adopted the Ottawa Declaration as an expression of their commitment to increase collaboration, develop opportunities to engage citizens and expand access to their collections. A new day has risen for Canadian memory institutions!

Dr. Guy Berthiaume is Librarian and Archivist of Canada and John G. McAvity is Executive Director, Canadian Museums Association.


Libraries more important now than ever

Now that (it seems) all the information you could need is available on the Internet, are libraries non-essential?

No way, say people in the know. We still need libraries as a way to manage the “bewildering” flow of information.

And yes, libraries are changing.

CBC November 27, 2016

It’s one of the line items on municipal budgets that cash-strapped councils often train their sights on public libraries. You can’t cut police, firefighters, garbage collection or any number of other essential services, but public libraries all-too-often seem inessential.

Surely, the reasoning seems to be, in this age when every scrap of information you could possibly want is available on the Internet, public libraries are expensive and expendable.

But as municipal politicians repeatedly find out the hard way, you mess with libraries, librarians and their supporters at your peril. The late Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug stirred up a hornet’s nest — and came out on the wrong end of verbal sparring with Margaret Atwood — with their intent to impose major budget cuts on public libraries. It didn’t help their cause, either, that they were so publicly disdainful of libraries.

More recently, Newfoundland’s Liberal government backed off its plans to close 54 rural libraries in the name of budget austerity, after the public outcry that ensued.

It’s true, that the role of public libraries is changing in the Internet age. But some would say they’re more indispensable than ever. In a time when information is power as never before, we still need guides to help navigate the bewildering sprawl of available information…and institutions that safeguard access to that information.

John Pateman

John Pateman, CEO of the Thunder Bay Library, says libraries are more important than ever in the digital age. (Thunder Bay Public Library)

In the world according to John Pateman, the modern-day library should be much greater than the sum of its collection and the information it holds.

He has been working in public libraries for almost four decades in various capacities, both in the U.K. and Canada. Currently, he is CEO and Chief Librarian of the Thunder Bay Public Library. That is his official title. Unofficially, he is an unabashed revolutionary.

Join us for the 125th celebration


One week today is the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the formation of the North Gower library.

The library is open next Monday from 5:30-8:30 PM, and the formal celebrations take place from 7-8:30. Chair of the City of Ottawa Library Board Tim Tierney will be there to mark the occasion.

Staff is dressing in fashions from different decades over the 125 years, so if you have a costume or vintage clothing, put it on and drop in!

Formed by the Mechanics Institute –educational institutes designed to provide education to working men (and an alternative to gambling and drinking)–the library became a service for the general community. The North Gower Library moved several times in its lifetime, once it was in the General Store, and for another period it was in the coach house of the local doctor, but it has provided continuous library service for 125 years.

The North Gower Branch of the OPL is now housed in what was the Rideau Township Fire Hall. Next door are the Rideau Township Archives, in the former Town Hall.

Drop in, and celebrate, and show how much North Gower loves our Library!


NOTE: the distinguished and beautiful lady pictured in the 125th anniversary bookmark is the late Coral Scharf Lindsay, local educator and historian. Also pictured is OPL staffer Julie, and below, co-chair of Friends of the North Gower Library and Coral’s Corner bookstore manager, Jane Wilson

Renovated North Gower Branch open today

New seating area and racks for DVDs and magazines at North Gower --Photo Friends of the North Gower Library

New seating area and racks for DVDs and magazines at North Gower –Photo Friends of the North Gower Library

After what felt like two very long weeks (we LOVE our Library!!) the North Gower Branch of the Ottawa Public Library reopened today.

Dozens of people had dropped by in the first hour, including Councillor Scott Moffatt, to see the new space, and new features for library patrons.

The space feels fresher and brighter said some visiting, including retired North Gower librarian Karen Craig, who couldn’t wait to see what the new space looked like.

Staffer Louise Drouin-Backs was kept busy showing how easy it is to use the new self checkout feature — everyone can still go to the service desk and ask staff to process books, though, if they wish!

Coral’s Corner used books is also back in operation, with a small supply of gently used books for sale. Once “back of the house” operations are straightened away, the renovations will be truly complete.

Staff member Louise Drouin-Backs and Councillor Scott Moffatt. "The staff here are amazing," says Moffatt.

Staff member Louise Drouin-Backs and Councillor Scott Moffatt. “The staff here are amazing,” says Moffatt.



Full slate of summer events at North Gower

The Library reopens Monday, July 25th at 5 PM, and resumes summer activities.

Don’t forget to to tell Library staff the number of books kids have read for the Summer Reading program — and it’s not too late to register, just check with staff!

Events — registration is required. Call 613-580-2940 or go here

July 27: Underwater Adventures 10:30 a.m.

August 3: Creepy Crawlers 10:30 a.m.

August 3: Ray’s Reptiles “Endangered Ontario” 2 p.m.

August 10: Rumble in the Jungle 10:30 a.m.

Closing event for Summer Reading Club August 17 at 10:30 a.m.

Renovations begin at North Gower!

Friends of the North Gower Library's photo.
Trucks and a storage pod are signs of work going on inside the North Gower Branch of the Ottawa Public Library!
The Library closed for renovations Monday July 11 and will reopen Monday July 25th.
We’ll bring you updates as we have them!
In the meantime, keep up with the TD Summer Reading Club, and register for library summer programs at the Ottawa Public Library website:
Funding for the renovations was provided by the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library. Proceeds from book sales at “Coral’s Corner” in North Gower are reinvested in our community.
***2016: 125 years of continuous library services to the community***