The Ottawa Public Library provides service to the entirety of Ottawa. As such, our customers are diverse and eclectic. Each brings to OPL unique experiences that in turn inform how they use, think and feel about the Library. In this series, the Ottawa Public Library is asking customers to reflect on their relationship to the library – what they come to OPL for, why the library is meaningful or important to them and their communities, and how they envision the Library changing. Read the previous entry here. This time, Jan answers the question: What’s your OPL Experience?
My name is Jan*. I’ve been a member of the Ottawa Public Library community since I was 5 years old. Now, I’m in my mid-50s and retired, and since 2010, I’ve used OPL’s HomeBound Services to access the Library.
Always a devoted library user, I’ve often been asked what attracts me to them. I love adventure, I love to explore, and I’m a lifelong learner and teacher. Through the Library, I feel that I’ve been able to go on a lifelong journey that’s nurtured these parts of my personality, even as my circumstances have changed along the way.
Right now, I face a number of challenges with my disabilities. I experience episodic loss of my cognitive skills, have mobility issues, and suffer from chronic crippling pain. HomeBound Services has worked to meet my needs by, among other things, providing large print and audio books, and pointing me toward eResources. I regularly use Lynda.com and borrow eBooks to keep up to date on computer technologies, digital graphics and photography. Being able to continue to use OPL resources has provided me with more independence and a sense of control over my disabilities. Over the last few years, HomeBound has led me to borrow a series of adult colouring books, which are a great de-stressor and welcome distraction. I was stunned when I learned that I could colour right inside the book – the 5 year-old me who first started using the Library would have loved that!
Thinking back to all those years ago, I first remember visiting the Main branch at Metcalfe and Gilmour Streets. There, and then at the current location on Laurier, I would use the card catalogue to look up books, magazines, and even records - yes, LP records! When I was in primary school, we would look forward to monthly Bookmobile visits. As times changed and OPL evolved, I changed with it. When the electronic catalogue arrived, I began to learn new computer skills. Initially, visiting with my mother, we would look to other users to assist us in adapting, and they would. Later, I was taking part in a night school class when my Smith Corona typewriter stopped functioning. Visiting Emerald Plaza, I found a then-newly-installed computer, and with the help of staff, I was able to use it to complete my assignments.
I was instantly hooked on this new technology, and I would soon find myself in the stacks looking through computer and coding books. It impacted my work life, too: my employer noticed my tech-centric library books one afternoon and soon I was taking courses in BASIC language and desktop publishing. I like to think I paid forward what skills I’ve learned – I later found myself assisting fellow OPL users with computers just as they once did for me.
To close, I would love to relate an experience that I think best sums up all I’ve shared with you in this post. Last summer, a friend picked me up and drove me to the Cumberland branch in the Ray Friel Complex. The visit made me think back, as I grew up in this community – Ray Friel was our reeve in the ‘70s. There, I surprisingly ran into an old neighbour of my parents. She excitedly introduced me to her grandson, who was taking his very first trip to the Library. He asked me what my favourite book was as a child. Taking my hand, we wandered to the shelves and what should appear before me but my childhood favourite, Curious George. I handed him the book and said “Enjoy!” – hoping this will be the start of his own journey with OPL.
*The author has chosen to write under a pseudonym.
Thanks to Monika Moeller for help in facilitating this blog entry.
Jan's OPL Experiences booklist: