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OPL Guest Blogger – Stéphanie Plante – Alta Vista branch

This image is of OPL's guest blogger, Stephanie Plante.

Stéphanie Plante is an OPL guest blogger and a great library supporter. In 2017, she and her son Ian visited all 33 branches of the Ottawa Public Library. Discover OPL through Stéphanie’s regular posts during the course of the year!

Since opening in 1976, the Alta Vista branch has done a great deal of outreach to children and new Canadians. Like many parents in the Ottawa area, however, a trip to the Alta Vista neighbourhood is fraught with anxiety. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is located in this said neighbourhood and the drive into the area can conjure up memories of broken bones, surgeries, MRIs, and emergency room visits where you wait alongside other worried parents. Every parent dreads a visit to CHEO, but is secretly relieved it exists: if your child is suffering in any way, there are no better experts, nurses, doctors and specialists to take care of your precious cargo.

Anytime I’ve gone to CHEO, we invariably pack a backpack of books. This is not only to pass the time, but to share and initiate small talk with other worried parents, to leave as a donation for future patients, and to purge our overloaded bookshelves. While a visit to CHEO is never pleasant, I like to think that we try to make the best of it with our backpack of books. Therefore, it was a thrill to see the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library Association’s (FOPLA) ‘Bouquinerie’ at the Alta Vista branch. At the time I tweeted that it was ‘Off the chain’ because there are rows and rows of books for sale, all going to a great cause.  There were cookbooks (see my previous post about my cookbook obsession), kids’ books, books in French and other languages, and books that have never been read. Our book purchases from the Bouquinerie at the Alta Vista branch came to a total of $6.00.

While the benefits of reading are well documented, one of the largest obstacles to literacy for many families is access to books. While the Ottawa Public Library has gone above and beyond to accommodate late fees and offers many perks to children such as their own Library card, families under stress can find themselves unable to get to a library regularly and many families do not have access to public transit to make the trek. Schools are often unable to schedule class visits due to lack of volunteer or staff resources and my son’s school library had to be transformed into a classroom due to overcrowding. Owning books helps new and underprivileged residents in the Ottawa area read the same books over and over again which helps promote literacy skills. Kids who own books therefore reinforce school readiness and academic performance. Reading repetition helps internalize patterns of language, especially in families where English or French may not be spoken regularly. The United Way reports that one in seven children in Ottawa live in poverty, making the outreach efforts by the Alta Vista branch and their Bouquinerie especially important.

So if you find yourself in the Alta Vista area, for whatever reason, treat yourself to a visit to their wonderful Library branch and maybe some purchases from the Bouquinerie! You would be contributing to a great cause at a fraction of the price you’d pay for a new book.


... and congratulations for writing this blog with the great yet simple ideas it contains. Thanks again.