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OPL Guest Blogger – Stéphanie Plante – Rideau branch

This is a picture of OPL's guest blogger, Stephanie Plante
30/04/2018

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!

The Rideau branch of the Ottawa Public Library is special in so many ways. One of OPL’s oldest libraries is nestled between Sandy Hill and Lowertown and serves some of Ottawa’s most affluent and vulnerable populations. It is the branch my son and I visit several times a month – our home branch.

Due to the diversity of clients, the Rideau branch can feel either intimidating or familiar. On any given day you will find the children of diplomats reading books in their native language, a low-income retiree enjoying their daily newspaper, a single mom getting information on the City of Ottawa vaccination schedule, or University of Ottawa students studying. It serves as a literary hub, a provider of community information, and a respite from the chaos of Rideau Street. It has both tables and beanbags, so you can either get to work, or relax for a few hours; but people who come to the Rideau branch can be sure to find what they are looking for.

Because of the diverse cast of characters, and the demographics of the branch location, Rideau was the best place for me to take refuge in 2015.  Every week, while my little one was in the kids section reading comic books, I would pore over books on addiction and co-dependency. I would finally feel a sense of order and sanity where there was only chaos and insanity at home.

At the Rideau branch I found books that provided further refuge and guidance; such as  Harriet Learner’s ‘The Dance of Anger’ and, inevitably, ‘Mom’s House Dad’s House’ by Isolina Ricci. It is hard to find people to commiserate with when you are dealing with something as personal as addiction, mainly because you have kept the problem a secret for a long time and can no longer distinguish the normal from the outrageous. You become really good at rationalizing and denying and can no longer tell where one ends and the other begins. Loving someone makes us more susceptible to ignoring disturbing behaviours, or explaining them away; and you want to protect your family and people’s good impressions. It is debilitating and exhausting to constantly adapt to someone’s moods, decisions and actions, but my many visits to the Rideau branch over the years have proved the old AA adage is true: you are only as sick as your secrets.

The best part about Rideau is that no one judged me for taking out these books. It is now a badge of honour for me to see them in my OPL history online.  

April 10 was National Librarian Appreciation Day and my son and I were rewarded at the Ottawa Public Library Board meeting with a plaque for our project of visiting all 33 branches in a year. While our story is not yet fully written, at a time when my life was filled with fury, humiliation, fear, and bewilderment, OPL was and remains the best place for me to continue to write our story, and connect with others. I am grateful every day to OPL as I continue on this journey. Almost like a friend, as well as a second home.