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OPL: Sharing, caring, and connecting in the community

May 22, 2020

Access to online services and platforms is more important than ever, and the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) is working with our community to help bridge the digital divide. Many people rely on OPL’s WiFi and public computers for internet access at the best of times, and during the COVID crisis, vulnerable people can be especially isolated and cut off from the connections, supports, and services they need. By reaching out to 40 local community organizations to identify their needs, OPL has been able to provide 41 Chromebooks and seven WiFi hotspots on extended loan; helping people experiencing homelessness, women experiencing violence, students, new immigrants, and many others to access the services they need and to make isolation less difficult. OPL is working with local services to strengthen community ties, to widen our reach to serve more people, to learn more about the wonderful organizations serving our community, and to help transform lives.

OPL has loaned five Chromebooks to the physical distancing centre at the Jim Durrell Arena. The Chromebooks are being used by the City of Ottawa’s Employment Services team to help the men staying there with resume writing, interview skills, and job searching. They are also allowing these men to connect with others through email and social media. Ruth Locking from the Employment Services team said that, “this is a real opportunity to turn some men's lives around.” La Maison d’amitié, one of the largest Francophone shelters serving more than 60 women and 65 children, has also borrowed two Chromebooks, allowing residents to fill out government forms, take care of other business, and stay connected to friends, family, and other services.

OPL has delivered a WiFi hotspot to The Interval House of Ottawa, a shelter for women and children, to allow women to fill out online paperwork, do online yoga, and stream movies among other activities. St. Mary’s Home, which provides shelter for marginalized young pregnant women and their infants, is using three Chromebooks and one WiFi hotspot to help women stay informed and connected. La Présence, a francophone refuge for women who are victims of family violence, has received three Chromebooks and a WiFi hotspot, which will be used to assist with counselling and to help residents stay connected.

OPL has delivered five Chromebooks to The Catholic Centre for Immigrants for use at its Welcome House. The Welcome House offers transitional housing for new Canadians and refugees who have recently arrived in Ottawa. The Chromebooks will be available for use by both youth and their parents. The Haven Youth Shelter and the Haven Too Youth shelter have also received two WiFi hotspots, encouraging youth to stay safely at the shelters. These Chromebooks and the WiFi hotspot allow youth to stay connected while isolating.

To learn more about OPL’s continuing work with our community, please see our post on Bridging gaps in the community. If your organization would like to get involved in this project, please contact OPL at 613-580-2940 or