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Twenty-five years of digital literacy at OPL

Woman and two children at a computer check-out station.

Oct 28, 2021

Ottawa Public Library’s first website launched in October 1996, during Ontario Library Week. That’s 25 years of being online and helping the citizens of Ottawa access technology! Who could imagine a library without computers today? Technology and the Internet have come a long way, and so have OPL’s digital offerings: now you can eBooks, audiobooks, digital newspapers and magazines, stream music and videos, take classes, research your family history, all online!

Netscape browser with navigation buttons and the library's first homepage.At the time, Microsoft’s Libraries Online! project had just expanded to Canada. It provided $1 million in cash grants, staff training, computer hardware, technical support and Microsoft software to selected Canadian libraries, starting with those in Toronto and Ottawa. In addition to launching its first website, OPL established a network of Electronic Resource and Access Centres at the St-Laurent, Rideau, and West branches, in partnership with National Capital FreeNet.

Pictured below, former OPL Board president Elizabeth Buckingham met Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who provided $400,000 to encourage the introduction of computers to the Library and offer Internet access to those who would not otherwise have it. And we continue in this spirit today, with public computers in every branch, as well as personal Chromebook computers, and WiFi hotspots, which the Library provided to community organizations on extended loan during the A woman and two men in business suits. COVID-19 pandemic. 

Today, Ontario Library Week still happens every year during Canadian Library Month in October. It continues to be a time celebrate all that libraries do, and their commitment to community, inclusion, intellectual freedom, and literacy to the benefit of the people in Ottawa.

There’s so much to do at the Library! Libraries are community hubs and centres for learning, creativity, and discovery, virtual programs on our YouTube, online resources and digital collections, as well as in-person for browsing, studying, borrowing musical instruments and museum passes, creative maker spaces, and much more.

For Library Month 2021, new cardholders can receive an OPL USB flash drive friendship bracelet with 4 GB of storage (while quantities last), when they pick up their physical card at any OPL branch. Signing up for a Library card is free and easy, in person at any library branch or—you guessed it—online!


Congratulations, but...

Congratulations on the anniversary! There is no doubt that most of us could not manage our OPL resources without digital access. But I am writing this on a Linux laptop after unsucessfully trying to watch a movie on Kanopy, not on one, but on two browsers, Chrome and Firefox. Neither does Kanopy work on a Chromebook if I connect it to a TV, something quite reasonable for watching movies. So the much touted streaming service has copyright issues which limit it to only some platforms, and only when not connected to a TV! I would not complain so much if the very useful Freegal service had not been removed in favour of these limited streaming ones (Hoopla does not seem to have copyright problems, but its choice of movies is not interesting). Thank you for excellent work in the pandemic, and keeping the reliable hard copies available.