Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Ottawa Public Library

We are so excited to feature the Ottawa Public Library in our 11th post in the Canadian Libraries Spotlight.  Need catch up on our series? Here are all the posts.  This post was written by Kirsten, Lise, Angela and Jessica , current and past members of the Children’s Services team at the Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library (OPL). Take it away, ladies!
jbrary-flagHello and bonjour from Canada’s capital! One of the most exciting things about life in a library is that you never know what to expect, and each day has its own new adventures to be experienced.  We feel very fortunate to be part of OPL and we would like to give you a glimpse of what life in the Greenboro Children’s Department looks like.

OPL is the largest, officially bilingual (English and French) library system in North America and serves a population of approximately 870,250.  Our branch is one of 33 branches scattered throughout the city. We also have two big Bookmobiles and a new Mini Bookmobile.  Without a doubt, Ottawa is a very diverse city. As such, OPL offers material in 13 languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Persian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Being the capital city also means that we are lucky to have a wide range of museums, both national and local, on our doorstep. What’s more, OPL has partnerships with most of them. Therefore, our customers enjoy free museum admission passes for the whole family to places like the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and the Canadian Children’s Museum. Furthermore, employees from many of the museums often come and do programs at the Library.

OPL is also very proud to have a Makerspace, called the ImagineSpace and a Kiosk that has automated holds pickup lockers and vending-machine style library material dispensers. The children’s department at the Greenboro branch features an integrated program room, a lot of natural light, bright colours, and space to play and learn. Join us as we take you on a tour of the children’s department.

The absolute star of the Children’s Dept is our Flintstone style car; it’s the perfect spot for reading. It has two openings at the top with Jetson-style bubbles.  It has generous front and rear trunks – perfect for kids to load up with books… much to the chagrin of our Pages!

The pod area is where all the action happens. And, by action, I mean all of our preschool and class visits happen here. We call it the pod as it’s semi circular with a sturdy accordion curtain that closes to provide more privacy when needed. Hidden behind a series of moveable panels, are handy storage cupboards with a sink and countertop. Most of our supplies are kept here and the sink makes cleanup after a messy program easy.  Kids and adults alike get a kick out of finding out that we have a Harry Potter cupboard, offering more storage under a set of stairs (of course) near the pod.


Between Babytime, Toddlertime and Contes en famille (that’s French for Family Storytime!), to mention just a few programs, we see lots of families and caregivers each week which makes for a vibrant and noisy branch!

These are some of our favourite programs that we have offered over the years:

A guide dog took part in Babytime:


LEGO® building programs:

opl4Programs offered by local museums, such as the Ottawa Art Gallery’s Labyrinth Race program shown below:


We also have a special relationship with a local school for students with profound or multiple developmental delays, the Clifford Bowey Public School. We offer four Storytimes, for many of the classes, per year. Due to the unique needs of this group, we creatively adapt Storytime to meet their needs. Each session involves some combination of books, rhymes, songs, felts, puppets and ends with a short video, usually one of the Weston Woods series of picture book films.

Some of the specific adaptations which we have used for groups with special needs include:

  • A supersized felt board (a 2 ft x 3 ft corkboard covered with felt) which is not only more visible to the children, but sits nicely in an easel and is easily moved to an appropriate height
  • Incorporating books with much rhythm, rhyme and colour
  • Enlisting the help of the classroom aides so that each child gets a chance to feel and experience the puppets
  • Reading books at a toddler or pre-school level with a lot of animation.

These programs are a 45 to 50 minute workout where the animator is in constant motion. Even while reading we move along in front of the group to keep all engaged. They are exhausting, but highly rewarding.

As in any facet of life at the Library, communication is key. To improve our services, we will often discuss songs, rhymes or books we tried during the program, to evaluate those that were successful, or those that flopped, and keep track of the videos and books we share with classes to avoid repetition.

Signs of a great program:  
There are quite a few gestures from customers that make offering programs even more rewarding , but these are a few that stand out:

  • When teachers ask for the book titles we shared with the class
  • When a child feels the need to give you a hug in the middle of the program
  • When the class breaks out in an impromptu dance party.

In the spirit of sharing, a favourite CD of ours (which has found its way into many programs) is The Second Line by Johnette Downing. Her songs Shake Your Scarves and Flitter Flutter have become favourites for the children, aides and teachers of Clifford Bowey and beyond.

Here are other resources that are a hit with our special needs groups:

Picture books:

  •  Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson
  •  Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton
  •  If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jan Ormerod  (and other books based on songs)
  •  Is Everyone Ready for Fun? By Jan Thomas
  •  Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Book DVDs

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
  • LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
  •  Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
  •  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


  • Clap Your Hands from The Wiggleworms Love You by the Wiggleworms
  • If You’re Happy and You Know it from Monkey See, Monkey Do by Michael & Jello
  • It’s a Beautiful Day from Reaching for the Stars by Kathy Reid-Naiman
  • Shake it Baby, Shake it from Oh Baby! By Rainbow Songs. This is perfect with shakers or bells
  • Shake Your Scarves and Flittler Flutter from The Second Line by Johnette Downing. As previously mentioned, these are hands-down our favourite scarf songs

Please stop by and say ‘hi!’ or ‘bonjour!’ if you’re ever in town!

Population (n.d.) City of Ottawa.  Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.