Thursday, September 8, 2011

OPL @ the Power of Words breakfast

This morning, I attended the Power of Words breakfast organised by the amazing People, Words & Change. We met and spoke with many of the 90+ people attending the event, including literacy tutors, adult students, PWC staff and Board members, Mayor Watson (at left*), Councillor Fleury, and Councillor Hobbs.

The line for food snaked by our Ottawa Public Library display table (at right), which was a great strategic advantage; I was able to call out “While you’re waiting, have a free bookmark ... And can we interest you in some information about the library?” We had a nice chat with Mayor Watson when he was waiting in line, and he mentioned OPL in his speech. He said that he is proud of the work the library does, of its “dynamic staff,” and our “passionate” Board Chair (the always-spectacular Jan Harder). He also alluded to Toronto (“unlike that city down the road, we know the importance of the library...”).

I answered one or two reference questions, promoted our collections (some lists: Golden Oak Award Finalists, Quick Reads series, Good Reads series, and the Open Door series) and services. We brought material from our collections to display, membership forms, information about programs, some OPL swag (bookmarks, pencils, magnets), branch and location information, and we also raffled off two free books!

The speeches given by the students themselves were hands-down the best part of the morning: one student mentioned every tutor he had at PWC - and many of the administrative staff - by name and thanked them; another mentioned how, now that she was more comfortable using her English, she went out more and was more sociable because she wasn’t embarrassed to speak to people... and she could negotiate a better rate on her travel insurance! Another stressed the importance of reading, specifically, and said that she never realised how important it was to read a lot until she began working with her tutor to improve her grammar. A few made some pretty cute jokes about idiosyncrasies of the English language: one remarked how important it was for him to learn the difference between "affect" and "effect." Another described her trouble with the complex uses of the word "up:" you can say "it's clouding up," or "it's clearing up," but really, she should be "finishing up" her speech and she should really "shut up." There were some really moving stories of people overcoming great adversity; two students who spoke are now Carleton students; one student said that he and his wife agree that calling PWC was the best thing he ever did.

It was a really rewarding experience to be there. FYI, though, networking at 7 am is pretty exhausting.

*Photo at top left: David Barbour,

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