Barbara Clubb is the Ottawa Public Library’s chief librarian. Last year, she won both the Canadian Library Association’s Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award and the Public Library Association’s Allie Beth Martin Award for exceptional knowledge of library materials and the ability to share them.
Read any good books lately?
I sure have. I’m into Swedish novels right now, and one of the ones I read was Henning Mankell’s The Man From Beijing, so that’s the latest one I’ve read.
So you do manage to make time for that?
I do. I have to. I mean, I like reading but I also have to push myself to read more and more varied things. It’s the nature of the job and you have to be able to have conversations and meet people on all kinds of reading levels.
You’ve been renovating many library branches. Can you point to a particular improvement at a particular branch that people are really going to notice?
Sunnyside was closed early this year and it will reopen Aug. 16, and what people will notice immediately is that the whole place looks a lot better and everything’s been arranged more accessibly.
When is the last time you remember shushing anyone?
Oh, it’s usually in a meeting, not usually in the library. That’s a very interesting question because over the last 20 years or so in public libraries all over the world there’s been a sort of lifting of the “cone of silence.” It’s about making sure that there are differentiated zones within a facility so that both the contemplative users and the boisterous users have a place, but they’re not kind of moving in on each other’s spaces. People feel quite comfortable having a chat.
Is there anything you’re bursting to tell us about?
We’re very excited about our new electronic services. People can download books and download music, etc. It’s not huge, it’s not 50 or 80 per cent of our usage, but we can see the numbers moving in an expanded direction every year. That we see as a really important part of the future.