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Metcalfe Library Memories by Paul Coulson 

Osgoode Township Hall, 8243 Victoria Street c. 1920

Tue, Nov 22, 2022

Ottawa Public Library (OPL) recently renovated and opened a new – and old – location for its Metcalfe Village branch. A little celebration event got me thinking about how the library in Metcalfe figures importantly in my memories. I am so thankful to employees of Ottawa Public Library, the City of Ottawa, and the politicians who all made this renovation and reopening happen. It is a special day for the village of Metcalfe and the surrounding area: the library has returned home! 

I was born in Winchester at the new hospital but was raised in the house I have lived in since I was five-days-old y. I propose to remain here until it is no longer possible to do so. That home is just across the road, and I want to share some of my memories that this building brings to mind when I see it every day.  

In the late sixties a group of individuals in the then Township of Osgoode formed a committee to broaden the scope of knowledge in the area by bringing library services to Metcalfe. My father was one of those people. That group was able, with the help of the Township Council and interested residents to obtain the use of a very small area in the township hall for that purpose. That location is the building we are now in which was originally constructed in 1891. 

The building had an office in the rear for the clerk of the township. Upstairs at the rear was a small attic over the clerk’s office which contained and stored the musical instruments and other material for the annual parade. The door to that attic became locked, as did the outside door to the building, when the library came. That prevented children of my generation from entering and playing the instruments for their fun on any days the mood was right. (I may have been one of those children.) 

The office and the library were heated but the common area for public meetings where we are now was not! A pot-bellied stove sat a few metres from the stage in the middle of the hardwood wavy floor. You can still see the outline of the stage at the north end of this room as represented by the frame on the wall. 

The floor has long since gone after several updates and improvements. I witnessed a few of the improvements completed during the sixties and after. The cub scouts had their meetings here but no girl guides were ever formed until much later, as far as I am aware. 

One of the best examples of how the library was put to good use during the early years concerned a lady in Metcalfe who had a grade-three education and could only read in a very rudimentary way. She did not drive, she lived a simple life are rarely got to the city. She attended that library regularly and improved her English,,her reading ability and her knowledge on many levels. After some time she could read as well as any of us and could discuss local politics with friends, for example, and hold her own in conversations about major issues in the news such as the Vietnam war and U.S. President Richard Nixon. 

Sometime later [1986] the library moved to the building across the street from the community centre on 8th Line Road, expanded, and continued serving the community until its return to its first home – here.  

It is interesting to note that the building at 2782 8th Line had been a small restaurant serving primarily / students and teachers from Osgoode Township High School next door before the building was refit as a library. 

Our library has now returned home to its original location where it will, continue its expansion with the help of library employees and volunteers. It seems that the library’s future is secure, knowing that everyone can find and feed their interests with all the library has to offer. I am happy to think that this library will continue to expand the knowledge of residents of the area. 

My thanks to all those who had a hand in creating this new facility and for giving me the opportunity to share these memories and thoughts concerning this extremely important institution .

Paul Coulson

Comments

The Library opened at 2782

I worked at Metcalfe from 1997-2001 and have many fond memories. One of the things I always treasured about the library in Metcalfe was that it was a great community resource that brought people both young and old together. It was also a great way to meet your neighbors and catch up on what's going on. The Library opened at 2782 8th Line Road in 1977 and Susan Geymonat was the first Branch Head. in 1983 Janice Smith took over and then in 1987 Vi Rowan took over running the Library. In 1991 Shirley Mills became the new Branch Head Librarian for Metcalfe a position she held till Amalgamation in 2000. Previously she had been the assistant Branch Head at the Morewood Public Library. Shirley was my boss and she had told me about the Library's history including the Canteen it replaced on 8th Line Road. I vividly recall her showing me an old Black and White photo of a small Grey Brick Building which was the Library till it was renovated in the 80's to it's current state as a two story Blue coloured building. I am happy to see the library still open and thriving in this community.