By Jared Davidson –
Changes are in the works for the Carlingwood branch of the Ottawa Public Library this spring. Between March 29 and April 8, 2016, the library will be constructing permanent outdoor parking for strollers, complete with a canopy and places to secure locks. And while the improvements will cause some small inconvenience, requiring patrons to use a temporary side entrance, the new stroller parking should help to solve congestion issues in the small library while giving neighbourhood parents a secure spot to leave their strollers.
The need for designated stroller parking became clear in late November, soon after the library reopened after renovations. Space and accessibility concerns led library staff to post a sign on the front door indicating that stroller parking would no longer be allowed indoors. Parents were told that the restricted space was the reason behind the new rule. That sign was soon posted to the message board of a popular local Facebook community, generating reactions from community members.
“I was surprised,” says Amy Heximer, community member. “I had never been discouraged from parking my stroller in the library when visiting with my kids.”
Carlingwood Community Association President, Alecia O’Brien, says the reaction was immediately negative, as community members voiced their concern over what they worried was a new permanent library policy.
“People, including myself, were understandably upset for two reasons,” says Alecia. “One, we’d have to wake sleeping children; and two, our strollers would be uncovered and exposed to the elements.”
As more and more parents voiced their concerns over the library’s new stroller rules, Mark Taylor, City Councillor for Bay Ward became involved. He asked the library to come up with a solution, and the idea to create outdoor stroller parking was born. Councillor Taylor views this as a solution that benefits all parties, and he feels the initial no-parking rule was an attempt to maintain the shared space of the library.
“I think it came from a good-natured place,” says the councillor. “They were trying to keep the place nice and clean, but obviously it conflicted with parents’ desire not to leave an expensive stroller outside.”
In fact, soon after the community’s concerns were voiced, Carlingwood Library removed the sign from their entranceway. Currently, parents are allowed to park their strollers in the branch, and that policy will remain in place even after the outdoor stroller parking has been constructed. According to Yvonne van Lith, the Manager of Public Services for the branch, there was never a policy that strollers could not be parked within the library. The sign was posted by staffers and was not reflective of the library’s stance as a whole.
“There was some miscommunication and misunderstanding, but the public has always been allowed to bring in their strollers,” says Yvonne, adding, “We never said no. We try to think yes.”
When they are finished in mid-April, the improvements will give patrons more options for stroller parking, and all involved hope it will reduce the congestion issues at the front entrance of the library as parents will be encouraged to use the new outdoor parking area. While some in the community remain skeptical that the addition will be issue free, many are hopeful.
“The result will not only need to satisfy the caregivers with strollers, but will need to address the needs of the library for space and mobility,” says Alecia. “We will have to wait and see.”
During construction, the library will remain open with regular hours and regular book drop off. Accessible access will not be available through the temporary entrance but can be arranged with library staff. More information is available at the branch’s website at biblioottawalibrary.ca.