Ottawa Trans Library reflects on successful first year

The sign above the library. It reads “Ottawa Trans Library.”
The Ottawa Trans Library has been open at 1104 Somerset St W for almost a year now. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Arielle Hughes

Ottawa’s Trans Library has been open for a little over 10 months and has experienced nothing but great growth and positive feedback from the community. 

Since opening its doors at the end of May 2022, the library has grown its collection of books from 190 titles to about 500. Plans are afoot for a future music library thanks to a donation of about 500 albums by trans musicians.

Tara Sypniewski, the library’s founder and owner, said, events outside its regular hours are “really quite popular, and then we have had the occasional library event like a book signing and book launch that were really successful.

“As we started having these events we met this wonderful … event co-ordinator, and now they volunteer to co-ordinate a lot of them,” Sypniewski said. “It’s been a real boost to us because we didn’t really have very much experience in event planning and they’ve just come along and given us plenty of ideas.”

The library is more than just a resource and event space, it’s a safe community space for people to connect, feel welcomed, and build trust and knowledge together. 

“Anything that enhances the community, we will do it. We feel like just being open and doing what we do day to day is a celebration itself,” Sypniewski said.

Tara poses for a photograph while standing at the door to the Ottawa Trans Library.
Library founder Tara Sypniewski said their collection has grown to over 500 books. They plan to start a music library soon. Photo courtesy of Ottawa Trans Library.

The library is the first to provide exclusively trans resources to Ottawa. Sypniewski said she “thought that this was going to be a lot easier now, but it’s not necessarily so. People have come in here and told me that they were aware that the space was here, but it took them several months to come in. But once they came in here, they get really comfortable with it and it’s really great to be back.”

There is a lack of LGBT+ spaces in Ottawa that don’t require spending money, and the Trans Library is providing it to Queer people in the city. Library rentals and events are free for all age groups and identities. It has parent nights for parents of trans kids, some quite informal, and others led by a therapist in training. 

Sypniewski said a photographer and an artist were interested in donating photos and art to enhance the library space. 

The Trans Library is a queer safe space in Ottawa that was missing, and the community and knowledge that it fosters will grow beyond just their walls and spread through the people they’ve touched. It will continue to flourish here in Ottawa, said Sypniewski.

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