Ottawa residents will once again get a chance to sit down with one of 40 human "books" available to be signed out at libraries across the city.

National Human Library Day

On Jan. 26, National Human Library Day invites Canadians to interact with people they might not otherwise meet.

View cbc.ca/humanlibrary for registration information, an interactive map and videos and slideshows featuring "books" from across the country, including Ottawa.

The Human Library, to be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., allows people to check out a person for a 20-minute conversation.

It is the second year in a row CBC Ottawa and the Ottawa Public Library have partnered to present the event.

Last year's successful event has now evolved into a Canada-wide CBC initiative called National Human Library Day, with 22 public libraries and two cultural centres across 15 Canadian cities participating.

The event is an effort to help dispel myths and stereotypes by creating an opportunity for one-on-one conversations between people who may never have met otherwise.

Check out CBC Ottawa's event page for more about The Human Library event near you.

The concept of the Human Library was first launched in Denmark in 2000 as a way to encourage dialogue and build relations.

"We were excited to see the tremendous response to last year's Human Library. The people who participated — both 'readers' and 'books' — were excited to have the chance to make a personal connection," said Ruth Zowdu, executive producer of Radio Current Affairs at CBC Ottawa and a founder of the Ottawa event.

"It felt good to help make that happen," said Zowdu.

This year's event will be held at five Ottawa Public Library locations:

  • Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.
  • Hazeldean branch at 50 Castlefrank Rd.
  • Alta Vista branch at 2516 Alta Vista Dr.
  • North Gloucester branch at 2036 Ogilvie Rd.
  • Ruth E. Dickinson branch at 100 Malvern Dr.

CBC Ottawa will be highlighting the stories of several of the human "books" leading up the event.

Here is a preview of some of the people we will be talking to this week:


Tues., Jan. 15

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Former gang member

When he was 13, Marc Clairoux joined a skinhead gang at his school. During the 17 years he spent with that gang, he became one of its chief recruiters. After the death of several friends and serving three years in prison for a series of assaults, Marc left gang life. Now as a volunteer, he's begun sharing his personal story with youth-at-risk.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

ListenClairoux talks about what led to him joining a gang

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Criminal court judge

Thanks to guidance from a couple of his teachers, Hugh Fraser excelled in both academics and sports at Lisgar Collegiate. After high school, he competed for the Canadian National Track & Field Team, representing Canada at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. After 14 years as a lawyer, with an emphasis on Human Rights, the province appointed him to the Ontario Court of Justice. This year marks Justice Fraser's 20th anniversary on the bench.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

ListenFraser talks about his role, his son, the NHL player, and his 20 years on the bench.


Wed., Jan. 16

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Chinese adoptee

During elementary school, Maryfrances Carton tried to avoid questions from classmates about where she born. She only knew someone had abandoned her in a market in China when she was six months old. By the time she was one, an Ottawa family adopted her into their family. She has since returned to China twice and even visited the orphanage that was briefly her home.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

ListenCarton shares what she knows about China and recalls the anxiety she felt about revealing her history.

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Urban Inuk

Growing up in Alberta and Ontario, Lynda Brown sometimes hid her Inuk identity. But after moving to Ottawa and starting a family of her own, she now teaches kids and families at the Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre to be proud of who they are.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

ListenBrown speaks about being proud of who she is and where she comes from.


Thu., Jan. 17

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Drag Queen

Eleven years ago, Zelda Marshall first stepped onto a stage wearing high heels, a wig and make-up. Now, she's affectionately known as a grandmother in the Ottawa drag scene. Zelda volunteers with the GLBT Liaison Committee of the Ottawa Police.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Hazeldean library at 50 Castlefrank Rd.

ListenMarshall explains why she moves between genders, how she prepared to step out in high heels and how she got her start on stage.

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Veronique Bergeron (Jamie Long/CBC)

Mother of 8

During her first year of law school, Veronique Bergeron was shocked to see the little blue line appear on the pregnancy test she took. Despite warnings from some of her peers that an infant might destroy her professional aspirations, she and her partner decided to have the baby. Now, 17 years later, their family has grown to include eight kids, most recently, a set of twins.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Alta Vista library at 2516 Alta Vista Dr.

ListenBergeron talks about her very first pregnancy, the opportunities a large family offers and the secret to her household's controlled chaos.


Fri., Jan. 18

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Blind octogenarian

A doctor diagnosed Theresa Dupuis with acute glaucoma just before Christmas 1990. He told her she'd go blind within 10 years. Theresa now considers her vision loss as a gift and swears she wouldn't take her sight back if offered to her. The octogenarian loves cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, kayaking, yoga and meditation.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Hazeldean library at 50 Castlefrank Rd.

ListenDupuis describes how she learned to navigate the world without her vision, even on downhill skis.

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Police officer

It was a brief brush with the law at the age of 10 that inspired Staff Sergeant Kal Ghadban to join the police. Over the years he's worked on patrol, as a homicide detective, and now as the Staff Sergeant of the Street Crime Unit / Break & Enter Team.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

Listen | Ghadban explains what inspired him to pursue a career in policing.