C-R’s LIBRARY WONDER WOMAN
An interview by Kate Kneisel
Images © Miguel Lalonde Photography
Catherina Rouse loves her job as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Clarence-Rockland Public Library – it’s clear that she lives and breathes books. “The library is where my heart is,” she says simply.
The connection with libraries began very early for Catherina. When she was growing up, her family moved every few years due to her dad’s work for the military. Whenever the family landed in a new town, their first stop was the local library. “The library became my safe place, my happy place – I can find all my best friends in the books,” she says.
Part of what is so comforting for Catherina and doubtless many other library lovers is the familiarity – libraries are always set up in the same way – there is the fiction section, and nonfiction sections covering everything from science to history to the arts.
When Catherina graduated from McGill with her history degree, she had it in mind to work in a museum. After working in administration for a property management company, and a stint with the Embassy of Japan, she got a part-time job at the library, which felt like coming home.
The favourite part of Catherina’s day happens first thing in the morning when she checks in with each member of the staff, which is now up to 18 employees. “We are very close and we talk about our families, or what we got up to on the weekend, as well as our plans for the day.”
Catherina reads over 200 books a year – and she is a speedreader to boot. “I’m uncomfortable if I don’t have a book on the go,” she says. Her favourite genre is fluffy romance novels, she admits. “Life is very serious and I work hard – reading is my escape…those are like fairy tales for adults.”
She is also a huge fan of Wonder Woman and of graphic novels, which she credits with engaging the teens – a special concern for Catherina. She has a 12-year old son and a 10-year old daughter, both instilled with their mother’s love of reading. Catherina envisions more programs aimed at kids of that age, who are at risk of falling through the cracks as they move from childhood to adolescence.
“We don’t have a lot of card holders for a city of this size – 24,512,” she adds with librarian-like precision. “The library is all free so we should have more members. We’re trying – we offer a lot of school activities to introduce kids to what we have to offer.”
A few initiatives were put in place in response to requests from members of the Clarence-Rockland community, such as Scrapbooking Digitale, a scrapbooking club, Cercle de Discussion, a French discussion group led by Nathalie Mathieu from Tucker house, Bridge nights, paint nights, and many other events and groups for people of all ages.
“These days, having a library in your town is more important than ever before – people need a place where you’re always welcome – it brings people together and helps the community thrive.”
“I love living in Clarence-Rockland,” Catherina says. “I can go to the drug store or the grocery store and run into people I know. I feel like I belong – that is something I was missing for a very long time when I was growing up. You have to understand Clarence-Rockland and appreciate the library to make it all work. My staff are every bit as committed to the community and the library as I am.”