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Banner: National Library of Canada 1953 - 2003

Roch Carrier

Who could have known that, of all the boys who dreamed of one day becoming the next Maurice Richard, it would be Roch Carrier, the self-confessed worst hockey player in his village, who would one day receive Richard’s hockey sweater from his childhood idol?

Born May 13, 1937, in Sainte-Justine, Quebec, Roch Carrier has always followed his own path. The path leading from his village’s outdoor skating rink to the office of Canada’s national librarian has been a long and winding one, filled with many achievements and surprises.

One thing that was not a surprise to Roch Carrier was becoming an author. From the time he was a young boy, he knew he wanted to be a writer. Not content to just sit and write all day, he also wanted to be involved in life. He has been able to fulfill both desires.

Roch first set off from home at age 11, when he went to boarding school in neighbouring Saint-Georges de Beauce. His education continued with a B.A. (1957) from Université Saint-Louis in Edmundston, N.B.; a master’s (1964) from the Université de Montréal; and a doctorat ès lettres (1970) from the Université de Paris.

At the age of 31, he published his hugely successful novel, La Guerre, Yes Sir! (1968). Since then, he has written many other novels, short stories, plays, film and television scripts, essays, travel books and works of poetry.

Drawing on the charm and nostalgia supplied by his birthplace (and still his favourite place on earth), several of his works have become classics and are used in schools and universities around the world, in both French and English. Some have been translated into other languages. The details of village life are drawn from the Saint-Justine of the 1940s. It was a village that had nothing, no library, no books.

His much-loved children’s story, The Hockey Sweater, remains a timeless favourite. It was made into a short film by the National Film Board, with a screenplay written by the author himself. This humorous and bittersweet tale of Roch’s childhood worship of his hero, Maurice Richard, laid the groundwork for his other book on the hockey legend, called Our Life with the Rocket (2001), that he would pen many years down the road.

Roch Carrier has also been a teacher, beginning in 1964 when he joined the French Department of the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, where he taught literature until 1970. He continued his teaching career at the Université de Montréal (1970-1971). In 1971, he was appointed secretary general of the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. But the road led back to the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, where from 1973 to 1980 he was the director of the French Department and coordinator of the undergraduate program in Canadian Studies. He stayed on and was appointed to various positions, becoming the principal in 1990.

From 1994 to 1997, he was the director of the Canada Council for the Arts. In October 1999, there was another bend in the road. Roch Carrier became the national librarian of Canada, an interesting turn of events for the boy who grew up in a village with no library and no books. Now the village has a brand new library  -  the Roch Carrier Library. Under M. Carrier’s leadership, the National Library of Canada has begun to address the problem of facilities that are inadequate to house the documents  -  often irreplaceable treasures  -  that tell our history. The Library’s prolific Digital Library of Canada, which is putting more of our heritage within reach of Canadians, was launched, and the barrier of user fees was removed from the AMICUS database.