MCL Blogs

For several years, Multnomah County Library has been working with local authors to share their self-published books via e-book platforms. Through the Library Writers Project, hundreds of books have been added to the e-book collection.

The library partners with Ooligan Press to publish one Library Writers Project book a year in print. This year, author Kristin Burchell, worked with Ooligan Press on the publication of her book Court of Venom.

Court of Venom author Kristin Burchell holding the book

Court of Venom is a fantasy novel about Badriya and her journey in the beautiful oasis city of Aran which lies at the center of the Lost, a desert haunted by ghosts, demons, and witches who prey on unwary souls. 

Q: What part of Court of Venom was the most fun to write?

KB: I would have to say the most fun was the interactions between Badriya and the other characters throughout the story. The camaraderie with her and Petra, how they develop their friendship through this fraught place. The relationships between Badriya and the Queen - their back and forth, and then separate from that the relationship with the Queen’s younger sister. There was also a character - a skeleton called the bones, I really loved writing their interactions as well. It was fun to hear what the bones would see because they had seen a lot.

Q: What inspired the idea of your book?

KB: Oh gosh, I've been working on this novel for quite a long time! I would start it and then put it away. I would come and go. When I first started writing it I got interested in the idea of poisons. When I was doing research on poisons, I kept finding information and stories around how people could use poisons to enhance their appearance. This was just so interesting to me…So what would be the dynamics that people would use poisonous cosmetics in different circumstances? If there is an assassin, how could they use cosmetics to poison people? People could use cosmetics as poison against each other as well. So what would make this worth the risk?

Q: What characters in your book are most similar to you and why?

KB: There’s probably a little bit of me in each character. So there’s Petra who is the best friend and observer and is probably the most like me I would say. She’s just watching all that’s going on and making sense of it all. In Badriya there is some of me. The thought process of how did I get into this situation and how am I going to get out of it? She’s always looking for a different solution or a different path that hasn't been seen yet. Connections are also important to me the same way they are to Badriya. So I would say for sure those two characters the most. I don't feel the furious revenge the Queen feels. As for the two mothers in the story, Solena’s mother and Badriya’s mother, I do feel the protectiveness that they each feel for their daughters. 

Q: If you could meet one of your characters, what would you say to them?

KB: I would really like to talk with Badriya’s mother and have a whole conversation on just what drives her and what would it take for her to finally feel happy and satisfied and what is her connection to the desert and to the lost. I’m sure Badriya would love to know what would satisfy her so she can finally be content and happy.

Q: If you were to write a spin-off about one of your characters, which would you choose?

KB: My first instinct would be to tell more about the witch's story. Then I’d also want to retrace Badriya’s mother's past. As well as follow up with Najma and her future. 

Q: Is there something you want people to know before going into the book:

KB: It was so exciting when the library picked it up as an ebook! And then to watch the process of Ooligan and for it to be traditionally published as a hard copy. There's a whole other element that Ooligan helped me add to it - like the astrology and star signs as I was going through some of the edits. And it was fun to see the constellations take place and form and to really move the book forward. This all just added more layers to the original book. I just appreciate the library being willing to get local writers recognized and out there.

Read more books from the Library Writers Project on OverDrive and Libby

If you like Court of Venom, read other recommendations

Bond project architecture firms welcome teen involvement

Since Multnomah County voters approved the Library Capital Bond in November 2020, the library has been hard at work with architecture firms to map out the design process for the construction and renovation of the Chapter One libraries. Throughout the process, the library and the firms have been meaningfully including teen voices with the help of two design programs.

The two programs coordinating teen involvement are Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA), and Your Street Your Voice. The YODA team has been working with architecture firms LEVER and Noll & Tam on the design of Albina and the North Portland locations. For the design of the Holgate and Midland libraries, Your Street Your Voice has been working with Bora and Colloqate architecture firms.

Both YODA and Your Street Your Voice offer teens a paid opportunity to help shape the design process and share what they want to see in their local libraries. The groups center the voice of teens coming from communities that are historically underrepresented in public processes. Through a multi-week cohort program students reflect on space and equity, and the messages that can be received from a space depending on who is considered throughout a design process. They are introduced into architecture as a career, while at the same time shaping library spaces in a meaningful way.

“As soon as I knew the Capital Bond Project was happening, I was looking for how we could have more youth involvement in these spaces,” says Sara Ryan, teen services librarian.

Library staff at community event

Pictured left to right are Sara Ryan (teen librarian), Isy Ibibo (teen librarian), and Cathy Parham (youth librarian).

The goal of both YODA and Your Street Your Voice is to see what kind of space the teens want to develop. “We work with students who don’t get asked ‘how could you change your environment?’ and this opens and unlocks their imagination. With the intention of the design team using their ideas and informing how the design will be executed, teens feel like we actually do care and want their input,” says Jacquelyn Santa Lucia, co-founder of Your Street Your Voice.

Your Street Your Voice provides opportunities and programs for students to get paid to learn about design as a tool for racial justice. The organization works with 12 local high schools, and has programs in and out of state. Your Street Your Voice works with primarily Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ youth who live in the neighborhoods of the libraries they are providing feedback on. “All students are experts, so we want to see what they desire to thrive,” says Jacquelyn.

There has been a lot of engagement from teens in both of these programs. “A lot of the students had thought about place already and what were places that were meaningful to them and where they felt welcome. So we built on this existing interest, and can see that teens are connecting across different schools and cultural backgrounds when they are doing group work,” says Sara.

To showcase the type of innovative concepts a library could have, the YODA team went on a field trip to the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. “On the way there and back it was a great experience with the kids being happy on their own, making friends and having a good time,” says Isy Ibibo, teen librarian. Teens got to see what a more recently updated library looks like, and gather inspiration for what their library could be. 

“The teens are concerned about comfortable seating in the library and a space that they could be in all day long and feel comfortable. But they also want a space that feels geared towards social justice and minority communities - BLM and LGBTQ+ rights. I’m very impressed that teens are thinking bigger than just wanting a cushioned chair,” says Isy.

There are different design teams and architects working with the teens on the projects. Each library is designed with the unique needs of each community and neighborhoods. “The overall approach is to have these teens be reflected in these specific areas, so there is different cultural and linguistic diversity,” says Suzanne Chou, community engagement coordinator with the Library Capital Bond Projects.

Students are learning project management skills, design principles, community agreements, environmental aspects of developing large buildings, color schemes, space considerations and more.

One teen shared how learning about architecture inspired him to explore other features of design, including the engineering and mechanics of a building. “This made me think about the concept that everything in the building has something to offer, whether that be functional or aesthetic,” says Theo, junior in high school and participant in the YODA program. 

Teens are guided through the visual process of design and what architecture looks like. The architecture team shows what the current plan is for teen spaces, how to read these plans and what a 21st century library could look like. 

“I really liked building with jenga blocks when I was a kid. I would put them to the side and put roofs on, and admire how there was structure, how architecture has to do with it, and how it is supported. From there I started looking more into what an architect was, because I didn't know before. I just liked building and liked the concept of structure and support and design in buildings. Then I learned what an architect meant and that's what I looked into to go forth,” says Marelynn, a junior in high school and participant in the YODA program.

Youth show design plan for a library

Marelynn’s school has a work-study program that has allowed her and other teens to look a bit more in depth into specific careers. She has been passionate about architecture for a long time, and expressed her love for this program. “Problem solving is a big part of architecture. It’s all problem solving to get to the big goal you have in the future of the building or project, and even though the building needs to be strong to support everything, the process of design is flexible,” says Marelynn. 

In the recent Your Street Your Voice cohort, students were able to share their ideas with the design and architecture team as well as key library stakeholders. They described pieces of the library that are important to them, including color preferences, how the five senses can impact wanting to leave or stay at the library, and ideas for how to build community outside of the library— like with a community garden. The teens shared their wish list of rooms for particular interests— a music library, library of games, and even a pets library! No suggestion or idea was too outrageous, as this exercise was an opportunity for teens to think outside the box and discuss what they would like in the library if there were no limits.

“The built environment is a reflection of the value system. It’s very clear where investments have been put in when you see it in schools and libraries…and libraries are a safe space for a lot of people. They provide safety, security, and wrap-around services. I can't tell you how many times students have said, ‘the library has been the place,’” says Jacquelyn.

These programs offer hands-on activities for teens, and give young people the time and space to share in the design of the libraries they are a part of. 

The library is committed to youth informing future library projects, and as projects move forward, opportunities for input will be updated on the Library Capital Bond Projects website. You can also stay up-to-date by signing up for the bond projects newsletter.

How one staff member is taking his lived experience and sharing it with the community

For many years, the library has been a hub for community members seeking a new job or advancing their career. For Enrique Rivera, a library workforce development bilingual outreach specialist, this work is especially impactful as he gets to share his personal story with people who are incarcerated at Multnomah County Inverness Jail. 

Joining his county colleague, Carol, Enrique travels to Inverness every week to connect with individuals at the facility, a program conducted in partnership with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. He co-hosts a set of classes to introduce individuals at the facility to library resources, books and teach literacy skills. 

Enrique Rivera, a library workforce development bilingual outreach specialist

“For many people, coming to a physical library location is a luxury. So going out to different locations and meeting people who have never even been to the library is a way to connect with the community,” says Enrique. 

During his visits to corrections facilities, Enrique shares his personal connection to the people he is helping and why he is passionate about the library. He tells them how he used library resources to find a job after he was incarcerated as a young adult. Prior to this, Enrique had never stepped foot in a library. Though he’d signed up for classes at Portland Community College, he needed help fixing up and printing his resume. 

“I went to Belmont Library and told them I need help with these two things. I printed 30 copies of my resume and started handing it out to any place that would take it,” says Enrique.

After this experience, Enrique started using the library all the time. He didn't have a personal computer, so he would go to Belmont Library to complete his school work. He became a regular at the Belmont branch and started to keep an eye out for open positions.

He started applying and was hired a year later to work at Gresham Library as a page— a position that primarily assisted with shelving and checking in materials. During his 11 years at the library, Enrique has worked at almost every branch. In his current position, he shares his journey and inspires community members to use the resources available at the library to find a new career after incarceration.

“I didn't have big dreams after being incarcerated, but what I wanted was to have a normal job, and for me that was a big thing, to have a sense of normalcy. This is what a lot of folks want. They want a job that is stable and pays a living wage - especially when you’re in this position and have a record, it becomes this past, or something that will prevent you from doing something different. So when they see someone who had a similar experience, they appreciate that and express their appreciation. So now to be able to help people do this, is a way in which I can give back what the library gave to me,” says Enrique.

The library has an abundance of books, digital materials, knowledgeable staff, online classes, and one-on-one support, that can all be tailored to individual career needs. 

“Job search has changed a lot over the years and people need a more holistic approach to help them with a variety of needs,” says Lori Moore, a workforce development librarian on the library’s Workplace Team. 

The library has helped patrons with career resources for a long time, but the dedicated Workplace Team formed as a response to changing community needs during the pandemic. More recently, the team has seen trends change from people who are unemployed to those looking to learn new workforce skills, make a career shift or start a new business. 

“We've seen more people leave the traditional workforce to start their own businesses, especially women and minorities,” says Tara Nash, small business and entrepreneurship librarian. “We see that small business support and job support both have the same goals of allowing people the opportunity to find economic stability and fulfillment.”

For small business owners, the library offers free classes for all stages of the small business journey including workshops on business development, strategy, finance and marketing. It also offers personalized small business advice —  a unique service covering things like developing a business plan, doing market research, and connecting entrepreneurs with community partners. 

In addition to direct career and small business assistance, the library offers GED help, literacy tutoring, technology training, and an abundance of other adult learning classes.

In terms of future plans for people at the correctional facilities, Enrique hopes to see some more opportunities for them to check out books and fully utilize library resources:

“There are plenty more things I could say, for instance one of our Indigenous adults was very happy to hear about the library’s services to the Indigenous community. He thanked us for allowing him to come a second time to this class — since there is usually limited room and we offer it first to those who haven't come before — and that he told his family about me and my story because it gave him hope that he too one day could work in a library.” 

Connect with the Small Business & Entrepreneurship team

Find Job and Career help

Chinese patrons build community

Chinese is one of seven dedicated service language and culture groups at the library. Many library branches have staff that speak Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Russian, or Spanish. They are working to build collections in these languages. There are also library staff dedicated to serving the culturally specific needs of the Black and Indigenous communities. The language and culture staff members connect with communities around the county to share information about local resources, and provide friendly guidance to navigate opportunities.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Month (AANHPI), and some of the library's wonderful Chinese patrons shared their experiences of the library and what they love most about it. 

Sign up for upcoming events at your local library


Ms. Ren standing by bookshelves in library

When Ms. Ren visited the Central Library for the first time, she was impressed with the staff and services available. 

When she learned about the English classes through the Adult Literacy Tutoring program, she signed up and asked how much she needed to pay. She was pleasantly surprised when she found out that all library services are free! 

Ms. Ren shared that learning English has helped her adapt to being in a new community and new country. 

Through the library, she has sought tech help and attended many arts and crafts classes. Her favorites have been those during the Mid-Autumn Festival where patrons learn to make lanterns, origami, dumplings, and calligraphy. Ms. Ren enjoys creating art and has gifted several Chinese knot and string art pieces (pictured) to the library to show her appreciation. 

Coming to the library, she has made new friends and found connections to her culture. 

“The library is just like a family. When you have difficulties and questions, then you can always ask the library…it is not just about books, it is also about helping the human.”


Schuchan Zhao and her family siting on sofa

Ms. Schuchan Zhao and her family enjoy attending Chinese cultural events at Woodstock Library. 

At this branch, they’ve connected with Chinese library staff, and while the library was closed during the pandemic, they attended virtual library storytimes. 

“Due to Covid, kids do not have many opportunities to learn together, especially those at an early age, having the virtual storytime meeting is really helpful for them, so they can develop reading and learning skills while having fun,” shared Ms. Schuchan Zhao. It was “a great opportunity for the young children to interact, listen to Chinese stories, and do crafts together.”

Ms. Schuchan Zhao and her family also love to attend the Chinese culture festivals and other virtual and in-person activities provided at the library. 

“The library provides the opportunity for the Chinese group to celebrate our festivals, share our culture and gather with our community, '' says Ms. Schuchan Zhao.

Her family has also participated in virtual storytimes, and the Summer Reading program. They have been able to enjoy the library as a family and inspire others to as well. 

“I would encourage people to apply for a library card, so they can enjoy getting books to read with their families,” says Ms. Schuchan Zhao.


Mrs. and Mr. Lin standing in front of a waterfall

Mrs. and Mr. Lin are a couple who’ve connected with the Chinese language staff at the Central and Midland libraries. 

“When we moved to Portland we wanted to come here to learn English. We have a volunteer who teaches us one by one. The library helps us with English, the tutors help us, and today we have about five tutors who have taught us. We always appreciate them for helping us learn English more and better,” says Mr. Lin.

The couple has benefited from the computer technology help, books, and classes available at the library. 

“We appreciate the technology help. It helps us learn on the computer if we have problems, they can help us solve this problem. Also on the cellphone, if there is a problem, they can help us resolve it. For the seniors this is really important. As we get older we have a lot of technology so what we learn is from the tech programs and we both appreciate it. After we learn the result, we help other people to resolve the same problem.The first time we used Zoom, we didn't know how to use it. Through the program at the library we learned how to use it and we helped seven or eight people use Zoom,” says Mr. Lin.

“We don’t use the computer often so sometimes I ask about computer problems. Sometimes it might be for my friend. So then I resolve the problem and then tell other people. Thank you for this,” says Mrs. Lin.

They have been library advocates, encouraging friends to use library resources and attend events. 

“At the library we can take out books and take them home for reading. There are a lot of Chinese books, so there may be one someone likes and can bring home for reading. The library also has some activities we always enjoy - the Lunar New Years programs, and the Mid-autumn festivals. We also like calligraphy and writing Chinese words,” says Mrs. Lin.

“We enjoy that our Chinese people go to the library. We told more than ten people to go.
We always ask the library what kind of activities the library will have and then we tell our Chinese apartment residents to join this activity. The library always contacts us and then we can tell someone to join this activity,” says Mr. Lin.


Ms. Terri Hsing writing at a table

Ms. Terri Hsing is a Chinese culture teacher from Taiwan who has taught in public and private schools. Most recently, Ms. Hsing has been teaching free calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting classes for patrons of all ages at the library.

“I’ve taught traditional Chinese culture for over 15 years in the States. Since last year, I’ve been working in partnership with the Multnomah County Library to put together many events. I appreciate that the Multnomah County Library gives me so many opportunities to host cultural events,” says Ms. Hsing. 

Ms. Hsing has hosted Chinese classes in lantern painting, dough figurine art, hand-writing spring couplets and more.

“My favorite events are the Chinese calligraphy courses and Chinese painting lessons. Chinese calligraphy includes the history from 5,000 years of history, Confucius philosophy ... It's a rich heritage. We have poetry - and people use calligraphy to write poetry - it’s a beautiful thing to share the poetry and write the calligraphy written with handmade rice paper,” says Ms. Hsing.

Ms. Hsing has made incredible connections with patrons and staff through her programs. 

“The library is the best place and way to share culture because it is based on community. If I do cultural sharing, I want people to come and enjoy the program and cultural events,” says Ms. Hsing.

The library is a community hub where people can come together to celebrate their individual heritage and learn about other cultures as well. 

Attention, K-12 educators! This summer attend one of our educator workshops to learn about the library's services for teachers and the latest and greatest books to use in the classroom. All workshops will be offered online this year.

Gotta Read This: New Books to Connect with Your Curriculum: This workshop highlights new books you might integrate into your language arts, social studies, math, science and arts curriculum. We have separate resources for educators of grades K-5 and 6-12.

  • Kindergarten to fifth-grade educators: This is a two-part webinar, with part one (covering language arts and social studies) on August 2 from 2-3:15 pm, and part two (covering science, math, health and the arts) on August 4 from 2-3:15 pm. Certificates of attendance will be provided. Register now for part one | Register now for part 2  
  • Middle and high school educators: Sign up now, and we’ll contact you to let you know when the online booklists are available.  

Library Connect Introduction: Chances are every K-12 student in your school district already has a Multnomah County Library card! Learn about this school-library partnership and how to get your students started: August 9, 2-3:30 pm. 

Library Connect Advanced: Are your students all set to use their Library Connect accounts?  Learn more about the Multnomah County Library resources available to support classroom learning and extracurricular interests: August 11, 2-3:30 p.m. 

Talking Equity and Social Justice: Booktalks for Educators and Parents: Are you looking for some new books to share with youth on topics like diversity, equity and social responsibility?  Our librarians will share quick booktalks for educators and parents of grades K-12 on titles that address these topics. Certificates of attendance are available. 

Novel-Ties self-paced online workshop (for educators of grades 4-8) : Hot, new fiction to use in book discussion groups and literature circles. Register now, and we’ll contact you to let you know when the workshop is available.  

Contact School Corps with questions.

For information about all library services, call 503-988-5123. 
Looking for help on a variety of topics? Start with our list of Lifelong Learning resources.

Technology Help and Computer Skills
The library offers many computer and technology classes

Job Seekers
Learn more about the library's classes and resources for writing resumes, building work related skills and other support for job seekers. Check out these websites and resources to get started on your own.

Small Business
Learn more about the library's classes and resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Check out these websites to get started on your own.

Adult Literacy
The library offers classes, tutoring and resources for adults who are learning to read, working on their GED, learning English and working toward citizenship. Check out these websites to get started on your own.


“Why do you only have one copy of [super popular e-book or audiobook]?”

One of many things could be happening here.

Is it Before the Book’s Release Date?

This is expected. The library buys a single copy of e-books and downloadable audiobooks in advance of their release dates so that they are in the catalog for you to place holds on them.

The week before the book is released, we buy enough copies for the title to meet demand based on the number of holds on the title at that time. This prevents “over-buying” in the expensive e-book and audiobook formats that often range in price from $55 to $109 per copy. This is how we meet demand while staying within our budget.

Is it After the Book’s Release Date?

There are two possibilities:

  1. The holds have built up since the librarians last reviewed holds and bought additional copies (this happens once a week). We will buy more copies within the next few days.
  2. The title is no longer available for the library to purchase and we are unable to add more copies. Titles can be removed from the purchasing catalog for many reasons. One of the most common is that Amazon purchased the rights to the title after the library bought our first copy. Amazon does not sell the digital versions of the titles it publishes or owns the rights for to libraries.

In the case of titles in the second category, librarians do check to see if new editions of any of these titles have been released. If they have, we add them to the collection and move the holds to the “active” copies. When new editions are not available to buy, it just means a really long wait for the title.

One way to check on audiobook availability is to see if the title has an “Only From Audible” banner on the cover on its Amazon page. If it does, the library cannot buy it.

If you have questions about specific titles, please let us know.

Discover details of all the Corps members from this PBS site and this Discovering Lewis & Clark site.


The Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery", as it eventually came to be called, was conceived by Thomas Jefferson. He was dedicated to exploration of the vast territory west of the Mississippi River and learning about the Native Americans who resided there. He wanted to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean and map the topography. Also, he expected the Corps to catalog the flora and fauna they encountered. On the Monticello web site read about Thomas Jefferson's part in funding and planning the Corp's work.


President Jefferson chose his secretary Meriwether Lewis as the ideal candidate to captain the Corps. Lewis then chose his Co-Captain, William Clark. They had served in the military together and were an ideal team.  Between them, they possessed the skills needed to face the challenges of their incredible journey.


Monsieur Charbonneau is not noted for his popularity with the rest of the Corps or his abilities as a member of the appears that the only contribution of real value he provided was the interpreting services of his wife, Sacajawea. This description of Charbonneau makes it clear he was considered a sort of "necessary evil".


There are many questions surrounding Sacajawea's story that have been controversial. One is the correct spelling/pronunciation of her name and another question is at what age and where did she die? My search for accurate information about these questions and others about Sacajawea led me to the descendants of her tribe of origin, the Lemhi Shoshoni. I found a site from the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, & Educational Center. Tim Woodward interviewed members of Sacajawea's birth tribe. The story of the kidnapping and slavery of Sacajawea and her marriage to Charbonneau make difficult reading. Her life as a member of the Corps of Discovery is but a small piece of her complex history. From the time she was kidnapped, Sacajawea's life was determined by people who were not interested in her happiness but in taking advantage of her talents. Sacajawea probably died due to an illness that may have resulted from the birth of her second child, a daughter named Lissette.


Sacajawea gave birth to Jean-Baptiste during the first winter of the expedition when they were camped at Fort Mandan in North Dakota. William Clark was very fond of the toddler nicknamed "Pomp" or "Pompey". The landmark Pompey's Pillar was named after Pompey. After the expedition he was provided for by Clark, but never adopted by him. Jean-Baptiste spent time as an adult in Europe but eventually returned to the United States to take up a mountain man lifestyle similar to his father's. The man, who had traveled as a child on one of the greatest explorations of all time, died and is buried in Oregon.

Jean Baptiste-Charbonneau grave site in Oregon.


York was William Clark's slave and belonged to him from the time both were children. His contributions to the success of the Corps were as valuable as any of the other members. In recent years, letters William Clark wrote to his brother reveal that he did not feel York's "services" with the Corps had any value. He didn't care that York wished to live close to his wife and refused to grant him his freedom. Clark told his brother that if York didn't improve his attitude he was going to loan him to a harsh master. The final years of York's life are detailed by the National Park Service. You can learn how York's position in the 1800's is typical of the complexities of the slave/owner relationship.


Sgt. Floyd holds the dubious honor of being the only member of the Corps of Discovery to perish on the journey. This unhappy event took place soon after the Corps embarked on their Missouri River voyage. Flying at Sgt. Floyd's monument is a replica of the 15 star and 15 stripe flag he would have defended for the military. Visit his Sioux City memorial to learn what ended Sgt. Floyd's trek.


Seaman was a Newfoundland dog and a valued member of the Corps of Discovery. He was purchased by Meriwether Lewis for $20 (about $400 in 1806), perhaps because he had webbed feet and much of the trip was intended to take place by pirogue. Seaman caught small game, entertained the expedition members and provided excellent service at guard duty. There are many theories about what became of Seaman. This version of Seaman's fate is intriguing...and it appears to be based on some historical evidence.  Here is a great photo of a sculpture including Seaman which is located in Fort Clatsop National Park--he is paying very close attention to the flounder rather than his guard duty.

Stanley Wanlass Sculpture with Seaman


The rest of the Corps included volunteer members of the U.S. Army and a handful of civilians. They were chosen for the skills they could contribute in carrying out the goals of the expedition and for keeping all members alive and safe. 


National Library Workers Day is a day of recognition for all that library staff, administrators and volunteers do for our libraries. Library workers play a critical role in our communities. At Multnomah County Library, employees across the organization keep the library running. 

At each library location, staff will help you find the resources you are looking for and keep the collection organized and up to date. They will help you find the answers to research questions, assist with technology, offer book recommendations for all ages, provide culturally specific service, and more. 

Two library staff holding a giant library card

Motoya Nakamura/Multnomah County

Behind the scenes, staff help develop innovative programs, events and partnerships for and with our community. The library has many more staff who you don’t get to see at your locations, but that contribute to the library ecosystem, including delivery drivers (pictured) - who make sure you get the books you are looking for at the library of your choice! 

National Library Workers Day is observed on the Tuesday of National Library Week; this year it is on April 5, 2022. So next time you are in the library, share your gratitude with your dedicated library workers!

Some of the crew that moves materials around to all libraries

Visit your local library for yours

Don’t miss out on a chance to receive your makerspace minikit! The Circuits and Bots minikits are available now at your neighborhood library. These kits are intended for teens, tweens, and youth under 13 years old with recommended supervision. 

Makerspace minikits are STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) based activities in a bag. Each series shows kids how to be creative in interpreting the materials and making the final product. The minikits come with instructions in several languages: Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Nicole Newsom, Judith Guzman-Montes, Desiree Wolcott-Cushman, and Melody Hamaker (pictured) along with other staff have been working behind the scenes to assemble thousands of kits.

“For this series, bristlebots are what I’ve worked on the most,” says Melody. “We receive materials in bulk, and then someone takes one of each item and makes sure we have all the components needed in a bag. To make these kits we have volunteers and staff working on them. It’s a mini assembly line each time.”

Staff assembling craft mini kits

The minikits currently available explore circuitry and the flow of energy. Youth can move electricity from a light to an LED using conductive materials; make a complete circuit; learn about parallel circuits; and experiment with making an on/off switch. Young patrons can learn, build and play by making a paper circuit card, light-up bugs, and bristlebots.” 

Mom and child holding minikit bag

Pictured are library patrons Marcos and his mom, Angeles, receiving their first minikit.

Each minikit series builds on the skills from the last, although patrons do not need to have done the previous series to participate in upcoming ones. 

“This was amazing and such a joy for the kids to do on a rainy day,” said one patron about the bridges minikits series.  

Other patrons have provided feedback saying that the minikits inspire them to do more at home projects. For the catapult minikit, one patron mentioned that the “rocket was the best part.”

The makerspace minikits are made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation. The minikits started as a way to offer at-home programming for youth while libraries were closed due to the pandemic. Previous to this, the Rockwood Library makerspace regularly hosted STEAM-based programs for teens. The space was designed for teens to hang out, learn new skills like movie making, video game design, computer coding and other advanced technology skills. Teens often visited after school and on weekends, creating robots, using the  3D printer and even completing projects with a laser cutter. The Rockwood makerspace first opened in 2016, which was made possible by the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission and The Library Foundation. 

There are two more scheduled minikits coming out in the next few months. 

  • Fiber arts minikit will be available beginning May 28, 2022. This minikit explores the art and science of fabric, through measuring, problem solving and sequencing patterns.
  • The soft circuits minikits will be available on June 11, 2022. In this series, experiment with circuit building and move electricity to a light. 

Library patrons can receive one minikit series per person, while supplies last.The minikits are free and include all materials.

Thank you to The Library Foundation.

Mary Frances Isom

Multnomah County Library would not be what it is today without the leadership and influence of Mary Frances Isom, a champion for local public libraries in the Portland community, Multnomah County, and for school libraries.

Mary Frances was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1865, to prominent parents. Her father was a surgeon for the Union Army, and Mary Francis' mother focused on raising her. After the Civil War, Mary Frances' family returned to their home in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1883, Mary Frances attended Wellesley College. After only a year, she went back home, and her mother died. When her father passed away in 1899, Mary Frances became the heir to her family’s wealth. 

Motivated to continue her education and a career path Mary Frances started at Pratt Institute’s Library School in New York in the fall of 1899. She received a certificate for completing the standard one-year course and then completed a second course in 1901. Her programs focused on cataloging, training on administration, library organization, and hands-on experience.

Mary Frances’ first job as a librarian was as a cataloguer for the Library Association of Portland. Her move came at an opportune time since there was a collection of thousands of books that needed her expertise. Portland pioneer merchant John Wilson gifted his collection of books to the Library Association of Portland, with the condition that the whole collection be free to all. As a result, the library transitioned from a subscription model in which it would cost money to access resources from the library, to a free public library. 

When Mary Frances arrived in Portland in 1901, she got to work to catalog the 8,891 books gifted by Wilson. As referenced in the biographical article, “Making the library be alive,” the 1901 library annual report refers to Mary Frances as having, “ worked with zeal and enthusiasm and the members of the staff transferred to her department have received the most efficient training and instruction.”

A year later in 1902, the library director left abruptly, and Mary Frances was offered the role of head librarian of the Library Association of Portland. As head librarian, she focused on three of the core needs identified at the time: books, space, and funding. Mary Frances also realized that the need for resources went further than just the Portland area. There was a need for books in the more rural parts of Oregon as well. 

Isom hadn't been at the library for more than two years when she began drafting a law enabling Multnomah County to levy taxes for library purposes. The library levy passed in 1903, paving the way for Multnomah County Library to become the first county library system on the West Coast.

She then focused her efforts on building a community around the library and attracting patrons into this new system. Realizing that people outside of the Portland area faced transportation challenges and barriers in getting to a branch, she developed book stations (also known as deposit stations) throughout rural areas of the county as a form of outreach. Each station carried about 50-100 books. This program snowballed into the idea of developing more opportunities for children to access books. 

As a collaborative leader, Mary Frances and her team developed child-focused programming at the library and distributed books to schools throughout the county. In addition, they also placed librarians at the community high schools.  

Portland was growing, and there was an interest in branch libraries. In 1907, some of the deposit stations became library branches. The first few new branches were Sellwood, Albina and East Portland libraries. 

At this same time, Andrew Carnegie began funding public libraries across the country. In 1911 and 1912, the library received Carnegie grants to build seven branch libraries. Of these St. Johns, Albina, and North Portland libraries are still in use today. Simultaneously, Mary Frances worked closely with Chief Architect Albert E. Doyle who led the design of the Central Library building, opening in 1913.

Mary Frances described the library as “the great social center of the community,” which she helped to create in her time in Portland. She lived a life that was rich and meaningful both professionally and personally.

Mary Frances Isom died in 1920. She was 55 years old. Upon her passing, Multnomah County Library had 16 public libraries. On the day of her death, the library closed for several hours to honor her works and life. The Multnomah County Library system our community knows and loves would not have been possible without the determination and vision of Mary Frances Isom more than a century ago. 

For more information about Mary Frances Isom and her life, please visit “Making the library be alive”: Portland’s librarian, Mary Frances Isom.

Interviewing for a job is stressful, especially if you haven’t done it before and you’re not sure what to expect. But just like anything else, the more you prepare, the more likely it is that you’ll feel confident.

The career site has useful information about preparing for an interview, including a video explaining how to answer the question “Tell me about yourself.” Here are some other questions you might be asked in an interview, and some questions you might want to ask the person or people interviewing you.

General Questions

  • Why are you looking for a job?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What makes you the best candidate for this job?
  • What are some of your biggest accomplishments?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are you learning in school that will help you with this position?
  • Tell me about a problem you had recently and how you solved it.
  • Do you have any questions about the job?

Questions you might want to ask the people interviewing you:

  • Are schedules for people in this job likely to change often from week to week, or mostly stay the same?
  • What’s the best advice you have for someone starting out at this job?

The library can help you prepare for job interviews. We have community professionals who will do practice interviews with you and give you feedback. To schedule an appointment, contact us at

You may have heard that “networking” is important when you’re looking for a job, and you might be wondering what it means to “network” when you’re a teenager. The basic idea is to make connections with people who can help you with your job search. Think about everyone you already know: friends, family, teachers, counselors, coaches, people at a place of worship or other activity you do in the community. One of the simplest ways to network is to tell people in your life that you’re looking for work. A counselor might know about an upcoming job fair. A friend might work at a grocery that has other job openings. A teacher might be able to provide a reference for you. Here’s a networking worksheet to help you brainstorm. Download the PDF document and open it in Google Docs or another word processor to edit it.

Think of the library as being part of your network, too! The library has resources to help you find what jobs are available to teens, to make a resume and prepare for an interview. To schedule an appointment, contact us at

Teens need resumes too! It can be challenging to create your first resume but the library can help. First, start thinking about all of your experiences. Even if you’ve never had a job you probably have a lot of great skills and work experience. Check out this blog post to help you think about your experience.

The library can help you create your resume. We have librarians who can sit down with you and help you create your resume from scratch. We also have community professionals who will review your resume when it’s ready and help you make it even better. 

To schedule an appointment, contact us at

Here is a handy template to help you get started. Download the PDF document and open it in Google Docs or another word processor to edit it. 

Are you a teen thinking about getting a job but you don’t have any work experience? You probably have more experience than you think. 

Think about your hobbies, interests, and volunteer work. These can be things you do at home, school, community center, or place of worship. 

Think about all the things you know how to do. Can you type? Use a computer and different kinds of software? Do you help do certain things around the house? Speak or understand a language besides English? These are all great things to add to a resume. 

LinkedIn Learning for Libraries is a free online resource you can use with your library card. It has tons of video courses to help you learn new skills. You can even earn badges to add to your resume or online profiles. 

To help you brainstorm more about all the things you could add to a resume, we’ve created this handy worksheet to help get you started! Download the PDF document and open it in Google Docs or another word processor to edit it.

For more information on job searching for teens, check out this video from

If you’ve checked out a copy of George by Alex Gino recently, you might have noticed some changes to the cover. Many of the covers have been altered to change the title from George to Melissa’s Story. This was done in response to a blog post from the author encouraging readers to engage in #SharpieActivism. That is, to alter the covers of their book to the title Melissa’s Story to reflect the gender identity of the main character. In the post, Gino (who uses they/them pronouns) talks about the importance of using a person’s preferred name and that they regret using Melissa’s birth name as the title. They go on to share their experience of growing up nonbinary and the message that something as small as a book title can send.

Over the past several months, the Online Teen Council set to work on the library collection. Equipped with washi tape and colored Sharpies, the teens altered approximately 60 copies of the book in English, Spanish, and Books on CD. The results were rich and varied. Some were as simple as crossing out the old title and adding the new. Others were ornate. Some of the titles had been altered even before the project began. The teens brought their individuality to the project, as I’m sure Gino intended.

Covers of book Melissa's Story

On October 22nd, 2021, Scholastic announced that they have changed the title of the book to Melissa. The book will be printed with the new name starting in April 2022. In the meantime, you can visit Alex Gino’s blog for printable covers and to order stickers. Or else you can engage in your own #SharpieActivism.

The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project
Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC)
Oregon Youth Line (call, text, chat, or email)

For Families and Allies:

¡La biblioteca te ayuda a prepararte para el fin de cursos!

Recibe ayuda para completar tus trabajos escolares con Live Homework Help from Los tutores pueden revisar y editar tus escritos y ayudarte a resolver problemas matemáticos. también ofrece prácticas para exámenes como PSAT, SAT, ACT y Clases Avanzadas (AP). Los tutores están disponibles todos los días de 2 a 10 pm; y pueden ayudarte en español, inglés y vietnamita. 

Tenemos varios libros electrónicos y guías de estudio para ayudarte con las matemáticas, ciencias y escritura de ensayos; así como prepararte para los exámenes de Clases Avanzadas. Otro sitio para practicar los exámenes del SAT y ACT es LearningExpres Library. ¿Indeciso si tomar el SAT o el ACT?

Para usar los recursos en línea, solo necesitas una tarjeta de la biblioteca o tu número de Library Connect, que es como una tarjeta de biblioteca. Para usar Library Connect, revisa estos pasos. Si necesitas una contraseña, llámanos por teléfono, correo electrónico o chat entre las 9 am y 5 pm.


El terminar la preparatoria es emocionante, pero también puede ser preocupante. He aquí algunos Recursos para la Vida Después de la Preparatoria

Entra al colegio de dos años o a la universidad de cuatro años

Muchos estudiantes deciden continuar sus estudios superiores en una universidad o colegio. La biblioteca te ofrece varios recursos para elegir la universidad o colegio y solicitar ayuda financiera. 

Información adicional que puede ayudarte a decidir:

Algunas ideas

Continúa una carrera universitaria

Aprovecha el tiempo en la universidad

Ideas para padres para ayudar a su adolescente

Aprende algún oficio

Con el alto costo de las universidades, muchos estudiantes buscan alternativas. Los colegios comunitarios y escuelas que ofrecen carreras técnicas, pueden ser una opción. Los programas de escuelas vocacionales como Benson Polytechnic, pueden abrirte la puerta directamente a una práctica de aprendizaje. Girls Build ofrece campamentos después de la escuela para animar a las chicas a entrar al trabajo de construcción.

Si ya te graduaste de la universidad o colegio, Oregon Tradewomen ofrece clases y carreras de oficios como el primer paso para aprender acerca de los trabajos en construcción y entrar a una práctica de aprendizaje pagada.   

Si estás interesado en el trabajo y servicio comunitario, AmeriCorps tiene muchas posiciones para ayudarte a desarrollar y mejorar tus habilidades y hacer una diferencia en la comunidad. 

Si tienes alguna discapacidad, puedes trabajar con Vocational Rehabilitation Youth Services desde los 14 años de edad para empezar a desarrollar habilidades, explorar intereses y opciones, y aprender acerca de los recursos que pueden ayudarte a encontrar un trabajo y mantenerte empleado. Una vez que entres al tercer año de preparatoria (junior), puedes empezar a trabajar con el equipo de apoyo de tu escuela para conocer las opciones y obtener tu diploma de preparatoria. También puedes empezar el plan de transición para tus años después de la escuela preparatoria.

Haz una práctica o voluntariado en el área de tu interés

La experiencia en un campo puede ayudarte a determinar si esa carrera es para ti. ¿Te interesa la medicina? Inscríbete como voluntario en OHSU.  ¿Te interesa la tecnología? Prueba Free Geek. ¿Estás interesado en un trabajo social? Prueba el  Banco de Comida de Oregón.  Si estás interesado en la construcción, prueba The Rebuilding Center. ¿Te gustan los animales o deseas estudiar para ser veterinario? Prueba el Zoológico, la Audubon Society o la Humane Society. ¿Te gusta la biblioteca? ¡Conviértete en voluntario con nosotros!  

De acuerdo a la ley de Oregón, todos los distritos escolares ofrecen Programas de Educación Profesional y Carreras Técnicas: Portland Public Schools, Gresham, Centennial, Parkrose, Reynolds y David Douglas. Estos programas incluyen una amplia variedad de oportunidades de aprendizaje práctico en clase y en la comunidad.

¿Deseas más ideas de qué hacer después de la preparatoria? Con gusto te ayudamos, comunícate con nosotros a

Graduating student in cap and gown taking selfie with Elder.
The whole wide world is open to you after high school. You can be anything you want! But what choices do you want to make out of the millions available to you? 

There’s an infinite variety of work out there. What matters most to you? Which skills and talents do you already have and which do you want to build? What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens helps narrow down those infinite choices into some concrete steps.  

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an online database that outlines the skills and education needed for hundreds of careers in a wide variety of fields. It identifies which fields and jobs are growing or shrinking and which jobs are related and how. 

By Oregon law, every school district offers Career and Technical Education programs - Portland Public Schools, Gresham, Centennial, Parkrose, Reynolds, and David Douglas. These include a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities in class and in the community.  

Hands-on experience in a field can help you figure out if that’s the career for you. Interested in a medical career? Volunteer at OHSU. Interested in Information Technology? Try Free Geek. Interested in social work? Try Oregon Food Bank. Interested in construction? Try The Rebuilding Center. Interested in a career with animals? Try the Zoo or the Audubon Society or the Humane Society. Love the library? Volunteer for us!

If you’re thinking about a business career, De la Salle North Catholic High School offers a work-study program where you can work in a corporate partner office one day a week to pay for your private high school tuition and learn job skills.

If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, you can start now. Moziah Bridges started making and selling bow ties at age nine and wrote a guide to starting a business at age 17. Mikaila Ulmer started her lemonade stand as a kid and grew it into a multi-million dollar foundation to help save bees by age 15. If those stories inspire you, The Young Adult Library of Small Business and Finance ebook series takes you through making a plan, finding funding, and marketing your business. Librarian Tara wrote a blog post about library resources to use when starting a business.

Many students from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of goals choose to go to college after high school. The library has collected sources of information on financial aid, choosing a college, college admissions, and studying abroad on our College help for teens page.

But with the high cost of college, many people are looking at alternatives. In a survey, more than half of teens said they were not interested in a four-year degree. They’d rather have shorter, job-focused training. And many of those going to college are looking for apprenticeship or internship opportunities.

Many skilled construction trades offer interesting and challenging work with good pay and benefits. Vocational high school programs, like Benson Polytechnic, can get you directly into an apprenticeship. Girls Build offers camps and afterschool programs to encourage girls to enter the building trades.

For those who have already graduated, Oregon Tradewomen offers a Trades and Apprenticeship Careers Class as a first step to learn about construction trades and enter into a paid apprenticeship.  

Portland Youth Builders has two programs: Youth Build combines work toward a high school diploma or GED with vocational training in construction or technology. Or if you’ve already earned a high school diploma or GED, you can enter the nine-week Bridge program that prepares you for a paid apprenticeship and includes career counseling and leadership development.

If you have a disability, you can work with state Vocational Rehabilitation Youth Services as early as age 14 to start building skills, exploring interests, and learning about the supports that can help you find and keep a job. Once you enter your junior year, you’ll start working with your school team to learn about your diploma options and plan your transition into your next steps after high school.

The number of students taking a gap year is up* thanks to the pandemic. For many, a gap year offers time to rest, explore and mature before settling on a major and career. There are pros and cons to a gap year. Some people engage with a gap year program, but many young people take an independent gap year, working full or part time, living away from home for the first time, volunteering at home or abroad, or traveling.

For those with an interest in community service, AmeriCorps has many positions to grow your skills and make a difference. AmeriCorps members serve part time or full time for year-long positions, such as helping run after school programs, teaching cooking classes at the food bank, or helping veterans find affordable housing. The National Civilian Conservation Corps division of AmeriCorps works on hands-on conservation and climate change mitigation projects. Members in either program get a modest monthly stipend and an education award at the end of the year that can go for tuition or paying off student loans.

Still daunted? That’s okay! You’ve got your whole life and a lot to explore. Failing and recovering are part of what makes a great life after high school as much as your successes and achievements. So try something new, muck around, change your mind, and have fun!

*You will need a library card number to access these library databases. You will also need one to place holds on library books and/or check them out. Thankfully, Multnomah County Library has partnered with public school districts to provide students with automatic library accounts. See Library Connect for more information. 

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at with any questions.

“I need help finding grants for my small business”

“Are any grants available for low income people and/or veterans for home repair?”

“I want to find grants to buy a home or for real estate investment”

We get questions like this in the library every week, and we are happy to help!  But the first thing to know about many financial assistance programs is that most of them are not grants in the traditional sense, and that searching grants databases will not get you the information you want.

This post sorts through some of the myths about grants, and to point to sources of funding that might help for the types of questions we typically get at the library. And yes, we’ll cover actual grants, too!

Who gets grants?

Most grants are awarded to:

  • nonprofits like charities, schools, and arts and community organizations,
  • state & local government agencies,
  • federally-recognized tribes,
  • and public safety agencies like hospitals, police and fire departments

Most grants are for specific projects that will benefit many people, such as to produce a museum exhibit, to fund science or technology advances, or infrastructure projects (like installing broadband in a rural community). Grants are not generally given to individuals.  Grants are almost never available to businesses to hire staff, for ongoing expenses, or to expand. 

Applying for grants is a very involved process: you need to explain how you will spend the money, how it will benefit the targeted audience, and how you will document all of this. There’s a reason that “grant writer” is a full-time job held by people at places like non-profits and museums! 

Yep, that sounds like me and/or my organization! So how do I get a grant? 
 “Despite what the late-night infomercials want you to believe, the federal government does not provide grants for business expansion and growth. There is no ‘free’ money for you to start or grow a business.” is the source to find and apply for federal grants. It is a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs and provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards. does not provide personal financial assistance; it’s more like a directory. In order to find grants, go to the web site and click on “Search Grants”  On the left hand side you can narrow eligibility to categories like 501(c)(3) nonprofits, state governments, independent school districts, etc. You can also narrow by category, or at least un-check the areas you don’t qualify in. They also have a mobile app. Assistance listings  (formerly known as Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or CFDA)
Sort of a companion to, and you may see some overlap. Covers assistance to both individuals and groups, especially state agencies, city governments, school districts, and Indigenous tribal governments and agencies. Some assistance listed here is administered by a state or county agency, which may have application requirements beyond those listed here.

Foundation Directory Online Professional
Library resource. Find potential grant-makers for your nonprofit by geographic area, type of organization, or population to be served. You can also see what kinds of projects a particular grantmaker has funded. Applicants must be a registered 501(c)(3) organization or an international NGO. This database must be used at a library location (no remote access).

Foundation Grants to Individuals Online
Library resource.  Similar to Foundation Directory Online Professional, this is easy to search. You can narrow by people served and geographic location served. It must be used at a library location (no remote access) 

Getting Your Share of the Pie : The Complete Guide to Finding Grants
E-book you can read online with a library card. One important thing it points out in the section on grants to individuals is that “Grant opportunities for individuals are very few in number” and “The vast majority of grants available in this category come in the form of scholarships or fellowships.” 

Candid's knowledge base
The company behind the Foundation Directory has answers to lots of common questions for grant seekers of all stripes, including artists and information on topics like fiscal sponsorship, crowdfunding, and corporate sponsorship. They also publish Philanthropy News Digest, which includes news and RFPs.

Okay, so it sounds like I’m not actually looking for a grant. What other kind of financial help is out there?

Here are some typical areas where individuals can get financial help for a specific purpose. Note that most of these have lots of restrictions, and not everyone will qualify.

Buying a home

Help is available in the form of down payment assistance or government-backed loans. Here are a few in the Portland area. To qualify for any of these programs, you’ll need to meet specific criteria:

Portland Housing Center down payment assistance
Down payment assistance is restricted to Portland Housing Center registered homebuyers.

Proud Ground
For first time homebuyers who meet income requirements.

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat homebuyers help build their own homes and purchase them with affordable mortgages. Homebuyers complete a total of 200 sweat equity hours. Sweat equity refers to the actual hands-on involvement of Habitat homebuyers in the construction of their own homes, as well as participation in other Habitat and community activities. All sweat equity hours must be completed before pre-approved homebuyers purchase their home. Additional program requirements include homeownership education classes and community engagement events.

NeighborhoodLIFT and other bank programs
Banks sometimes have programs where a loan is forgiven after you live in the home for 5-10 years, such as NeighborhoodLIFT : “The NeighborhoodLIFT down payment assistance program provides a forgivable, zero-interest down payment loan with no required payments. Eligible homebuyers use the money from this loan for the down payment and closing costs of a home mortgage loan.”

Home Purchase Assistance Program 
Assistance with own payment and closing costs for first and non-first-time homebuyers looking to purchase a home within Portland city limits. (Currently unavailable, December 2022)

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI)
Offers a Homebuyer Education and Counseling program and Individual Development Account savings plan.

African American Alliance for Home Ownership
Programs include HAPP (The Homeownership Asset Preservation Program), a service for qualifying homeowners to protect homeownership and transfer wealth between generations,  pre-purchase counseling, and foreclosure prevention help.

Camino A Casa (thru Hacienda CDC)
Provides coaching for the homebuying process and help with down payments and closing costs through programs like a 3:1 match savings plan (the Individual Development Account) to larger down payment assistance loans.

Provides culturally-specific homeownership coaching and assistance for Indigenous people, as well as repair grants

Home repair

Weatherization and Repair from Community Energy Project
Free weatherization and safety repairs for hundreds of low-income households, seniors, and people with disabilities in Portland.

Water leak repair program  
Free water leak repair services for income-qualified homeowners in Portland. Through this program, they can arrange to repair leaking toilets, faucets, or underground water pipes. Sewer repairs are not eligible.

Oregon Energy Trust
Multiple programs, including Savings Within Reach, for help with home energy upgrades for income-qualified households and utility bill payment assistance and help with weatherization improvements for low-income households

Rent and utility assistance for people impacted by COVID-19 (or other emergencies):

Multnomah County Emergency Rent Assistance
Local rent relief for tenant households with incomes at or below 80% area median income who have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19. 

Afloat: Utility Debt Relief
A limited-time program to give bill credits for overdue sewer/stormwater/water bills to low-income households with debt related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline to apply for a bill credit  is April 11, 2022.

211 is a good place to look for other social service or crisis/ emergency needs.

Aunt Bertha/
Type in your ZIP code, then click “money” icon and “Help pay for housing”

Small Business help

Small Business Association (federal government) 
Multiple programs for small businesses, including grants and loans

Business Oregon (State government) : Access to Capital- Loans, Loan Guarantees, and Bond Programs
Provides direct loans, and other programs to fund your business.

Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs Credit Corporation (OAMECC)
Helps minority small businesses to overcome the specific problems that limit their success and growth through technical assistance and loans.

Mercy Corps Northwest
Provides financing, mentorship and education to small business owners. This includes loans ranging from $500-$50,000 to startups and existing small businesses and matching contributions to  an Individual Development Account (IDA). They also run Oregon Women's Business Center (open to everyone, despite the name), a training and coaching service for small business owners.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO)
Provides loans up to $250,000 to small businesses and matching contributions to an Individual Development Account (IDA), a matched savings account that helps people with modest means to save towards the purchase of assets.

Not a funding source, but a great resource for entrepreneurial questions. "SCORE is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. The Portland Chapter is run by about 70 volunteers who have in depth, practical experience running and managing businesses." SCORE also runs a mentorship program. 

Livelihood NW (formerly known as the PSU Business Outreach Program) 
Non-profit organization that provides free and low cost professional business support to underserved entrepreneurs and small business owners in Portland, OR and throughout the Pacific NW.

Grants and Scholarships for College

Please begin by reading this Planning and Paying for College resource list from MCL’s home learning team.

Oregon Goes to College
Need-based grants, such as Pell Grants, the Oregon Opportunity Grant (OOG) and Oregon Promise Grants

Foundation Grants to Individuals Online 
Library resource.  Similar to Foundation Directory Online Professional, this is easy to search. It must be used at a library location (no remote access)  Grants and scholarships for higher education, generally restricted to a particular course of study/degree program and/or to people meeting specific criteria. Some examples of scholarships listed in this database:

  • Need-based Scholarships for dependents of those killed or permanently disabled as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks 
  • Scholarships to graduating high school seniors of Walla Walla County, WA 
  • Scholarships for WA and OR residents of Danish descent who have shown exceptional involvement in the Danish community

Scholarship America
Free website listing scholarship opportunities with links to sponsoring organizations. These also tend to be for specific courses of study, for people with residency or demographic matches, or students who have demonstrated leadership or ability in certain areas.

And of course, contact the financial aid and scholarship office at your college or university for more ideas!

Everything Else Assistance listings (formerly known as Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, or CFDA)
Sort of a companion to, and you may see some overlap. Covers assistance to both individuals and groups, especially state agencies, city governments, school districts, and Indigenous tribal governments and agencies. Some assistance listed here is administered by a state or county agency, which may have application requirements beyond those listed here.

Some examples of assistance for individuals listed here are  grants intended to help very low-income owner-occupants in rural areas repair their properties, scholarships for American Indians and Alaska Natives studying health professions who commit to serving in the Indian Health Service for two years ,and financial assistance to organic producers and handlers for certification programs.
A list, searchable by state and subcategory (Living assistance, Insurance, etc) of state and federal government-funded programs, from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to Crop Insurance to State Crime Victims Compensation. Includes links to apply for assistance or get more information about eligibility.

Black Resilience Fund
An emergency fund dedicated to healing and resilience by providing immediate resources to Black Portlanders.

Oregon IDA
Individual Development Accounts, or IDAs, are matched savings accounts that build the financial management skills of qualifying Oregonians with lower incomes while they save towards a defined goal. Oregonians who qualify can save for goals including homeownership or home repair, small business start-up or expansion, post-secondary education or job training, employment-related adaptive equipment, vehicle purchase, and more.


Have more questions? Contact us if you have other questions about grants or financial assistance, or if there's a resource we should add.


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