Blogs

He might be controversial, but when it comes to me, sex-advice columnist Dan Savage is preaching to the choir. I’ve been enjoying his columns for close to twenty years, I’ve read several of his books, I loved him on This American Life, and I’m convinced that his entertaining, sex-positive podcast will improve all of your sex-lives if you’ll just start listening regularly. He’s funny, a highly engaging story-teller, and he calls the religious right on their nonsense in a way I find very refreshing.

I read most of his newest book, American Savage, on an airplane recently, and I pretty much lived through the whole gamut of human emotion during my eight-hour flight. I cheered as he talked about the the ridiculous inadequacy of abstinence-only sex education  in the United States. I laughed out loud while reading his stories about being a parent to his very conventionally straight son. I was pleased to find out about a website for teens I later told my daughter about-- it offers great information about the human body and sexuality.

I was moved as I read about the It Gets Better video project on YouTube he and his husband started to help LGBT teens who are being bullied. I was very moved by his story of the death of his mother, especially as I was on my way back to Portland after having spent time on the east coast caring for my mom, who was getting over a serious health issue.  At one point, when I was reading an especially naughty passage from the chapter on Dan’s marriage, which is “monogamish” rather than monogamous, I glanced over to see what the person in the next seat was reading. (I do this incessantly. I’m the person on the bus trying to crane my neck inconspicuously so I can see what you’re reading.) On the airplane, the person in the next seat was reading… a  magazine-sized church newsletter! I am absolutely not making this up. She was very nice, and possibly not incredibly nosy like me about other people’s reading material, so all was well. While an airplane might not be the best place to enjoy Dan Savage’s writing, I still think you should check him out. And definitely listen to the podcast!

Best 'free box' in Portland

In my SE neighborhood people care about the environment.  Most houses have a small vegetable garden, and the green and blue recycling bins are always lined up in front like small soldiers on recycling pick-up day. The sidewalks and streets bustle with people taking riding their bikes or walking to work.

Unwanted items are left out on the parking strip with a sign that says "FREE."  Anything can be there - a box of books, clothes, wine glasses, stuffed animals, you name it.  I can never walk by one of these free boxes without stopping to look.  Especially if there are books or magazines.  Who knows what treasures could be hidden there? I recently found Norwegian mystery author, Karin Fossum’s book The Indian Bride in a free box.

Today as  I was walking home clutching my latest find, it occurred to me that the Multnomah County Library is the best ‘free box’ of all.  Who knows what treasures you may find when you walk through the library’s door? Maybe a popular new thriller or a thick old classic. Maybe a study guide that will help you pass your SATs or fix your car.  Maybe your favorite childhood book that you want to read to your own kids.

The possibilities are endless.   

Plus when you are use library materials you are recycling too!

So don’t be shy: find you next great read at the best free box in town - the Multnomah County Library!

 

 

 

The Answer to the Riddle Is Me bookjacketMemory is a squishy thing. It enables us to do the things we do. It's who we are. Memory is pretty much interchangeable with our identity. So what happens when we lose our memory?

David Stuart MacLean has written an amazing book, The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia, about exactly that. In 2002, he was a graduate student in writing, living in India. One day, he found himself on a train platform with no idea who he was. He ended up in a mental hospital with horrible hallucinations. Eventually the symptoms of amnesia, psychosis, and depression he experienced were found to be the result of the malarial medication, Lariam, which was prescribed for malaria at the time. And those side effects continued to plague MacLean for a very long time. He had to reconstruct himself.

The Answer to the Riddle is Me is a brilliantly written memoir and more. MacLean has done a lot of research on malaria and Lariam and it's fascinating. Who knew that one out of fourteen human beings have genetic mutations that can be linked to malaria? Or that high doses of Lariam have been given to prisoners at Guantanamo prison, not because they had malaria, but for "pharmaceutical waterboarding." 

David Stuart MacLean's memoir is a beautiful, disturbing, enlightening gem of a book. And if you'd like to read more books about memory, try these.

I've heard the critics who say adults should read adult books. Like Madeline, I say, "pooh-pooh".  If you don't have a child in your life, you're missing out. Picture books have the ability to charm and surprise, not to mention the fact that they come with art, really glorious art, in a dizzying array of styles. That's why I want to suggest you find a kid to share my new favorite with, Hermelin the Detective Mouse.

All kinds of things are going on with the residents of Offley Street, but luckily, none of them are escaping the sharp eye of Heremelin, a mouse with a Sherlockian bent. When Hermelin comes -- anonymousely -- to the rescue, the grateful residents wonder, 'who is this mysterious detective?'

It's a fun romp, and both adults and kids will enjoy examining the detailed pictures to try to solve the mystery themselves. So go ahead, read a picture book. You can always say you're getting it for a young friend.

"I've been studying Brando's scene in The Gnuppet Movie [...] We're players in a Gnuppet realm, reading from the same script. We're All Gnuppets. Brando was saying: abolish this boundary, tear down the wall or the curtain, and look at the Gnuppeteers." — Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City
 
The Intuitionist book jacket
“What does the perfect elevator look like, the one that will deliver us from the cities we suffer now, these stunted shacks? We don't know because we can't see inside it, it's something we cannot imagine, like the shape of angels' teeth. It's a black box.” — Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist
 
“He walked with equipoise, possibly in either city. Schrödinger’s pedestrian.”  — China Miéville, The City & the City
 
Call them alternate history, slipstream fiction, or elastic fiction, these novels and others like them take the world that we live in and shake up its parts, magnifying some, shrinking others, changing shapes and colors. They do not fit comfortably into the genres of science fiction or fantasy, but lift the blocks of the concrete world like Styrofoam, commenting on the real by lacing it with veins of the marvelous.
 
Ready to stretch? Try the books on the list Thoughtful alternates, slips and streams.

Driftwood fortAs a teenager growing up in Newport, Oregon, I couldn’t wait to hightail it out of town, but in more recent years, my nostalgia for the coast and all its beautiful quirks has led me back to books that feel like home.

I first recognized home in literature with my all time favorite novel Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, but I owe much of my renewed appreciation for my Oregon Coast upbringing to local author Matt Love.

I’m a big fan of Love’s unfiltered writing style and his keen observations on Oregon Coast life.  I appreciate the way he celebrates rain, astutely describes people as OTA (Oregon Tavern Age, meaning anywhere from forty to seventy years old), and that he’s not afraid to quote both Rod Stewart and Walt Whitman in a single paragraph.

Super Sundays in Newport, Love's collection of essays about his first year teaching English at Newport High School and his exploration of the local taverns, perfectly captures my home town with its mix of natural beauty, offbeat charm, uneven characters and plentiful watering holes.

Matt Love is a vocal champion of public beaches as a great birthright of Oregonians, so it comes as no surprise that he writes the introduction to Driftwood Forts of the Oregon Coast by James Herman. Part guidebook to an age-old Oregon beach tradition, part exuberant call to participate in the gratifying work of driftwood fort building, Herman’s book is a rare gem that you ought to check out before your next trip to the beach. Whether you end up building a classic a-frame, a rotunda or repurpose an existing structure, how you use your fort is up to you. As the book points out “One man’s tuna sandwich-eatin’ shack is another’s love shack.”

You can find more Oregon Coast related reads on my list here.

One hundred years ago, on August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany – the culmination of six weeks of European sabre-rattling that followed the assassination of an Austrian Archduke and his wife by a Bosnian revolutionary. Did I know this in January 1976 when the fourth season of Upstairs, Downstairs began running on Masterpiece Theatre? Likely not, but I was gripped from the outset with this beloved series’ depiction of the Great War and its Lord Peter Wimsey dvd coverimpact on the residents of 165 Eaton Place. I became hooked on World War I. A few years earlier, I’d watched Lord Peter Wimsey suffer from an episode of shellshock, but I didn’t really know what that meant until Eaton Place footman Edward Barnes returned from France and collapsed from the strain.

Right after Upstairs, Downstairs piqued my interest, The Duchess of Duke Street explored the War and a few years after that, To Serve Them All My Days told the story of a young shellshocked Welshman attempting to come to grips with his war service. Around this time, I also watched another British television series – still on PBS, but not on Masterpiece Theatre – Flambards, which obliquely touched on the War. At this point, I felt I knew enough about England’s and the English people’s sufferings to fill in the blanks.

My Boy Jack dvd coverAfter this, Masterpiece Theatre took a long break from the War to End All Wars, showing a bunch of equally interesting programs about World War II. (Since this year also brings a “significant” anniversary of this war – Britain declared war on Germany 75 years ago on September 3, 1939 – I could go on in this post, but instead, I added some suggestions to this list of DVDs.) Returning to World War I, Masterpiece Theatre presented three more programs in this century: My Boy Jack, Rudyard Kipling’s poignant memoir of the loss of his son (played by Daniel Radcliffe), and Birdsong, based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks. And don’t forget Season 2 of Parade's End dvd coverMasterpiece’s current uber- popular drama, Downton Abbey, where Matthew survives, Daisy marries a dying man, and Thomas Barrow takes the coward’s way out! Most recently, the BBC (via HBO) presented an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s World War I doorstopper, Parade’s End (starring Benedict Cumberbatch). If you enjoy history and costume drama, all of these are worth watching.

All Quiet on the Western Front dvd coverQuite obviously missing here is the German side of the Great War, which has not been depicted via Masterpiece, but you can still watch and be moved by the 1930 film made from Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front.

Finally, many of Masterpiece Theatre’s programs are based on books, on “masterpieces” of literature, so if watching isn’t for you, MCL owns all of the source works mentioned here (with the exception of the venerable Upstairs, Downstairs and its close cousin, Downton Abbey, which were never books).

Adult Nonfiction

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

by Hampton Sides

From the author of "Hellhound on his Trail", Sides writes " a  masterful re-telling of a harrowing 1879 expedition to the North Pole."

Adult Fiction

Lisette's List

by Susan Vreeland

Set in Provence between 1937 and 1948, it is a story that blends art with human experience. From the author of The Girl in Blue Hyacinth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Proud Advocate for the LibraryVolunteer Jack Tan

by Mindy Moreland

When most of us hear the word “library,” we picture tall shelves of well-ordered volumes, or maybe a quiet place to sit and read. But as Jack Tan has learned over the past four years, books are only the beginning of what the library has to offer. Jack grew up in Taishan, in China’s Guangdong Province, and moved to Portland four years ago. When he arrived,he spoke little English, so his uncle suggested a trip to the Rockwood Library, near his family’s home. Jack started taking English classes at Rockwood and using the library. “That’s how I fell in love with the library,” he says. “And I use the library so much, why not give back?” 

Jack became a Summer Reading volunteer at Rockwood, helping young readers to select books, choose prizes, and complete their game boards. He especially enjoyed seeing young children learning to read, and the encouragement and support their parents provided. “Jack utilized his every minute here. He never sat still; he always looked for something to help out with,” writes Reid Craig, the volunteer coordinator at Rockwood. “As such, we thought he would make an excellent Computer and Homework Helper. This is a pilot program in the Rockwood Library where we match trained volunteers with children that need help with their reading and homework.” When Summer Reading ended, Jack transitioned into this new volunteer opportunity. “It has been thrilling to see Jack at work helping so many youth,” Reid continues. “There are folks in the community that come to the library especially to get help from Jack.” 

After his first year studying accounting at George Fox University, Jack has taken on a new role and a chance to understand more of how the library system as a whole operates. In the summer of 2014, he is a Communications Intern as part of the Multnomah County Office of Diversity and Equity’s summer mentorship program, working on several different research and media projects. This position fits Jack well, since he is a proud advocate for the library’s array of resources and opportunities. “The most fascinating thing about libraries is the social services they provide,” Jack says. “They make people feel thankful, and make them feel a sense of home.” As Jack would tell you—and as his own experience proves—libraries are indeed about much more than books. 


A Few Facts About Jack 

 

Your home library is: Rockwood Library

What are you reading now? I don't reading any book now, but the last book I read was call The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

What book has most influenced you? The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino 

When you were a child, what was your favorite book? My Childhood by Maxim Gorky
 
What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Adult non-fiction
 
Which do you prefer--e-reader or paper book? Paper book

What is your reading guilty pleasure? All of the pleasure, and none of them is guilt. Because I believe books are magic portal to another dimension, out there you will left everything behind you, and just enjoy that moment while you have it.

Where is your favorite place to read? In my bed. Right before I go to sleep.
 

Cop Town cover"The good-ol-boy system was great so long as you were one of the boys." Karin Slaughter's Cop Town, my latest read, not only held my attention with its action-packed suspense, but also made me think about what it means to be a woman in today's society. 

If you've been following me since the inception of the My Librarian program, then you know that I love to read thrillers, mysteries, and police procedurals, the darker the better. Karin Slaughter has always been one of my go-to authors. Her Will Trent series is one of my favorites, and Beyond​ Reach, from her Grant County series, featuring doctor Sara Linton, contains one of the best, didn't-see-it-coming twists of an ending that I have ever read. Slaughter's latest has all of the elements of her previous books, a killer, a setting in deep south Georgia, quite a bit of violence (not for the faint of heart!), but it also speaks to the strides that women have made in the last 40 years in America.

Maggie Lawson and Kate Murphy are police officers in the almost all white, male-dominated Atlanta police force of 1974. They encounter resistance at every turn, from lewd remarks, to groping, to physical beatings in Maggie's case, all from their male colleagues (who are often drinking on the job). What makes their struggle even more poignant for me are their journeys outside of work, most notably Maggie's. She struggles to break free from her cop-infested, somewhat abusive family, but, as a woman in the south in 1974, she is unable to open a bank account, secure a car loan, or rent an apartment without her 'nearest living male's information'. When that nearest living male is her reviled uncle, and fellow officer, Maggie is seemingly out of luck.

In Cop Town, the struggle for women's rights is just as strong of a plot point as the search for the killer. Yes, this is a work of fiction, so some of the details may be exaggerated, but I can easily believe that life was like this for women in the south in 1974. Make no mistake - many of the characters in this book are appalling in their prejudice, even the females. But I highly recommend this book to you. It will not only take you on a suspenseful ride, but may just leave you appreciating what you have.

 

Extraordinary Volunteer and ScholarVolunteer Julia Yu

by Donna Childs

 

Each year,  1000 high school seniors across the country receive prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarships.  This year, out of 21 recipients from Oregon, nine are from Portland, and two 

are volunteers at a Multnomah County Library.  One of those, Julia Yu, is a recent Franklin High School graduate who will attend Emory University in Atlanta in the fall.  (The other volunteer, Enat Arega, is the sister of library volunteer Melaku Arega, who was featured in a previous Volunteer Spotlight in August 2013.)

Julia is a charming, hard-working, talented young woman who has volunteered at the Holgate Library since 7th grade, for a total of almost 500 hours.  She started because she loved reading and because the library was a refuge after school while her parents worked.  Over the years, she has helped with Summer Reading, worked as a branch assistant, and served on the Teen Council, spending as many as four days a week at Holgate Library in the summer.

Not only is she a top student and library volunteer, but Julia was very active in her school’s Key Club, Red Cross chapter, and National Honor Society.  A natural leader, Julia was Key Club Secretary, Preparedness Coordinator at the Red Cross, and Vice President of the National Honor Society.  She initiated several events to improve the Honor Society, increasing membership from 70 to over 180 students.

There isn’t space in this brief profile to list everything this impressive young woman has accomplished already.  She wrote eight essays for her Gates application, before school began in September. She worked for six months as an intern at OHSU, all day every Saturday, which included lectures and lab research on proteins. She plans to major in biology at Emory and pursue a career in medicine. She works in the summers with the Gear-Up college preparatory program and has been president of the math club at Franklin.  Keep an eye on this young woman - she will go far!


A Few Facts About Julia

 

Your home library is: Holgate Library
 
What are you reading now?  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

What book has most influenced you? Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

What is your favorite book from childhood? the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Thirst by Christopher Pike
 
What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Science fiction and teen romance
 
Which do you prefer--e-reader or paper book? Paper book

What is your reading guilty pleasure? Supernatural reads such as The Vampire Diaries (L.J. Smith), Thirst (Christopher Pike), and The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman)

Where is your favorite place to read? In my room on my comfy bed.
 

Listening to the radio, we hear music that is new, along with favorites, that may also be new from interpretations or performances that we haven't heard before. Though a common complaint of many is that email is too much, if you like to find out about music and musicians that might be new to you, Alexander Street Press has a signup for free music downloads every two weeks that arrive in your inbox. A short text about the composer and piece of music comes with the recording,

Alexander Street Press offers downloads from two collections that do not require logging in with your library card from Multnomah County Library : Classical Music Library and Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries.

Sampler: Here is a Classical Music selection from past weeks of music: 
Link to these two collections for the current week's downloads. Classical Music Library and Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries.

Erik SatieSampler: Erik Satie's Trois Sarabandes

Eccentric. Iconoclastic. Hostile. Incompetent. Enigmatic. Pioneer.

French composer Erik Satie (1866–1925) has been called many things, but his musical legacy establishes best that he was, in essence, a visionary. Satie composed in a musical environment dominated by the heavily orchestrated, longwinded Germanic tradition—home to Wagner, Brahms, and Bruckner. In stark contrast, Satie’s music is clean, simple, and brief. Unlike the thematic transformations found in Wagner’s operas, Satie does not develop his motives, choosing rather to juxtapose shorter repeating phrases. 

The sarabande originated as a movement in the Baroque dance suite. Centuries later, Satie’sThree Sarabandes for piano still bear a resemblance to the original sarabande. All three movements are in triple meter (though Satie’s irregular phrasing often obscures this), conform to an AABB form, and strive to emphasize the second beat of the measure, sometimes referred to as a “sarabande rhythm." Otherwise, these three short pieces are distinctly Satie.

The late 19th century was the beginning of a harmonic revolution and Satie surely enlisted. While Satie’s music was regarded as radical among more conservative musicians, he was really forecasting the new movements in 20th century music—minimalism, total chromaticism, and serialism, to name a few. While his teachers and peers strove to force him into following the rules and conventions of “proper” composition, Satie remained true to himself and ushered in the new wave of music. This recording is performed by France Clidat.

Sampler: Pakistan: The Music of the Qawal

The Sabri Brothers - Nât Sharîf. Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in the northern regions of present-day Pakistan and India. Although it is thought to have originated in Persia, present-day Iran, and Afghanistan, the form of qawwali performed in this 1977 recording probably dates from the Mughal Empire (approximately 1526–1857) in the Indian subcontinent. Qawwali music became popular in the 20th century through the recordings of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Other 20th-century performers include Aziz Mian and the Sabri Brothers.

To explore more of Music Online Alexander Street Press, login from home to the Multnomah County Library website with your MCL library card. 

Check out this haiku-limerick mash-up from our friend Eric!

Beautiful Darkness book jacket

Beautiful Darkness

Now homeless and up to no good,
can the Wee Folk survive in the wood?
It's all rather ghastly.
You'll read it quite fastly. 
And they feast on such terrible food! 
 
In drawings, the Wee Folk are gorgeous, 
their schemes as deadly as Borgias', 
There are creepies and cuties, 
and eye-gouging beauties! 
Fair warning: Beware of torches! 
 
The woods in Autumn - 
sprites sport as their home decays, 
all fun 'til eyes poked.

 

Do you like stories where families go away for the summer? Author Elin Hilderbrand takes her characters to Nantucket for the summer. OH to have a long vacation every summer! Where weeks bleed into months. Sometimes boredom sets in. Sometimes the need for fun causes tension. All of these elements are evident in this great new graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki. Two families go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose and Windy have been friends who play together all summer while at their families’ vacation homes. Tensions rise a little bit because of the slight age differences of the girls in this coming-of-age tale. But like the waves on the shore they rise and fall.

Rose’s Mother has come to heal, the girls to grow and the Awago residents to cause sensation. If you like stories about friendship and families and beautiful brushwork illustrations like Craig Thompson’s, then you might like This One Summer. It might be your beach read. It might be your long exhale for vacation. Let the Tamiki creators sweep you away.

cover image of a moveable feast

Okay, not really.  Though I can't blame you for thinking that Hemingway is my favorite author. I admit, it's easy to get the wrong impression. After all, once the facts are considered, I am a little muddled myself about the truth of that statement.

  • A Moveable Feast is my favorite book.
  • 1920s literary Paris is my favorite era (in which he figures heavily).
  • I've read nearly his entire canon—of my own free will and not as assigned reading.
  • I consume voracious amounts of titles about him and his life.
  • I have visited his homes around the world.

But personally, I find the man a little irritating. I think his characters are flat (especially the women) and there is a too heavy dose of machismo to, well, to everything. And yet—I am fascinated by the man and his life. It was an extraordinary one by all accounts. So what if this lifestyle was funded in part by the inheritances of his wives? They let him after all, and it allowed him to write. And kill lots of animals. Beautiful great wild animals...but I digress. 
He must have been an absolute charmer and from time to time, I find myself falling for him. Or at least the idea of himself he was trying to create. I applaude his simple style both in language and drinks, his adventurous spirit, and his ability to call a kudu a kudu.

 

How many books are in your stack?

Every week, new books  are added to my ever growing "to be read" pile.  While it’s a pleasant hazard of the library profession, the looming tower of unread tomes has grown a bit too tall for comfort. However, after a recent search through the new titles joining the collection, I think there's some room left...

Mathematicians shiva cover

Sitting shiva for his mother, the greatest mathematician in history, Alexander "Sasha" Karnokovitch, wants to mourn in peace. However, scholars from across the globe have other plans.  They flock to her home to pay their respects and, more importantly, search for her rumored solution to an elusive math problem. The Mathematician’s Shiva is the story of life, loss, and the quest for life’s qualitative and quantitative answers.

air food history books cover

 

Did you know that wine tastes different at 30,000 feet?  I didn’t. It turns out getting food in the  friendly skies wasn’t so easy. Food In The Air And Space: The Surprising History Of Food And Drink in The Skies by Richard Foss promises to take on the subject in a fun and accessible way. 

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide To Eating, Drinking, And Going With Your Gut cover

 

Hannah Hart is amazing. What started as a YouTube video for a friend has evolved into a huge success. Her debut book is  My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide To Eating, Drinking, And Going With Your Gut.  A comedian by trade, she’s assembled a fantastic collection of recipes and humor.  If that’s not enough to sway you, John Green wrote the introduction to the book and the content should appeal to fans of Amy Sedaris’ I LIke You.

Check out the rest of the list to see all the books i’m waiting to add to the stack.

 

 

On the Beach book jacketAs a librarian I’m often asked for the name of my favorite author. Although at its heart this is not an easy question, time and time again I keep coming back to Nevil Shute. Discussions of Mr. Shute generally revolve around his 1957 novel On the Beach, which leads the way in Armageddon literature. In a nutshell the novel tells the story of the end of the world. As a radioactive cloud moves from the northern to the southern hemisphere all life is slowly extinguished. The citizens of Australia are the last to go and Shute’s novel slowly reveals the story of the end of their lives. It is gripping tale, not just because of the subject matter but because of the way Shute tells it; calmly and gently, as if this imagined yet horrific moment in history was an everyday occurrence.  

Born in 1899, Shute started his working life as an aeronautical engineer before chucking it all to write full time. Although he never thought of himself as an author, he became a skilled storyteller. Many of his novels involve long, arduous journeys, both physical and spiritual. Flashbacks, and back story add shape and depth to the characters and their worlds. Shute’s other novels are equally as satisfying. Many are a reflection of his background, with aviation taking center stage. All of his novels benefit from his innate ability to harvest story ideas from the world around him. 

Reading a Nevil Shute novel is the ultimate escape – to be taken somewhere so unexpected and to such depths that the stories become a part of the reader’s memory:  lived, experienced and treasured. For anyone looking for just such a read, try any of these novels by Nevil Shute:

A Town Like Alice
The Breaking Wave (also known as Requiem for a Wren)
Pied Piper
Trustee from the Toolroom
Round the Bend
 

Librarian delivers books to a bridge tender, 1963

The relationship between Portland librarians and their bridges has always been a strong one. The library’s 1920 annual report  highlighted a new book delivery service to the bridge tenders (Broadway, Hawthorne, and Morrison, and later the Steel and Burnside bridges):

 

 The reading philosophy of one of the bridge tenders is of interest to more than librarians. In stating his reasons for wanting books for his waiting hours, [one bridge tender] said that, though not an educated man, he was greatly interested in reading for as he grew older he observed that the only people who seemed to be contented in their declining years were those who had formed the acquaintance of great characters in books. These characters were often the only friends left after life’s friends had passed us on the journey to the Great Beyond (Library Association of Portland, Oregon Fifty-seventh Annual Report,1920, 36-37).  

 

     In 1956, the library’s annual report stated that librarians hand-delivered 672 books to isolated bridge tenders.  This special delivery service continued until 1975 when only the Burnside Bridge remained as a deposit station. Some of the bridge tenders’ favorite subjects included travel stories, history, archaeology, and horses.  You will agree with the 1944 Oregonian article that stated, “librarians often find they are supplying books to persons whose life stories would make as interesting reading as the books they receive...Such a man is P.J. Hyde a Spanish-American war veteran and one-time sailing ship adventurer” (Books Taken Bridge Men: Library Offers Delivery Service, Oregonian, October 8, 1944, 19).

 

What woud you request from the library to wile away the quiet and isolated hours as a mid-20th century bridge tender?  Here is an imaginative list to get you reading back in time; Multcolib Research Picks: Mid-20th century bridge tenders book club.

 

But what if you want to read books about the bridges?  Are you an aspiring Bridge Pedaler? Do you have a third grader going to a Portland Public School? Are the bridges part of your daily commute? Or are you simply in love with our Willamette River bridges?

 

 

Architecture! History!  Engineering! And Beauty!

 

Take a look at our picks of the best bridge books out there; Multcolib Research Picks: For the love of  Willamette River Bridges. We also have a wide range of bridge materials that are part of the Oregon Collection and can be viewed at the Central Library upon request.  In addition to books there is a wealth of resources available online.  Check out a curated list of the most useful websites, including both historical resources and beautiful photography; Multcolib Research Picks: The best online Willamette River bridges resources.

 

In the 20th century, library staff delivered books across narrow catwalks to lonely bridge tenders. Today in the 21st century, library staff have also walked on a bridge and visited with the bridge tender but this time (sadly!) we brought no books, only questions and an innate librarian curiosity. The Multnomah County Bridge Section staff recently offered a special tour of the Bridge Shop and the Morrison Bridge (virtual tour link) for library staff. The tour was led by Multnomah County engineer Chuck Maggio and included both a visit to the Morrison Bridge tender’s station and a special view from underneath the bridge as the double-leaf bascule draw span swung upwards during a routine bridge opening. I have included a few favorite images from the tour.
  

 

 

Advancements in technology have changed the way the bridge tender stations are staffed, there is not time for reading, contemplation, and handicrafts.  Librarians no longer deliver books to the bridges.  That being said, I’d like to think that our bridge tenders are still readers in their private lives and I know that Multnomah County Library staff still treasure and hold dear their local bridges.   

 

May the love of the Willamette River bridges continue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Image from 150 Years of Library Memories Collection. Physical rights to this item are retained by Multnomah County Library. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 

I recently finished a three-month temporary assignment as a delivery driver here at the library. I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would when first asked. Upon reflection, however, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve always liked to drive; I’ve had a fascination with cars since I was a little kid; and I find the history of the automobile, both from a social and technological perspective, of great interest. Okay, I don’t know how much any of that has to do with driving a box truck full of books around Multnomah County but, hey, it’s an excuse to introduce some of my favorite books about driving.

Trucking Country book jacketMost directly related to my experience is Trucking Country, an academic study of the commercial trucking industry in the U.S. and the rise of free-market capitalism in the 20th century. I thought it was fascinating but recognize it may not be for everyone. Much more accessible is The Big Roads. This is a popular history of the interstate highway system. The author, Earl Swift, focuses on the personalities involved in designing and administering what has been one the largest public works projects in the world. Its success can be measured in how ordinary it all seems today, yet 100 years ago nothing like it existed. I-84 certainly made commuting out to East County easy for me!

What is it about abandoned cars that is so fascinating? Here’s an early 1950s Dodge truck in southern Utah I photographed during a photo of an abandoned truck2013 road trip. The 1949 Buick in the background can also be seen in the book Roadside  Relics. Naturally, I have to include the travelogue, particularly its most American of subsets, the long-distance road trip. There is a whole romance to the open road in American culture. For example, consider how often in movies and especially car commercials the automobile is depicted as a source of freedom and adventure. This sense of romance has been captured in some truly beautiful books such as William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and perhaps best known of all, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical On the Road. One of my favorites, however, is Driving to Detroit byDriving to Detroit book jacket Lesley Hazelton. Hazelton is a journalist best known for her reporting from the Middle East and her books on Islam, but often overlooked is her love of the car. Born in Britain but a naturalized American citizen, this six-month road trip from Seattle to Detroit and back is many things: her love letter to the automobile; an effort to understand the American affection for the highway; and an admission that cars can horribly damage the environment. Yes, it’s a mixed message, but she pulls it off so well. Her meandering drive brings her in contact with a host of colorful characters that truly reflect the many facets of the automobile in American culture.

If you’re interested in the car, or car culture, try one of the books above or something similar. If you have a favorite book to share, leave me a comment below.


Piggy bankLet’s face it, spending money can be fun. You can use your money to buy new video games, books, tickets to a movie, clothes, yummy food at the food carts, and scores of other things. But just as spending money can be fun, saving money can be fun too.

Knowing how to save your money is an important life skill to have, and there are a couple of different ways that you can save your money. The easiest way to save money is to put it in a piggy bank or money jar. You can also save your money by putting it in a savings account at your bank or credit union.

Did you know that you can earn money by saving money? When you put your money in a savings account you are allowing the bank to borrow your money, and the bank pays you interest. So you earn money by letting your money sit in the bank.

 

Would you like to learn more about managing your money? Ask a librarian, we'll be glad to help!

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