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Andrew Carnegie was many things: an immigrant, an industrialist and philanthropist. Among his greatest legacies was the widespread establishment and expansion of the free public library. In 47 U.S. states, in Canada and abroad, Carnegie helped create about 3,000 libraries, many of which are still in existence today.

In Multnomah County, St. Johns and North Portland libraries, with their stately red brick exteriors — both original Carnegie libraries — are remnants of that legacy. Inside St. Johns Library, the passage of a century has a different impact. 

St. Johns Library is typical of the small libraries we find across Multnomah County. One hundred years ago, the main function of those buildings was to house books. 

Today, libraries are spaces for people, programs and hands-on learning — and yes, books. Some programs, like children’s storytime, are so popular, people are regularly turned away. Other times, the library is forced to hold programs amidst the book stacks, making them inaccessible to others. 

A crowd pictured at an event at St. Johns Library
With more than 5,400 storytimes in our libraries and more than 110,000 young people participating in summer reading each year, our community’s children feel the space pinch every day. And some of our most popular new programs, like the makerspace (a science and technology space just for teenagers) at Rockwood Library, are only offered in one location because we don’t have enough space in other library buildings.

In our region and across the country, other libraries are greeting the future with open arms, with spaces for children to read, explore and play. Imagine if children at our libraries could have not only space for storytime, but perhaps a dress-up closet, structures to climb on, learning gardens, functioning kitchens or science and technology learning.

Imagine if more of our library buildings could offer space to sit and learn together, for workshops, or private rooms for a Skype job interview. 

We’re hard at work creating a vision for modern library spaces in Multnomah County. Join us as we explore ways to bring all people in Multnomah County modern and adequate library spaces that they need and deserve. Learn more at multcolib.org/planning/

Listening to the Readers

by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer

The Read to the Dogs program is one of many ways the Multnomah County Library promotes reading. Dog-and-person teams are available at several neighborhood libraries to soothe and encourage hesitant young readers.

At Hollywood Library, dog Archi and his partner, Emily Rogers, devote one and a half hours twice a month to listening to kids read. Does Archi understand the books? Probably not, even though kids often choose books about dogs, and Emily said he has a huge vocabulary. But he does understand his connection with the kids who pet, hug, and cuddle with him.  

A certified therapy dog, Archi took six six-week classes: regular puppy and then therapy training. Archi was certified by Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization that pairs people with therapy animals to help people with differing needs in a variety of situations. Archi must be recertified every two years. While most dogs pass the tests and earn certification by age three or four, Archi passed at thirteen months! 

Children sign up for 20-minute sessions, reading to and petting the dog, which often helps to calm the child’s anxiety. Archi and Emily are one of three teams at Hollywood Library. The sessions take place in a quiet, glass-walled room for child, dog, and owner. Parents remaining in the library can easily see their children. Occasionally a sibling comes too, and once a girl came in who was a good reader, but afraid of dogs. She ended up hugging Archi! Whole families have participated over the years as each child begins to read.   

In addition to Read to the Dogs, Archi and Emily have volunteered at such places as the Tigard Public LibraryPortland Children’s Museum, Portland State University during finals week, and with adults adapting to a new computer system.  

Emily pointed out that although their 36 weeks of training was focused on Archi, she had to learn to communicate with, guide, and redirect him when necessary. Emily works full-time in philanthropy and is not an expert in teaching reading, but she is so committed she attended a four-hour training with a reading specialist. Emily and Archi clearly take their responsibilities to young readers seriously, to everyone’s benefit.

 


A few facts about Emily

Home library: Hollywood

Currently reading: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Most influential book: The Harry Potter books!

Favorite section to browse: Historical fiction  

Favorite book from childhood: The Dragons are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky

Book that made you laugh or cry: Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein

Guilty pleasure: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Favorite place to read: My balcony

E-reader or paper: Paper book!!!

 

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of this program.”

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

Volunteer Kasha Tindall Webster

“There’s a theme I’ve seen with people,” Kasha Tindall Webster explains. “There are a lot of experienced people who need to get on their [career] path—doesn’t matter if you’re starting or starting over. There’s a difference between working and working toward something,” she says. Kasha knows this difference well, as a volunteer for MCL’s resume community outreach program at Belmont Library.

“I just show up and help people with resumes,” Kasha laughs. But it’s clear that Kasha masters the art of reading a person’s career aspirations. “I want to help maximize someone’s hourly wage,” she says. “Sometimes what a person is doing and what they want to be doing are totally different things.” Kasha refers to a woman who came to tidy her resume to submit to local grocery stores: “I noticed she had lots of biochemistry coursework experience, so I asked, ‘What about working in a lab instead?’” It’s highlighting the parts of people they can’t see themselves that makes Kasha so effective; she sometimes receives grateful emails from patrons once they get a job. She demurs at the suggestion that she has an obvious gift: “I can’t stress enough the importance of this program. I’m just figuring out how to get the program to make more significant impact.” 

Kasha was born in Hawaii but grew up in Syracuse, New York. Originally a biology major (“I thought you had to struggle,” she laughs) at SUNY Oswego, she switched to an English major, shaping a career dominated by communications and learning how to read people. She currently works as an HR consultant. In even the briefest conversations, “People tell you everything about themselves,” she says with a knowing smile. 

Six years ago, Kasha and her husband moved to Portland, a place she calls “ripe with opportunity to find yourself.” Her praise for the library is boundless: “Could they be nicer, these people who work around books and people? They give of themselves every day, and sometimes these are introverted people, but when they’re asked a question they open like a flower. I’m grateful that this system is in place and that I have the opportunity to work for it.”

Kasha offers two great resume tips: “First, explain or dictate to your phone your skills, what you like to do, and so on. Now play it back and write it down. Next, list out what you actually do as you do it, and keep that list active.” Whether you’re starting, starting over, or want a resume tune up, Kasha’s advice will be a step in the right path!


A few facts about Kasha

Home library: Belmont

Currently reading: SHRM BoCK System Preparatory Exam materials (it’s an HR certification). 

Most influential book: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. “It’s amazing how Mars was the vehicle for these very human stories.”

Favorite section to browse: Nonfiction.  

Favorite book from childhood: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Momotarō, or Peach Boy, a Japanese fairytale: “It was my first baby book.” 

Book that made you laugh or cry: Erma Bombeck, If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

Guilty pleasure: “I love to reread. I have a whole library of rereads for when I’m super stressed or having a hard time. Or the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books.”

Favorite place to read: “In bed!”

E-reader or paper: Paper.

 

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Elleona Budd, Library Assistant
“The library is a place where anyone can foster creative ideas,” says Elleona Budd, a Black Cultural Library Advocate and Library Assistant at Central Library.

Elleona, who identifies as non-binary, has been learning various parts of library work — everything from helping regular patrons at the St. Johns Library find titles, to leading outreach work in the Black community — for the past three years.

Elleona joined the library as an access services assistant after graduating from Lincoln High School in downtown Portland. As a student, they gravitated toward history and language courses, including learning Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Arabic. Elleona’s rigorous academic curriculum continues, as they pursue a degree at Portland State University in International Relations and Conflict Resolution, with a minor in Chinese.

“When I first started my job at the library, I hadn’t been back in eight years! I had so many fines from my youth and had been worried I wouldn’t be able to use anything so I avoided it. I happily learned that the library had waived all youth fines and started a new policy so that no youth would accrue fines going forward.”

Today, Elleona, who says they originally loved the idea of working at a library because of a love for books and working with people, now appreciates it because they have an opportunity to help people feel welcome and to connect patrons with library services and resources

“One experience that was very meaningful for me was connecting with a patron who had recently been incarcerated,” said Elleona. “The library was one of her first stops. She wanted help finding career resources, and I was able to listen and talk with her, but also recommend materials in addition to other services the library offers. She told me the experience was so positive and had helped her feel welcome to come back.”

Now, as a Black Cultural Library Advocate, Elleona is joining other staff from around the library to identify ways to improve collections and services for the Black community. Sometimes, that means creating library displays featuring poetry by queer and trans people of color. Other times, it means organizing large-scale events to provide opportunities for discussion about topics such as the African diaspora.

“I want to help start conversations. I want everyone to walk into a library and think ‘this is a place for me.’” says Elleona.

Elleona’s recommended reading:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Clean Room by Gail Simone

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

At home at Rockwood Library
Volunteer Ethan Wood

by Donna Childs,  MCL volunteer

Smart, busy, an enthusiastic learner, Ethan is a charming young man—an independent learner with an infectious love of learning and a commitment to encouraging others. He is currently a high school junior and looking ahead to college. Although he lives in Damascus, he travels to Rockwood Library to volunteer. Despite the commute, it is clearly the place for him: Ethan loves science, technology, and making things, and Rockwood is the only area library with a makerspace. Ethan came to Rockwood as a Summer Reading volunteer six years ago, before the makerspace was created. After Summer Reading, he moved on to helping students with homework and assisting patrons with the library’s computers. He recalls that one especially gratifying experience was helping a patron find an apartment online.

When the makerspace opened, Ethan was recruited by Rockwood’s “awesome staff” to volunteer there. He learned CAD (Computer Aided Design) and how to use the equipment and has been an avid makerspace volunteer since.

The makerspace is a collaborative learning environment for students in grades 6-12 to learn real-life technology and engineering skills. Librarians and volunteers like Ethan offer workshops and guide students in the use of innovative technology tools like laser cutters and 3D printers. The goal is for students to become comfortable with technology and to learn by experimenting, while honing problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Ethan loves experimenting and making things, and he strongly believes in the importance for kids of learning technology: “they will need it later.” Among his potential college majors are mechanical and electronics engineering, though he also loves astronomy and the space program.

As a high school junior, Ethan is enrolled in the Summit Learning Charter School’s Early College Program, through which he can take both high school and community college classes and earn college credit, with Summit paying his tuition. In addition to taking high school and college courses and volunteering at Rockwood, Ethan is a Boy Scout, working to become an Eagle Scout, and a member of Summit’s Robotics club; he also takes guitar lessons and serves as a communications assistant—doing newsletters and social media—for the East Metro Youth Advisory Council whose mission is to encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). The Council meets at Rockwood Library.


A few facts about Ethan

Home library:  Rockwood

Currently reading:  He is not currently reading a book, but enjoys science fiction.

Most influential book:  He could not think of a specific book that has influenced him however, one of his favorite books is Psion Beta by Jacob Gowans.

Favorite book from childhood:  "I love all the Harry Potter books."

Book that made you cry:  Where the Redfern Grows by Wilson Rawls is a tear-jerker.

Favorite browsing section: Fiction and science nonfiction

E-reader or paper?  Paper book

Favorite place to read: "My room, because it is quiet and comfortable."

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Katie Grindeland is the author of The Gifts We Keep, a selection from The Library Writers Project, which highlights local self-published authors. In an innovative partnership, Ooligan Press worked with the library to publish this novel about an Oregon family struggling with past tragedy while caring for a Native Alaskan girl with sorrows of her own.

Reading with friends? Start the conversation with this book summary and discussion guide.

Why did you want to tell this particular story?

I have always been a very character-driven writer, so I was excited at the prospect of diving into first-person emotional exploration with a somewhat diverse group of people. It was really important to me to try and give voice to their internal experience since we don’t always have a platform for that in our put-together grown-up lives. Big feelings, authenticity, connection, these were pillars for me. Not just as words on a page, but as an open-handed gesture to the reader’s experience as well. If someone reads this story and feels emotionally seen or included, I would consider that my biggest success.

Who or what inspires you, writing wise? Who inspires you in your life?

I am always inspired by those really good writers who make you stop in your tracks, by virtue of how purely they can weave a phrase or present an idea. The kind where I have to put the book down to stare at nothing and just think for a few minutes. Yann Martel and Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Safran Foer and Barbara Kingsolver. But I also really love the writer who just wants to borrow your ear for a minute to tell a cool story they know. Lynda Barry and Stephen King and Cheryl Strayed and Diane Ackerman. These and so many more. Outside of writing, hard workers inspire me. Nose-to-the-grindstoners inspire me. Bad-at-something-but-trying-it-anyway inspires me. I find a lot of bravery in authenticity. And kindness. Kind-hearted people are secret super heroes and they don’t even know it. That inspires me.

Can you recommend a book you've recently enjoyed?

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It undid me, in all the best ways. Beautiful, meaningful, incandescent. I read much of this by headlamp on a solo camping trip near The Dalles, listening to trains run by in the dark, simply because I couldn’t put it down. I also love “S”, by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams. It's a novel within a novel, filled with miscellanies that fall out of the book into your lap if you aren’t careful, postcards, notes, photos -- all of which may or may not be clues to unraveling the story. Plus, if you’re anything like me, it will have you spouting about the Ship of Theseus paradox to friends and family, whose reception may be lukewarm in comparison to your enthusiasm for the idea!

Ana Morillo, MCL Staff, with Día volunteers Claudia Ramirez-Cisneros and Francisca Ixtepán
Making a difference one Día at a time

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

On Saturday, April 20, Midland Library will host its annual Día de los Niños y Día de los Libros (Children’s Day and Book Day) with books, food, performances, and crafts for the young and young at heart. Día de los Niños, traditionally held on April 30 in many Latin American countries, was introduced broadly to the US in the late 90s by author and bilingual literacy advocate Pat Mora. Libraries across the country adopted the program after it was sponsored by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC). This year, Midland Library’s event has been organized almost solely by two passionate volunteer patrons with personal experience of the tradition: Claudia Ramirez-Cisneros and Francisca Ixtepán. Both Claudia and Francisca grew up in Mexico celebrating Día: “It was something special, our parents gave us presents,” says Francisca. But life has not always been full of gifts for either woman, both of whom now live with their families in Portland.

“My mom and brother came here first,” Claudia explains. “I was only eleven when they left. We didn’t have phones, so my mom sent letters saying how much she missed me.” Claudia volunteered teaching youth at her church “to help me get through the loneliness” without her family. This ignited a lifelong interest in helping others, which Claudia carried with her when she joined her family in Portland at age fifteen.

Francisca moved to Portland as an adult and found the transition to a new country and culture challenging. “Sometimes, when people didn’t understand me, I’d give up,” she says. “Many women in our community step back because they are afraid. It is necessary as immigrants to learn to speak English in this country and to advocate for our kids at school or speak to people at the store, when we aren’t able to find people who could help us.” Francisca found help from the welcoming bilingual library staff during a class conducted as part of the library’s community outreach. Inspired by her boss, who she considers a great friend, and by the need to help her child who was being bullied at school, Francisca decided to go back to school, learn English and pursue a career.

Francisca and Claudia met in classes at Mt. Hood Community College and have since become very active volunteers at the library and in the Latinx community in Portland. Ana Ruiz Morillo, MCL’s Spanish Outreach Coordinator, shared, “For the past five years, Francisca has been volunteering at the MCL Día celebrations. Last year she invited Claudia to join her and later on both took on the challenge to plan and conduct the 2018 Latino Author event with children’s author René Colato Laínez at the Midland Library. These dedicated volunteers put so many hours to plan, promote, and conduct this event, that at the end, all they wanted to do was express their appreciation for all the mentorship they received from library staff.”

Again this year Claudia and Francisca have devoted months of planning to Midland Library’s 2019 Día, which will be a multifaceted, bilingual celebration of Latinx culture: There will be decorations inspired by the Academy Award-winning, Day of the Dead-themed film Coco and dance performances, including “la danza de los viejitos,” or “dance of the old gentlemen,” traditionally from the Mexican state of Michoacán. And, thanks to the support from The Library Foundation, every child in attendance will receive a free book.

Claudia and Francisca’s planning awes the library staff, with their ability to rally the community and create such a vibrant cultural exchange. “We are learning from the leadership of Claudia and Francisca,” says Ruiz Morillo. “We are becoming better at what we do because of their contributions." We hope to see you on April 20 at Midland Library. Whether you bring your children or your inner child, it’s sure to be a wonderful time, thanks to Claudia and Francisca.

Runner, Reader, and Reliable Volunteer 
photo of volunteer Darcy Pound

by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer

Darcy Pound began volunteering at Troutdale Library for the Summer Reading program after her freshman year of high school. She soon added membership in the teen council, which helps librarians plan events that interest teens; she was part of a group who put together a summit on bullying and effecting positive change. Now she is a full-fledged “search assistant,” coming every Saturday morning to search shelves for books requested by other branches. She is most enthused about this role because of all the interesting books that pass through her hands. There’s that love of learning again! According to Troutdale Library staff, Darcy is “friendly, efficient, reliable, and a good role model.”

A high school senior, Darcy is planning to go to college in the fall, possibly to Oregon State University, where she has been accepted into the Honors College. A potential biology major, her eyes light up when she talks about intriguing new biological discoveries. Thanks to her, I now know that dogs have developed a left gaze bias, looking at the side of our faces that shows more emotion. She’s a solid “A” student, who is at the top of her class, even while taking challenging Advanced Placement courses.

Darcy is also a runner. She is on her high school’s cross-country and track teams, and she was able to combine her love of running and volunteer work for her high school Key Club by helping at the annual Shamrock Run. When asked about summer activities, she mentioned an exciting job working at the 30 summer concerts at McMenamins Edgefield Hotel—some attracting more than 5,000 people—and then she added with a smile, “and of course, running. I love to run.” She also talked about family trips with her parents and younger brother to places such as Mount Rushmore and Dinosaur Park in South Dakota with its 30-foot-high dinosaur replica.

Darcy is a top student who is eager to learn, a talented and enthusiastic runner, and an active and committed volunteer—whether at church, school, or at Troutdale Library. She is also mature, intellectually curious, and original (see her “favorite place to read” comment below).


A few facts about Darcy

Home library: Troutdale

Currently reading: Radium Girls by Kate Moore and 1984 by George Orwell

Favorite book from childhood: A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

Favorite section of the library: Nonfiction and graphic novels

E-reader or paper: Paper!

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: I love to read nonfiction that’s written so well it seems like fiction."

Favorite place to read: The stairs. It’s oddly relaxing to sit on a set of stairs and read a good book.




 

Ana Ruiz Morillo

For Spanish Outreach Coordinator Ana Ruiz Morillo, growing up in the Dominican Republic amidst pronounced wealth disparity led her to pursue a career in education and community outreach — she wanted to help others find opportunity and paths to success. 

Growing up between her parents’ two different Dominican neighborhoods, Ana experienced both the lessons of responsibility and hard work, and the privilege of having opportunity and established social circles. 

"These contrasting experiences made me think about equity before I even knew how to describe it. All communities deserve access to quality healthcare, a good education, and opportunities to succeed. I knew I wanted to do something about it," said Ana.

Ana started in her own community in Santo Domingo, meeting with leaders, organizing events and coaching youth on important leadership skills like public speaking.

Eventually, Ana earned her degree and became a teacher in the Dominican Republic before moving to the United States in 1995. In Oregon, she found a job with the Multnomah County Health Department — a place where she felt fulfilled using her bilingual skills while working with community members at neighborhood health clinics. She had planned to work while earning her Master’s Degree in Education so she could return to teaching. But then a job opened up with the library that seemed a perfect match. 

"When I came to work at the library, my supervisor told me, ‘you will always make a difference to students in the classroom, but through the library, you will broaden your impact. It’s a door to the whole community.'" 

"That was 12 years ago, and I haven’t looked back," says Ana. 

Now, Ana coordinates Spanish outreach services for the library. Working with bilingual library staff from across the county, volunteers and interns, Ana helps foster connections and build programs, services and networks between the library and Multnomah County’s Latinx communities. 

One of the most successful library programs Ana leads is El Día de los Niños y El Día de los Libros (Day of the children and Day of the books). The annual celebration of childhood and bilingual literacy is one of the library’s largest programs. Every April, several library locations offer fun and free literacy programming for kids, along with information for parents about how to support their children’s educational development. In 2018, Día events and programs drew nearly 10,000 attendees. 

Ana now utilizes her networking and leadership skills to mentor other library staff, volunteers and interns on conducting bilingual outreach in the community. 

"I continue to fall in love with my job. The library isn’t just flyers and books; the library is meeting people where they are. We are facilitating connections, broadening cultural understanding, and helping other people find their purpose and make an investment in their communities."

Ben Nguyen, library volunteer
“It was a place I could call home.” 

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

When Ben Nguyen and his family emigrated from Vietnam to Portland, one of the first places they visited was their local library. “We always came to the library because it was where my parents had access to computers. I probably rolled around in the corner and picked up picture books,” he laughs. After moving into one house with two other families, the library became “a place of refuge from the noise and crowdedness,” he says.

Since then, Ben has volunteered with the Gregory Heights Library in many different positions. For nearly five years, he has been a search assistant, gathering books on hold and sending them to other library branches. He’s always been a reader and doesn’t volunteer to gain credit: “I do it because it’s fun every week, and I love getting to see the staff.”

As a senior at Reynolds High School, Ben doesn’t have much free time, but he plays tennis on the Reynolds High School team during the year and enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. He’s also passionate about social justice and has volunteered with the Multnomah Youth Commission for the past three years. “I work with officials on the city side and figure out equity issues, like working to make public transit affordable and accessible”, he says. Through the efforts of Ben and his fellow youth commissioners, TriMet access to East County schools has increased, including a program providing free or partially-funded bus passes to students who receive free or reduced lunch at Parkrose and David Douglas high schools.

“I don’t think of social justice as a career,” he says, “but it is a passion I want to pursue later in life.” Ben also wants to support immigrant and refugee communities, since “I know how hard it is to access resources.” Even more impressively, Ben has been accepted to Stanford University and likely will start there in the fall. “I actually wrote about the library for one of my college essays,” he explains. “I talked about it as a place where my sister and I felt protected. It’s where I was able to learn English and read my first chapter book. It was a place I could call home.”


A few facts about Ben

Home library: Gregory Heights

Currently reading: Multnomah County Library’s selection for Everybody Reads for 2019, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Most influential book: 1984 by George Orwell. “It made me start engaging in current events and politics.”

Favorite section of the library: Nonfiction, especially narrative nonfiction, where he found books like Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Favorite book from childhood: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Book that made you laugh or cry: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Favorite place to read: “Definitely in bed!”

E-reader or paper: “Paper because of the feeling of getting to flip the pages and remembering how much effort the authors put into their work.”

 

Dedicated Booktalker and Treasure for Third-Graders

by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer

As a Books 2 U volunteer, Ethelyn Pankratz talks to third-graders at two Portland schools about books. And she is a natural at it: even during our interview, she went through the seven books she had brought, pointing out especially good illustrations or photographs, showing what she liked about each, and how they might appeal to children—demonstrating a “booktalk” without my realizing it.

The Books 2 U program trains volunteers and provides books for students in third, fourth, and fifth grades; volunteers then choose titles from the many possibilities in the Books 2 U office. On this day, Ethelyn’s choices ranged from wordless books to those with mostly words, beautifully illustrated works, easy readers, adventure tales, and science. Since each classroom session is limited to 20 minutes, she goes through them rapidly, but without seeming to hurry.

The booktalker training includes learning to catch students’ attention, and in her 18 years of volunteering, Ethelyn has become adept at “reading” the students and choosing books that will interest them. She admitted that working with third graders may make her task easier because they are intrigued by everything and eager to learn. To do this well, she said, a volunteer must love reading, be aware of the kids’ varied reading levels, and have a good sense of what elements of a book to emphasize.

An ideal Books 2 U volunteer, Ethelyn spent most of her career in education: as a preschool teacher, an art instructor for Portland Public Schools, as executive director of what was then called the Association for Retarded Citizens, administering a program for people with developmental disabilities, and even working with an organization that brought young people from Myanmar to be educated in the U.S., hoping that they would return home and teach others.

When she retired, Ethelyn wanted to do something useful that she would enjoy. When I asked what she likes best about volunteering with Books 2 U, she replied, “watching their eyes light up—seeing them become engaged with a book. Since some schools no longer have libraries, we are a way to reach kids who might not be introduced to the world through reading.”


A few facts about Ethelyn

Home library: Capitol Hill

Currently reading: a science-fiction trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Favorite book from childhood: Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

A book that made you laugh or cry: The Little Colonel by Annie Fellows Johnston

Favorite section of the library: young adult books

E-reader or paper book? Both. I like the ability to adjust fonts on e-readers, but I prefer the feel of paper books, especially if I want to keep a book.

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: reading in the daytime

Favorite place to read: on the couch or in bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Liza Dyer

For those interested in volunteering their time and expertise at the library, Volunteer Coordinator Liza Dyer works diligently as a “matchmaker,” pairing people with the volunteer position and library location that best aligns with their interests and skills. 

“Volunteer services is all about the people,” says Liza. “We recruit, onboard and orient people to what we do at the library, a human resources department for library volunteers.”

In her role, Liza supports the library’s 2000 annual volunteers, along with more than 100 library staff across Multnomah County who work directly with volunteers.  

With her colleagues, Liza interviews incoming volunteers to learn about what they like to do, their work styles, and their goals for volunteering. She works hard to ensure that each volunteer is matched with a role that will be meaningful for them. 
“We want to make sure the experience is amazing for both our staff and volunteers. When we have everyone working together towards our shared goals it makes us a stronger library system.”

Library volunteers help with everything from shelving books and fulfilling holds to teaching computer literacy classes and delivering books to homebound patrons. As library services evolve, so does volunteer services. 

“We all are in this together. Whether it’s a staff person who is in every day and getting paid or a volunteer coming in two hours once per week, we’re extending the impact for the greater community,” Liza adds. 

Staying true to her passion for volunteering, Liza also gives of her time to local and national organizations, including the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration, the Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association, and the Nonprofit Technology Network. 

Learn more about volunteering with Multnomah County Library.

Embracing a Spanish language identity
Volunteer Fernando Rojas-Galvan

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

The passions of Fernando Rojas-Galvan center around something many of us in the library community appreciate: language. What sets Fernando apart is his embrace of two languages—English and Spanish—in almost every aspect of his life. As the facilitator for Kenton Library's Intercambio program, Ferrnando leads the weekly bilingual discussion group with patrons. He also helms Kenton Library’s Spanish-language book club, which meets four times a year.

“I’ve been a patron of Kenton since they opened,” Fernando says. He took over the book club a year ago and then started leading Intercambio. “I find it enjoyable and rewarding,” Fernando says. “It’s my opportunity to contribute to my local community; I think giving back is a key aspect of living in that community.”

Fernando also uses his Spanish as an instructor at Clatsop Community College (CCC) in Astoria. At CCC he develops his own curriculum: “I am the Spanish department at the college,” he says. He teaches everything from English as a second language to developmental English to a Latin American short story course. “To have the freedom to set up my curriculum and choose the books; it makes my job that much easier,” he says.

Along with teaching, reading inspires hope in Fernando: “Gosh, I read every day,” he says with a bit of wonder. “I find it as important as breathing, eating.” He became a reader in third grade, when he realized “I could do things my parents couldn’t do [because of the English language].”

Fernando was born in western Mexico and moved with his parents to Oregon as a toddler. Growing up, Fernando realized “Spanish language was part of my identity” and maintained his use of Spanish even while learning English. “I mention it because within three generations of immigrants you can lose the native language.” As a result, Fernando and his wife raise their two daughters and a son bilingually. “We do the best we can,” he says, “but we’re against society. The current political turmoil doesn’t foster [speaking Spanish]. It’s almost an act of resistance to speak another language in this country.” In the academic and library communities all languages should be encouraged and flourish; it’s heartening and hopeful to see how Fernando’s passion for Spanish can extend to the next generation and beyond.  


A few facts about Fernando

Home library: Kenton Library

Currently reading: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I am also reading Patria by Paco Ignacio Taibo. I have a habit of reading up to six books at any given time. Once in a while I encounter a book that I read in a day or two.

Most influential book: El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato

Favorite section to browse: Nonfiction or magazine section

Favorite book from childhood: Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Book that made you laugh or cry: Where The Red Fern Grows

Guilty pleasure: As a student of the Mexican-American Border for the last 25 years, I am watching the Netflix series Narcos.

Favorite place to read: You name it… I'll read anywhere.

E-reader or paper: I prefer paper, but as long as I can access reading material, my phone will serve the purpose in a pinch.

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Multnomah County Library now offers caregiver kits for those caring for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. Anyone can get a kit by placing a hold online

Caregiver kits contents - cooking tools
In the kits:

Every themed kit contains multisensory items. For example, the gardening kit has seeds, tools and books. The cooking kit has kitchen items and cookbooks from the 1950s. The themes are designed to stimulate conversations and bring back happy memories.

A caregiving resource kit contains books about dementia and self-care resources. It’s available in English and Spanish.

Why caregiver kits for dementia?

  • The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease is growing fast. Because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States, the number of new cases of Alzheimer's dementia and other dementias is projected to soar. 
  • One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's dementia.
  • African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older whites.
  • Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older whites.

Alzheimer's takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Compared with caregivers of people without dementia, twice as many caregivers of people with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties. Additionally, a recent community survey by Multnomah County Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division revealed high needs for caregiver resources.

Community partners

The library received input on the kits from many community partners including Multnomah County Aging, Disability and Veterans Services, Alzheimer’s Association support groups, PSU Institute on Aging, OHSU Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center, SAGE Metro Portland (LGBT Elders), Q Center, Friendly House, and the Multicultural Senior Center. 

Caregivers kit bag - exterior shot
For more information

Contact Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404.

Providing Hope
Tutors from left: Zarina Jackson, Lynn Alderman, Melissa Madenski and Katie Booker

by Donna Childs

Imagine being an adult and unable to read—how frustrated, embarrassed, even fearful you might feel.  While it could seem overwhelming to enroll in school, a drop-in session with a non-judgmental adult, one-on-one, at whatever level you need might be the perfect solution.  At five Multnomah County neighborhood libraries, about eighty dedicated, intelligent, good-humored, and joyful volunteer tutors help with reading, English language learning,  GED preparation, and other skills. The Adult Literacy Program, begun ten years ago through Library Outreach Services, provides walk-in tutoring two hours a week at Gresham, St. Johns, North Portland, Central and Midland.

I met with four of the twenty Midland volunteer tutors:  Lynn Alderman, Katie Booker, Melissa Madenski, and Zarina Jackson.  While tutors come with different backgrounds and skills, they are flexible, and their approach is completely learner-centered.  As Melissa said, it isn’t teaching first grade; it is finding out what each person knows and building on that. Katie agreed, pointing out that the learners often know more than they think they do.  After all, they may have navigated a lifetime without reading. The key is to discover their interests and what they are good at, to make them comfortable, and to increase their confidence.

Coordinator Lisa Regimbal, the only paid staff member, runs the program, and matches available tutors and learners at each session.  The tutors like the variety, and not knowing what to expect each week. According to Lynn, that variety keeps her on her toes and allows her to learn too.  A former accountant, who has “wanted to do this all my life,” Lynn found this program online. Katie, too, long wanted to do this; she had considered special education before studying art history and working in insurance.  She loves seeing the excitement at the moment someone starts to understand. For example, a sixty-five-year-old man came in wanting to write a letter. After being shown the format, writing the words, folding the paper, addressing and stamping the envelope, he “was so happy” with his new knowledge.

A former adult literacy coordinator, Melissa ran the program for its first five years.  The library got a grant, surveyed the needs in the community, reached out to non-profits, and recruited forty volunteers.  When she retired, Melissa continued as a volunteer tutor. “I love volunteering; I love this work and the excitement of being ready for anything.”  Although she can do any kind of tutoring, she, like Katie, most enjoys helping beginning readers.

Zarina, on the other hand, loves English language tutoring.  She can take on speakers of any language. Having approached a vocational counselor to find a volunteer career, and exploring several possibilities, the counselor asked what Zarina wanted to be when she grew up.  Her instant reply: “an English teacher!” She now happily helps non-English speaking patrons, finding it “an honor to be able to help people.”

The tutors not only form relationships with patrons, with whom they work closely, but they also have a warm camaraderie among themselves.  They keep folders on their work so any tutor can help if one of them is absent. They laugh a lot and all agree that although they are there to help others, “we are the ones who benefit most.”

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

This guide is a tool to enhance your group’s conversation about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Acichie’s insightful story of a young love, migration, exile, and homecoming.

Questions:

1. Adichie is herself somewhat of an outsider in America, as is her character, Ifemelu. Is there an advantage to telling this story from an outsider’s perspective?

2. In an interview with the New York Times, Adichie said she thinks there is “a tendency in American fiction to celebrate work that fundamentally keeps people comfortable.” How does Adichie reject or embrace keeping the reader comfortable in Americanah?

3. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Adichie commented on likable characters in fiction, saying, "women writers are expected to make their female characters likeable, as though the full humanity of a female person must in the end meet the careful limitations of likability.” Did you find the characters in Americanah likeable? Why or why not? Are there some characters you liked more than others? If we demand likeable characters, what does this need say about us as readers?

4. The first part of Ifemelu’s story is told in flashback as she's having her hair braided at a salon before returning to Nigeria. Ifemelu interacts with the women in the salon, and makes judgments about them. How does her identity and her long stay in America affect her perception of the women around her?

5. In Americanah, hair is often a focal point for discussing race and culture. Re-read Ifemelu’s blog post “A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor (p. 299.)”  How does the attention and judgment paid to a woman's hair reflect American society’s greater issues with race and feminism?

6. Ifemelu says, “I discovered race in America, and it fascinated me (p. 406).” She wonders, “How many other people had become black in America?” (p. 209) What does she mean by these statements?

7. Obinze’s has a complicated relationship with Ojiugo, his now-wealthy friend who has married an EU citizen. How does Obinze balance the need for support from his friend with the sense that Ojiugo represents someone who has given up his cultural identity?  Are all of the characters who leave Nigeria (such as Emenike, Aunty Uju, Bartholomew, and Ginika) similarly compromised?

8. When Ifemelu is hired to speak on race relations in America, she gets a hostile reaction at first. She changes her presentation to say, “America has made great progress for which we should be very proud”, and gets a better reaction; however in her blog, she writes “racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it’.” (p. 378). How do these two approaches reflect how Americans navigate questions of race and bias? Within your own circles, are you able to have frank conversations about race?

9. Kimberly, the white woman who employs Ifemelu as a nanny, seems to exemplify the white liberal guilt many Americans feel in relation to Africa and Africans. How did you respond to this character and her relationship with Ifemelu?

10. Ifemelu’s experience with the tennis coach is a low point in her life. Why does she avoid being in touch with Obinze afterward (157–58)? Why doesn’t she read his letters? How do you interpret her behavior?

11. How would you describe the qualities that Ifemelu and Obinze admire in each other? How does Adichie sustain the suspense about whether Ifemelu and Obinze will be together until the very last page? What, other than narrative suspense, might be the reason for Adichie’s choice in doing so? Would you consider their union the true homecoming, for both of them?

*Some questions suggested by or adapted from the Penguin Random House Reader’s Guide for Americanah

Themes and topics:

Nigeria, Lagos, young women, coming-of-age, feminism, racism, race and class, identity, romantic love, belonging, separation vs. connection, cultural critique, microaggression, power, Black American/African cultures, cross-cultural relationships, bloggers, corruption, immigration, fear of immigrants, the concept of assimilation.

In We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the 21st century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often-masked realities of sexual politics, she explores what it means to be a woman. This essay was based on the author's TED talk of the same name. 

Here are some questions to consider when discussing We Should All Be Feminists:

1. Do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Cover: We Should All Be Feminists

2. What is a feminist? Adichie says,  “My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” Do you agree with this definition?

3.  Adichie says her brother is her favorite feminist. Do you have a favorite feminist?

4.  Does the culture you grew up in have different expectations for boys and girls? At what age do distinctions between the genders start? Do you believe these expectations arise out of biological difference, or socialization?

5.  There are many negative views of feminism. How do you think these evolved? How might co-opting a term work to the advantage of those who want to discredit a movement?

6.  Do you know any boys or men who describe themselves as feminists? If you're male, and don't use the term, what would it feel like to do so?

7.  Adichie describes how disadvantaged women negotiate for power in Nigeria; how might it be easier for women living in privilege to embrace feminism?

8.  Feminism is interpreted differently by different people. Intersectionality is defined as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage." (Oxford Dictionary) How does your personal identity shape your values? You might use the University of Michigan's Social Identity Wheel to further this conversation.

9.  Feminists are often described as “angry.” What is the place of anger in advancing or hindering a cause? Can you think of examples, in your own life or in popular culture, where male and female anger is treated differently?

10.  Adichie thinks American women do not want to seem aggressive, that they are more invested in being “liked.” Is it possible to be “liked” and still insist on equal treatment?

11.  Adichie points out that boys also struggle under strict beliefs about what it means to be masculine. Do you believe that boys and men pay a price in a world that devalues feminism or insists on hyper-masculinity? How?

Themes:

Feminism, power, gender, gender expectations, coming-of-age, money, injustice, equality, masculinity, femininity, boys and girls, society, culture, tradition, society, socialization, roles, ambition, shame.

“The library is like a second home."
Volunteer Chloe Cocita McCann

by Sarah Binns

Chloe McCann, search assistant at Fairview Library, has been volunteering at that location for almost as long as that neighborhood library has been in existence. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but in reality Chloe has “been going [to Fairview] as a patron since I was a toddler, since Fairview opened three months after I was born.” Once she got a bit older, Chloe’s mother suggested she volunteer for the Summer Reading program, and she’s been active with Fairview ever since. As a paging assistant three days a week, Chloe fulfills holds for patrons from other libraries and does other tasks like reading shelves. “I make sure everything is in its right place,” she says. “I love the paging list,” she adds with a laugh, “It’s satisfying to be able to pick stuff out and find things!”

When not volunteering, Chloe is a full-time student at Mt. Hood Community College, working toward her diploma even though she is only eighteen. Chloe says she’s surprised that her volunteer work hasn’t steered her toward a library science degree, but she is interested in pursuing psychology and neuroscience, subjects she’s loved since she was little.

Music and books fill the small amount of free time Chloe has. “I love music and over the course of my life I’ve learned to play about fifteen instruments. I’ve played piano on and off for eleven years.” Her reading interests veer toward psychology and nonfiction, but she also enjoys “horror, mysteries, thrillers, and graphic novels.” She also admits to judging a book by its cover, in a sense: “If a book has a cool cover, I’ll check it out,” she laughs.

Over time, Chloe has become close to her Fairview co-workers, whom she justifiably calls “family.” “I’ve known [staff member] Angie since I was a little kid,” she says. During her summers Chloe also interns at Fairview, which means, “I get paid to be around family!” Fairview is lucky to have such a long-time volunteer on its hands, especially one who’s been among its books since childhood. “I’ve always loved libraries,” Chloe says, “and being at Fairview is not like going to a public place, it’s like a second home.”


A few facts about Chloe

Home library:  Fairview

Currently reading:  I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid and Colour by Rudolf Steiner.

Most influential book:  Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

Favorite book from childhood: Any of the Dork Diaries books

Favorite section of the library:  Non-fiction or graphic novels!

Guilty pleasure: Reality shows, even if they're fake.

E-reader or paper? Paper! E-readers are really convenient but I personally like to have an actual book.

Favorite place to read: Outside

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

The popular on-demand film streaming service Kanopy is now available for free to Multnomah County library cardholders. MCL cardholders can access Kanopy and sign up to start streaming films on demand instantly by visiting multcolib.kanopy.com

Kanopy showcases more than 30,000 of the world’s best films, including award-winning documentaries, rare and hard-to-find titles, film festival favorites, indie and classic films, and world cinema with collections from the Criterion Collection, Music Box Films, Samuel Goldwyn, The Orchard, PBS and thousands of independent filmmakers.

The Kanopy collection includes indie hits like Hunt For the Wilderpeople and 2 Days in Paris, classic masterpieces like Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Seven Samurai, and award-winning documentaries like the 2017 Oscar®-nominated I Am Not Your Negro and Sundance Film Festival winner Mother of George.

Films can be streamed through a variety of devices and platforms including iOS, Android, AppleTV, Chromecast, and Roku. All Kanopy films feature closed captions and transcripts for the hearing-impaired.

MCL cardholders can access up to 6 Kanopy films per month, with the count resetting on the 1st of the month.

 

Using Her Experience to Help Others

by Donna Childs

Mekdes Hilete came to Portland from Ethiopia two years ago, at age 14. Despite all the complexities of a new country, with a new language, culture, habits, assumptions, expectations, Mekdes has handled the difficult transition with grace, making it appear deceptively easy.

Almost as soon as she arrived here, Mekdes became involved with Multnomah County Library.  After volunteering in the Summer Reading and summer lunch programs at the Belmont and Midland libraries, she began taking on multiple roles at her home library, North Portland.  She began as a computer lab assistant, helping patrons with such tasks as accessing the internet and setting up email and Facebook accounts. Recently, she also became a branch assistant, and has applied to join the new Teen Council at North Portland.

When Mekdes enrolled at Jefferson High School, as a freshman, she discovered the school’s relationship with Portland Community College allowing juniors and seniors, and even qualified sophomores, to take courses at PCC for dual high school/college credit.  Despite being here only a year, Mekdes applied, was accepted, and began earning genuine college credit as a high school sophomore. She also participated in Jefferson’s Mock Trial team, which made it to the state competition last year. She has joined Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, where she helps plan events and raise funds to empower girls to be leaders.  Her participation in college classes, and in such challenging extracurricular activities, only months after leaving Ethiopia underscores Mekdes’ courage and her nimble brain, as well as her strong facility with English.

Although she jokes that most of her days revolve within the triangle of the library, Jefferson, and PCC, she ventures out to volunteer as a guide at OHSU, helping patients and visitors find their destinations.  She credits an interest in pursuing a medical career, perhaps in family medicine, as a reason for choosing OHSU. But it also fits with a clear pattern of helping others navigate strange situations, which is evident in Mekdes’ choices.  Rather than being overwhelmed by the newness of everything here, she has jumped in, using her experience of dealing with unknown environments to help others in new situations.

 


A few facts about Mekdes

Home library:  North Portland

Currently reading:  Perfect Is Boring by Tyra and her Mama

Most influential book:  The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Book that made you cry:  Reading Paper Towns made me want to cry. The Diary of Anne Frank made me want to cry. I Am Malala made me cry.

Favorite section of the library:  the window seat at the North Portland Library

E-reader or paper?  paper books

Favorite place to read:  in my room, on my bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

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