Parlor Games book jacketWelcome to our new blogger Carol, who says this about herself: I read widely and profusely, propelled by a natural curiosity about everything under the sun and the belief that for me there is no better place to be than living inside a good book.  I have deep love for all things fiction and could not imagine my life without any of the works of Nevil Shute, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited or Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, just to name a few.

It’s 1917 and May Dugas is on trial for extortion. Did she take the money? Well, May Dugas has been taking money all her life! From her early years working in a Chicago bordello to her financially rewarding marriage to a Dutch baron, May has earned her living being the arm candy of some very rich men. May is the ultimate social climber, blackmailer and seductress, skills she developed and utilized in the name of supporting her family. But despite all her scheming, May doesn't plan on the dogged determination of Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton detective who has tracked her across the globe, from Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo and London and parts in-between and finally to a Wisconsin courtroom where May must finally answer for her supposed crimes.

Based on an extraordinary true story, Portland writer Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games is a non-stop global chase, a thrill ride whose last stop isn’t revealed until the very last second. Cold-hearted grifter or resourceful family provider. When the gavel comes down in that courtroom, will May Dugas finally meet her match?

Sooner or Later coverSomewhere in the past few years Portland morphed from a Tonya (Harding) into a Nancy (Kerrigan) kind of town - from a scrappy backwater to a burgeoning condopolis full of fancy ice cream shops, artisan beard oil, and chic boutiques peddling faux lumberjack outfits. I kid, I kid... but believe it or not, touring bands often used to skip Portland, due to it being a grey, unfashionable spot with small audiences. There wasn’t much for young people to do here, and not much employment either, so they had to form their own bands, and make their own fun.

Which brings us to Sooner or Later, the new double album that collects the recordings of the Neo Boys. One of Portland’s most notable punk bands, they often played with the Wipers, and opened for X, Nico, and Television, among others. Their sound is a very early form of punk, not frenetic or thrashy at all - in fact, it’s very catchy and melodic, with guitar parts that go beyond the usual couple of power chords. The tracks are in chronological order, so be sure to listen past the first few to get a feeling for them at their most skilled - try “Give Me the Message” if you want to get hooked fast. And, oh yeah… despite the name, they weren’t boys at all - over ten years before the whole Riot Grrrl movement, these four young women, some in their late teens, were shaking up local music. They’re worth a listen if you’re interested in early punk, the history of Portland music, or women who rock.

To learn more about the Neo Boys, the Wipers, Poison Idea, and other Portland punk and underground bands, try some of the items on this list.

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits bookcover

Dorothea Lange : a life beyond limits / Linda Gordon. London ; New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2009.
A fascinating book of the stories behind Dorothea Lange's powerful photographs.
Scene 3, excerpt:
"We found our way in, slid in on the edges. The people who are garrulous and tell you everything, that's one kind of person, but the fellow who's hiding behind a tree, is the fellow that you'd better find out why. So often it's just sticking around, not swooping in and swooping out in a cloud of dust; sitting down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you're very apt to receive it. I don't mean to say that I did that all the time, but I have done it, and I have asked for a drink of water and taken a long time to drink it, and have told everything about myself long before I asked any question. 'What are you doing here?' they'd say. 'What do you want to take pictures of us for?' I've taken a long time to explain, and as truthfully as I could. They knew that you are telling the truth."  - Dorothea Lange [p. 191-192]



Stellar Blue Jay

Chirp chirp. Tweet. Awk! Caw, caw. Skree, skree, skree-chip!

   Blue Heron on a fence

Even in the city, birdsong is all around us. We call it “birdsong,” but why do they sing? Why do birds make those noises?

Well, why do people sing and make noise? Sometimes we sing for fun and from joy, and maybe birds do too. But a lot of the time we humans make sounds in order to communicate with each other. It turns out that birds are doing that, too. Other birds understand them. Sometimes other animals understand them, too!

I was amazed when I took a class at Metro and discovered that humans can learn to understand a little bit of bird language. It’s like there was a secret code going on all around me, and I never even noticed it. But now sometimes I can crack the code. I can tell when a mated pair of birds is telling each other “I’m over here -- I’m safe!” and “I’m over here -- Me too!” Sometimes the birds alert me that there is a predator nearby -- or that they are worried because I’m nearby.

Birds pay attention to everything going on around them. Paying attention to birds is a great way to get an insider’s view into some of the secrets of your local ecosystem.

Crow on Portland water fountian

Want to learn more about birds, their language or their place in our local ecosystem? Take a look at OPB’s Field Guide videos; visit a local park and take a walk with a naturalist; ask a librarian or check out some of the great books below.

Profile picture, ReadWomen2014When writer and artist Joanna Walsh created a set of women author bookmarks she was surprised by the positive response from friends. In a Buzzfeed article, "#ReadWomen2014 Aims To Bring Gender Equality To The Literary World" Walsh said, "the bookmarks were created because I’d been too lazy to send Christmas cards, and was shamed into it by the beautiful cards I was sent, especially by illustrator friends.” As her project gained fans, she went on to create a twitter hashtag, #ReadWomen2014, to promote a year of reading women authors.

Since Walsh published her original list, many people have added their own spin to #ReadWomen2014. Here at Multnomah County Library, we decided to make a list with a selection of Northwest women authors, and Laural, a librarian here, created a list of women who create comics. Whose on your list?



Judy is reading Fresh Off the Boat, a memoir by Eddie Huang, the founder of the popular East Village food shop Baohaus.

Judy is a Library Assistant at the Hollywood Library.

In the past few weeks, these new books about photography arrived on the shelves at Central Library, each with a different emphasis for a particular group of photographers. Link to the titles below to place holds for delivery to your closest branch of the Multnomah County Library system.

Michael Freeman's PhotoSchool Fundamentals
This guidebook has an unusual format: it is organized much like a book version of an online class. The author introduces a group of people with a range of skills in photography, who try out the experiments with exposure, lighting, composition, and editing that the author presents.  The reader is invited to participate as well in each of the assignments and follow along with comments by the "class" and Michael Freeman, to learn how to capture image effects in a variety of conditions. Written in a conversational style, this book strikes a good balance between images and text, and is useful for anyone wanting to learn more about how to use a digital camera. Follow along in sequential fashion, or skip around among the topics, though the book has a basic direction from basic to more advanced.



Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis Focal Press bookcoverMonochromatic HDR Photography : Shooting and Processing Black & White High Dynamic Range Photos.
"The best way to consider the shapes in your composition is to abstract them from the nature of the subject matter. You can use your camera's in-camera black and white capabilities to pre-visualize with lines and shapes. When the color is removed, do the shapes work just as a mass of tonalities or does there seem to be a defined structure? Think of yourself as an abstract expressionist painter rather than a photographer, and imagine the dark and light strokes that would make up your composition as you frame it in your camera. Thinking this way, you'll soon get the gist of composing creative digital monochromiatic images."  - Harold Davis in Monochromatic HDR Photography.

The Handbook of Bird Photography
This book is for people whose interests in wildlife photography take them far beyond the two titles described above, in terms of preparation for photography, equipment, and knowledge of the ecology of bird species. It covers technical aspects of close-up photography in a wide range of light and weather conditions. Mostly a book of graphics, the photographs of birds include notes about camera models, settings, and other equipment used. This book is well worth reading for specialists; but at a more basic level both interesting and instructive for people who want to take better photographs in their immediate surroundings.

Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible
The first premise of the book Surreal Photography is to have a concept of the surreal: "It might help to think of the process of creating a surreal image as a recipe: here is what you want to create, these are the things that you will need to achieve it, and these are the steps you will need to take in the process." The author applies this basic formula to the construction of surreal images, that may be the outcome of happy accidents, use of camera controls, or by editing with computer software. Chapters cover an array of techniques and equipment, ranging from cameraphones through DSLR cameras available as of the publication date of 2013. Use as a springboard for adding skills with image effects. Find more books on this approach to photography by searching using the phrase Alternative Photographic Processes in the Multnomah County Library catalog.

Color: A Photographer's Guide to Directing the Eye, Creating Visual Depth, and Conveying Emotion
Written by a photographer and teacher who is excited by the limitless possibilities of his subject, this book explains how to take advantage of a range of light conditions and time of day to take compelling photographs. The many images include exposure settings, lenses used, and written descriptions on a range of themes, such as sky, water, portraits and crowd scenes. A final chapter about black and white photography provides interesting comparisons between color originals and black/white versions of images for the strengths of each interpretation.



Coraline Blu-rayMultnomah County Library now offers Blu-ray Discs for check-out. You can find a complete list by searching bluray as a keyword in My MCL. You can check out a combined total of 15 DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Blu-ray Discs are different from DVDs:

  • You will need a Blu-ray player or a computer with a Blu-ray drive to watch a Blu-ray Disc. Some game consoles (e.g. Xbox One, PS3 and PS4) support Blu-ray discs as well. Blu-ray Discs will not play in a DVD player.
  • Blu-rays are a high-definition (HD) format, but you must be using HDTV or a HD monitor to watch in HD. Blu-rays can be viewed on a conventional monitor, but quality will not be high-definition.

Are you looking for a specific title, but you can't find it? Ask the Librarian.

Do you own a small-business? One of the best ways to get tax information and help for your small business is by visiting the IRS Small Business Tax Center where you can learn everything from how to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online to how to best navigate an audit.

You can also call the IRS Business & Specialty Toll Free number at 1-800-829-4933, open Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.

The IRS began accepting 2013 business tax returns on Monday, January 13, 2014. This start date applies to both electronically-filed and paper-filed returns. The only exception is Form 1041 for Estates and Trusts, which cannot be filed until January 31. More information can be found in the IRS’ press release titled “Starting Jan. 13, 2014, Business Tax Filers Can File 2013 Returns.”

Once again, the library is here to help small businesses, so go ahead and contact us!

Old maps are more than just geographical information presented in an appealing visual format – antique maps tell us about changes in the landscape, for sure, but they also inform us about the human past.  After all, maps are made by people, produced within specific cultural frameworks.

A new study of a 9,000-year old mural in the Turkish archaeological site Çatalhöyük argues that it is, in fact, the world's oldest map, and that it shows an eruption of the nearby volcano Hasan Dağı in progress. (The study offers evidence that Hasan Dağı did actually erupt around the time that the mural was created.) If news of this development has you thinking about old and antique maps, you're in luck! Multnomah County Library has a wide array of books about the history of maps, many with beautiful and thought-provoking reproductions and illustrations.  Take a look at the reading list below for a few of my personal favorites.

Detail of the map of the moon, from the Hand Atlas.Remember, also, that Multnomah County Library actually owns a lot of maps!  Most of the library's oldest maps are kept at Central Library, either in the map collection in the Literature & History room (on the third floor), or in the John Wilson Special Collections.  Most older maps, are of course, reference items that cannot be checked out of the library – but there's plenty of room to enjoy them at Central Library!  Here are a few gems:

One of my favorite old maps in the library's collection is the 1896 Hand Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude.  That's a big, long German title, and indeed, the entire atlas is in German!  But maps are visual things, and even if the place names are in an unfamiliar language, this world atlas is both useful and beautiful – particularly if you're interested in seeing a snapshot of national borders in the 1890s.  The image here is from the very beginning of the atlas, in the section of maps of heavenly bodies.  This one, I'm sure you can see, is of the moon.

Detail of sheet 27, which includes the city of Seaside, Metkser's Atlas of Clatsop County, 1930.Moving forward a bit in time, here's a snippet of one of the property ownership maps in the Metsker Atlas of Clatsop County – it's sheet 27 of the 1930 atlas, showing the town of Seaside.  The library has a large collection of atlases published by the Metsker Co., covering all of Oregon's 36 counties (plus a few Metsker atlases of Washington counties that are near the Portland area). Most of the Metsker atlases were published from the 1920s to the 1970s. They contain lovely, detailed maps showing street names and subdivision names -- often this is interesting, particularly when you look at an older map and can see big changes like the neighborhoods that were present before a freeway was built, or farm and forest land where there is now an urban area.  Larger parcels of land are marked with the owner's name too, which can be most illuminating.

"Car Lines in the Business District, Showing Downtown Loops," from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland, 1944.One great place to look for charming little maps is in the pages of now-out-of-date travel guidebooks, and the library has plenty of examples!  The cutie to the left shows the streetcar lines, trolley car lines ("trolley car" is an old term for an electric bus), and motor coaches (early 20th century-speak for a gasoline- or diesel-powered bus) in downtown Portland, circa 1944.  The map is from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland.

Detail of "London: from 1800 to 1900," from the Mapbook of English Literature.But the library's collection is not limited to maps showing landforms, details for tourists, and property information.  For a different sort of map entirely, take a peek at the lovely Mapbook of English Literature, an elegantly-drawn collection of maps illustrating important literary-geographical connections.  The section of the London map at right, which features literary facts from 1800-1900, shows details from the world of fiction: "The Quips (Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-41) lived here;" and biographical bits and pieces about English authors: "Keats was a student here (1815-16) Guy's Hospital."

Do you have a favorite map, or a favorite book about maps?  Share them!

And of course, if you've got a question about maps, the library's collection about maps, or anything else, there's a friendly librarian who'd love to help you!  Just get in touch using Ask the Libarian, or ask at the information desk the next time you're at the library.


If you have already broken those New Year's resolutions, you have another chance.  
This Friday, January 31st, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are twelve animals and five elements in the Chinese zodiac and 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse,
sometimes called the Green Horse.  For each of the animals, there are certain qualities, which are passed to the persons born under that sign.  Those born in horse years are said to be cheerful, enthusiastic, and enjoy making new friends. To find out what your zodiac animal is, take a look at this chart:

Celebrations for the Chinese New Year include dragon and lion dances, fireworks, the giving of red envelopes, and sweet treats, culminating in a lantern festival. The Lunar New Year will be celebrated at Gregory Heights and Midland Libraries with various cultural performances.  Holgate Library will be hosting Tales from the Year of the Horse. The library will also have a table at the Oregon Convention Center, Saturday February 1, for the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair. If you're there, stop by and say hello!


Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me feel as though the years I spent before reading it were half lived. Here are three books that were published long before I was born that opened my eyes up a little wider this year.

Dandelion Wine cover

Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is sweet, brave, and precious. I use all three adjectives in the fullest sense of their meanings, and feel as though if anyone less honest and skilled than Bradbury had written this it would be treacle. In his hands, it's the magic and fear of childhood distilled.

In the 1935 noir novel about the era's dance marathons, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? what should be a pleasure becomes a horrific ordeal. Both a peek into a world that existed briefly and a point on a continuum of exploitation extending from Roman gladiators to Honey Boo Boo.


When I picked up Eugénie Grandet I expected exuberance and humor.

Instead I found something beautifully constrained and subtle. Balzac wrote with uncharacteristic somberness to tell the story of a girl whose life is stunted by her greedy father. This was only the second Balzac novel that I have read, and it revealed the scope of La Comédie humaine.

When you work on a research project about historical India, you may want to add a map. You can judge a good map by how well it tells information. Here is a checklist of what makes a good historical map:

  • Does it have a title or legend?
  • Is the scale OK so that you can see all the points of interest?
  • Does it have the name of the map creator, source and date?

Here's a map of India from 1700-1792.

Map of India 1700-1792

Historical India Maps

The University of Texas at Austin has a great site of online maps, including a map of India, 1700-1792 from The Historical Atlas and a map of India, 1760 from The Public Schools Historical Atlas.

There are maps from the 1800s, including this map of India, 1882 from A Dictionary Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation.

Here's a map of British India, 1860.

Present Day Maps

The CIA - Central Intelligence Agency -- has great regional and world maps. Check out this map of India.

Interested in learning more? Ask a librarian!

Recently I was digging around for something to satisfy me in the same way that Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series does and I dragged up the Small Change Series by Jo Walton. I am deep into book two, and I love it.

Book One, Farthing, is a Christie/Sayers-style country house mystery, the stakes increased enormously by the fact that this 1949 England has made peace with Hitler and the murder in question may push the country decidedly into fascism. The book is deceptively modest -- "oh, I'm just a mystery with a funny bit of alternate history, don't mind me" it whispers -- but manages to pull off a riveting whodunit, a chilling 'it really could have happened', and a lovely portrait of how brave everyday people can be.

Book Two, Ha'Penny, replaces the 'whodunit' with an effort to assassinate Hitler. But this isn't just a fantasy of derring-do in the face of evil. People who dream of a free England ally with Stalinists in order to accomplish their ends, good people are killed by other good people in the effort to do What Must Be Done. In other words, Walton acknowledges that the world is complicated while keeping the pages flying by.

The third and final book is Half a Crown, & I almost can't bear how much I want everything to be OK by the end of this reality-that-wasn't.

Welcome to our new blogger Azalea, who says this about herself: I have been a Multnomah County Library fanatic since moving to Portland in 2006 from San Diego, California. I love cookbooks, the author Elena Ferrante, books with kitty pictures, and that moment when I pick up a brand new or overwhelmingly popular item from the holds shelf.
Adobo Road Cookbook bookjacket
Like lots of Asian-American kids growing up, sometimes I got tired of eating rice at home and loved novelties like hamburgers and pizza. It was only when I moved away for college that I found myself missing comfort foods like arroz caldo, pancit palabok, and chicken barbecue. I missed those garlicky, savory, sour, and sweet flavors that exist somewhere near, but are not quite Chinese or Thai food. 
Years of making disappointing or unremarkable Filipino food ended the day I picked up The Adobo Road Cookbook by Marvin Gapultos. I found recipes that looked like they were just for me: Filipino spaghetti, homemade longanisa (breakfast sausage), a cocktail with calamansi juice, and more. So far, I'm most proud of becoming an expert at making some amazing lumpiang shanghai, which are egg rolls.
Browsing the new cookbooks page and discovering Adobo Road brought me closer to my culture and improved my culinary abilities. If you enjoy the complex flavors in Thai cuisine, want to explore a new food, or earn some bragging rights through cooking, check out Adobo Road.


Billy Wilder, director of such diverse and wonderful films that to begin to list them is to agonize over your exclusions, had a sign in his office that said “What would Lubitsch do?”

Ernst Lubistch made movies that sparkled, with wit and sophistication that has not been matched since. Trouble in Paradise

Lubitsch’s 1932 film Trouble in Paradise was released before the Production Code acquired the power to prevent ‘immoral’ movies from being shown. Crime pays. People who are not married have a great deal of fun together. The screening of such delights was considered dangerous. Trouble in Paradise was unavailable for years, and never released on VHS.

Sometimes it seems to me that the Production Code changed our view of the past, that this board of censors determined not only the morality of what was on American screens, but also the way that we would see their times. The past becomes a foreign country where good was good, bad was bad, and human beings were somehow not so human.

I’ve made a list of Effervescent Pre-Code Movies in our catalog. For me these movies break down the barrier between us and the past, showing that our great-grandparents had desires and foibles that were just like our own. And that they were very funny and had great gams.

"Music is the poetry of the air." 
--Jean Paul Richter

If poetry lifts up your spirits, chances are really good that you are also uber fond of music. Legendary songwriters like Tupac and Bob Dylan are poets at heart. Writing a poem is already quite a task, but coming up with words that fit a particular melody is an entirely different journey.

Do you feel that there is an inner songwriter in your that is just aching to explode out of you? Our library collection can certainly aid you in creating musican content. Who knows? Maybe this is your songwriting year!


I want a book that will suck me in, make my brain spin, and not let me go until the very last page. Thank goodness there's been a surplus of books lately where the authors have written books that do exactly that.

book jacket of We Are All Completely beside OurselvesOne book is Karen Fowler’s We Are All Completely beside Ourselves. I’m rather mad that many reviews (and even Multnomah County Library’s catalog) describes with too much detail what this book is about. The best thing to do is just check it out and dive right in. It’s beautifully written, haunting, heartbreaking. At its core, this is the story of a family and the loss they experience. And after you read it, please don’t reveal the secret at its center so other readers can feel the surprise!

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver is another twisty book that I couldn’t put down. Lionel Shriver has written quite a few novels that take on big issues. In her latest book, book jacket of Big Brothershe takes on obesity. As an American woman, I’ve struggled with body image and weight issues since I was a young adult so I found this book really interesting. The main characters are a sister and her obese brother. She decides to devote a year of her life to help slim him down. And boy does he. Or does he? Shriver’s book is a commentary on the epidemic of obesity and the ties of family. How can we help our family and at what cost? After I read the last section of this book, I had to meditate a while on everything that I had read in the previous parts. It made my head hurt just a little. But in a good way.

book jacket of The Shining GirlsAnd speaking of heads hurting, a must read for anyone who wants a twisty, turvy book who isn’t put off by quite a bit of gruesomeness, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is your book. Harper Curtis is a serial killer, a repulsive, horrible, yucky killer. He’s exactly what murderers should be like. He’s not the gentlemanly, charming, oh-so-relate-able serial killer that has become the norm in pop culture today. He finds a key to a house that allows him to travel back and forth across time to find his victims and then escape into another time. And then one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and begins to hunt him back with the help of ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez. This story will make a fantastic tv series (Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company have bought the television rights). And after you read it, please let me know what you think happens at the end. It made my brain spin.


Welcome to our new blogger, Patrick, who says this about himself: "I work at the Holgate Library where I answer questions all day. When I'm not doing that (and if you don't believe me, check with my coworkers who have given up hope of engaging me in lunchroom conversations) I'm probably reading or playing games. I read lots of comics and graphic novels, but also enjoy dystopian fiction, rousing adventure tales, classic sci-fi and fantasy, Dickens, good writing about science, and the occasional bit of warm and fuzzy pop philosophy."

I like 'thoughtful'. Thoughtful and reflective and true, all things that bring about a calm philosophical life. (I'm also a fan of whimsical, dystopian and heroic but those will be other entries.)

It turns out that I have been finding many of those thoughtful moments via MCL's zine collection, particularly the works of John Porcellino. I discovered them randomly in the form of an issue of King-Cat Comics & Stories that passed in front of my face, and there was something about the simplicity of the line art that made me want to open it. What I found was a little handmade collection of comics and... well, 'essays' sounds boring, but 'stories' doesn't sound true enough. 'Reflections' seems to fit. John talks about his beloved cat Maisie, his sweetie Misun, sunrises, moving, music, and all sorts of things that occur to him. He's someone who struggles to find meaning in life, and he frequently questions things he has previously held true. What I like best are the little vignettes like 'Football Weather' from King-Cat #66 where all the neighborhood kids decide to help him with his lawn and then a football game ensues. It's not about leaves or football, though... it's about things like community, and appreciating life, and What Is Important to You.

If you enjoy King-Cat, there are hardbound collections, or you might also like his other work, including  the short and sweet Three Poems about Fog, or a hardcover graphic novel called Thoreau at Walden. As is usual for me, a thing aimed at younger readers can actually be pretty universal.

And if you want another good autobiographical zine with less philosophy but equal self-discovery and more sass in it, try Jesse Reklaw's Ten Thousand Things to Do. where he describes his lifestyle of "inking, drinking, and anxious thinking".

Library Borrowers Make the Best Volunteers

by Mindy Moreland

Picture of Karen Hein

In the summer of 1971, Karen Hein was visiting the Rockwood Library when a sign on the wall caught her eye and changed the course of her life. “Library Borrowers Make the Best Employees,” the poster read. Karen, an avid lover of libraries, thought that this was well worth investigating. Soon after, she was hired on as a clerk at Rockwood (where, she recalls, she earned the princely sum of $1.95 per hour), and so began a 34-year career with Multnomah County Library.  

As she moved up the responsibility ladder,  from branch to branch, Karen served countless patrons and bore witness to the library’s transition into the digital age. She remembers composing seemingly endless lists of children’s books on a typewriter at Central, tells of the delight of a colleague upon successfully transferring files to a (truly floppy) disk for the first time, and remembers overseeing Gresham’s first public internet computers. Today she appreciates the ease with which holds can be processed thanks to RFID, and is exploring the world of digital audiobooks on her iPad.


"It's a very comfortable place for me to be. I feel at home."Karen retired as a supervisor from the Gresham branch in October 2005, but that was only one more turning point in her journey with the library, rather than the story’s end. She presently volunteers as a Branch Assistant, and continues to enjoy watching the library grow and change around her.

Although the Gresham branch is Karen’s neighborhood library, she makes a weekly journey to Central, where she spent the lion’s share of her career, to process holds and catch up with former colleagues. Coming to Central lets her take regular advantage of downtown Portland’s shops, movie theaters, and restaurants. A window table at Jake’s Grill is a favorite for a leisurely lunch, though she still mourns the passing of the august Georgian Room at Meier and Frank’s.  

Karen even speaks of the Central building itself like an old friend, fondly recalling hot summer days in the early 1990s before the building underwent renovation, when she could open the Popular Library’s tree-shaded windows to let in a cool breeze. And after so many years together, it seems only natural to drop in weekly to catch up. Karen says that while she understands that many people might find it a bit strange to volunteer at their former place of employment, she’s pleased to have the opportunity to stay involved with a place and an institution she enjoys.

“I like the atmosphere,” Karen says with a smile. “It’s a very comfortable place for me to be. I feel at home.” It seems that Library Borrowers do indeed make the Best Employees … and the Best Volunteers, too.

A Few Facts About Karen

Home library: Gresham Library

Currently reading: The Well-Read Cat by Michèle Sacquin

Most influential book: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

Favorite book from childhood: Any horse stories by Marguerite Henry

Favorite section of the library: Periodicals

E-reader or paper book? Paper book

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries on audiobook

Favorite place to read: In bed

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.