Новый Год (New Year) is celebrated in over fifteen countries. In English, the word Slavic is added to the beginning of the phrase to acknowledge the distinct traditions of countries in Eastern Europe. Each year, the Russian-speaking team brings Slavic New Year celebrations to the library. The team includes people from various countries, including Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine and more. 

Slavic New Year occurs on December 31, marking the beginning of the year with promises of a better and happier life. Celebrations center around family dinners, with tables covered with signature dishes. On the table you might find a Slavic potato salad (olivier salad), caviar sandwiches, dressed herring (a dish with sliced pickles, eggs, and vegetables) and jellied meat. 

Yelena Stone, a clerk at Gresham Library, shares that eating sweets was the highlight of this holiday for her. “In Belarus, we got a lot of New Year candy around that time. We looked through all the candies and chose the prettiest ones to hang on the New Year tree.”

The New Year tree is a decorated pine tree similar to the Christmas tree. It is put up in homes for the Slavic New Year celebration, and decorated with toys, plastic snowflakes, chocolate figures and garlands.

Just like Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas in the United States, Father Frost (also with a white beard and red coat) and his granddaughter Snegurochka (a girl made of snow) are well-known in Slavic New Year celebrations as the gift givers of the season.

Man dressed like santa claus next to  woman dressed in white

Although there are similarities in the way that Slavic New Year is observed throughout Eastern Europe, each country also has its festivities. In Russia, at midnight, people quickly write a wish, burn the piece of paper, let the ashes fall into their champagne glass and drink it, hoping their wish will come true.

In Armenia, Slavic New Year is a time to visit relatives and friends. Marina Nersesian, library assistant at Gresham Library, says, “We would stop by for at least a few minutes and bring candy and alcohol with us. With numerous relatives, we would visit them from dawn to dusk on January 1 until January 14. Every relative visited would then sit you at the holiday table and let you try various dishes. It was about showing respect to older relatives and neighbors.”

In the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine bordering Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, winter festivities begin on December 19 (Saint Nicholas's Day). Oleg Karpynets, temporary library administrator at Central Library, shares how the unique geographic location created distinct traditions. 

“In my hometown in Ukraine, the tradition was for kids to clean their winter boots and place them on the windowsill in the evening of December 18, and the next morning, there were presents in them,” says Oleg. Another common tradition is to sing carols door to door.

This year, holiday celebrations in Eastern Europe differ from those in previous years. The ongoing war has affected access to heat, water and other essential human services. Presents and lavish dinners may not be commonplace everywhere this holiday season, but the Slavic New Year, or Новый Год, theme of hope for the future is something many hold dearly.  

In Multnomah County, the library is a place where members of the Slavic community can unite to keep their cultural heritage alive through conversation and celebration. To learn more about Slavic New Year, check out the children's Russian-language collections at Holgate, Midland, Rockwood or Gresham libraries. Patrons can also browse the newly added Ukrainian collection available at Central Library.

Annie Lewis inside library

Annie Lewis knows libraries inside and out, from singing songs with kids in storytime, to outreach and services all over the county. She believes libraries are about belonging — for everyone, in all walks of life. As the new deputy director of Multnomah County Library, Annie provides leadership for the public services division of the library and oversees: 

  • Location services (19 library locations)
  • Community services (outreach, events and virtual)
  • Books and materials inside the library and the digital collections
  • Library policies and procedures
  • Office of Project Management and Evaluation

Annie started working at Multnomah County Library in 2014 as a Bilingual Spanish Youth Librarian. Since then, she has been working in various roles including as a Library Supervisor, Early Childhood Services Manager, Interim Neighborhood Libraries Director, and Director of Library Community Services. Before joining the library, Annie worked as an adult services librarian at Beaverton City Library and as a librarian at Tualatin Public Library. She studied History and Spanish at Pacific University and later received a Masters degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Washington. 

Q: Do you have a favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

AL: One of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which is the book, and the movie is The Hedgehog. The book is beautiful and has such rich character development. But the movie narrows in on the personality traits and complexity of the characters. It’s a love story, but it also touches on family dynamics, social isolation and has an ending that left me sobbing.

Q: What is one of your favorite things that the library offers?

AL: The library offers so many incredible resources that it’s hard to choose just one, but I’d have to say providing free public computer access for printing, scanning, faxing, and copy machines and staff who are able to assist patrons with access. It's helping a large part of our community meet needs in ways that ensure more equitable access to the services that are only available online or through the use of technology.

Q: Tell us about a meaningful experience you’ve had in your library career

AL: Part of my job as a librarian that has brought me the most joy is leading storytimes with young children. I love making connections with children and inspiring them to sing, dance, play, and most importantly, develop the fundamental skills to be able to read. 

Q: What’s something that people may not know about the library?

AL: The library does a lot of work outside of library buildings. We have a number of partnerships where we provide books and literacy support for children and adults in a variety of settings throughout the community. I think that's more hidden because we are doing that with our partners such as the Every Child a Reader program which works with Head Start programs, home visiting programs and other early childhood providers across the county. We also partner with the Multnomah County Health Department and the Reach Out and Read program to give books to children in health clinics at their well-child visits. We have a number of specialized programs for adults as well including library services for adults in custody at Inverness Jail & Columbia River Correctional Facility, our adult literacy programs and books by mail for individuals who are homebound. These and more are the less visible services but are incredibly impactful to those receiving them.

Q: When you think about the future of the library, what do you envision?  

AL: The key features of our new spaces, in addition to the future of libraries, in general, is about providing space and place for people. So people can not only access resources such as technology, books and other literacy support materials, but also have spaces to gather. Libraries are really that space where you don’t have to have any membership to belong, you don’t have to pay a fee to enter, and everyone in the community is invited and can be in that space. It’s our job as the library to provide spaces that are as inclusive as possible.

Библиотека пополнила свою коллекцию новыми материалами на украинском языке! Библиотека уже несколько лет обладает коллекцией, насчитывающей более чем 400 экземпляров электронных книг и аудиокниг на украинском языке. Коллекция новых материалов даст возможность посетителям также пользоваться печатными изданиями.

Новая коллекция на украинском языке представлена более 350 печатными книгами для взрослых и детей в различных жанрах - художественном, научно-популярном и др. Коллекция будет пополняться каждый год.

Ukrainian selector Angela, holding two Ukrainian books in the library

«После многих лет работы над созданием этой коллекции в нашей библиотеке я очень рада возможности предложить материалы на украинском языке нашему украинскому сообществу», — говорит Анжела Тверетинова, которая работала над выбором и приобретением материалов на украинском языке.

Украинская коллекция станет частью “Коллекции на мировых языках” библиотеки. Вы можете найти материалы на украинском языке в Центральной библиотеке во взрослом и в детском отделах. Просмотрите списки книг для взрослых и детей на веб-сайте библиотеки, забронируйте, а затем закажите доставку в ближайшее для вас отделение для получения.

В сумме коллекция электронных и печатных материалов на украинском языке сейчас насчитывает более 700 наименований. Будем рады предоставить вам эти книги, которые вы можете начать бронировать прямо сейчас!

Photo of a young woman looking a holiday lights
Holidays. There are quite a few of them in the fall and winter months, and they’re supposed to be fun, right? Except for many people, they can be stressful. Some facets that can be issues for teens, tweens and pretty much anybody:

  • Your favorite holiday is problematic
  • Your family is a mess
  • You have no $$
  • You are without personal or family traditions
  • You don't believe in _______ (fill in thing that requires belief)
  • You have food allergies
  • You’re struggling with mental health

Here are some things to read (or watch) about those subjects.

Surviving and Thriving During the Holidays, Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center

“It’s Okay to Like Problematic Things”, URGE  

Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues, National Institute of Mental Health

Dealing with Grief During the Holidays (Doesn’t Mean Avoiding It), Teen Vogue 

Why Coming Out to my Family is Not on My Holiday To-Do List, Teen Vogue

The Agnostic’s Holiday (written by a teen for teens!)

A Teen’s Perspective on the Holidays with Food Allergies, Food Allergy Research and Education

Local teens create the All In My Head: Real Teens, Real Talk podcast, and there are two episodes about therapy: Therapy Part 1: The Teens features teens reflecting on their mental health journeys, and Therapy Part 2: The Therapist has an interview with a local mental health professional, plus tips for teens on talking to families about mental health and therapy.

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

This is a long post showing meal resources in Multnomah County (and beyond). We start with school districts and then move to community organizations we know of that are helping the community. Please let us know if you need further assistance.

Para ver esta información en español, haga clic en Recursos de alimentos para familias. To see this information in Spanish, click Recursos de alimentos para familias.

Multnomah County School Districts

Multnomah County school districts continue to provide meal assistance during the summer. The SUN Service System also has information on accessing food.

We have done our best to provide current information. Please confirm meal availability through the links shared below.

Centennial [updated 10/5/22]

The SUN food pantry at Parklane Elementary, 15811 SE Main St., Portland, is open Fridays from noon to 1:30 p.m. Stop by to access 3-5 days’ worth of FREE, fresh, and healthy food for your family. Please bring your own bags. No identification or income verification materials required. Anyone is welcomed to shop!

The food pantry at Patrick Lynch Elementary, 1546 SE 169th Pl., is open to the public on Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Food 4 Families will have food distribution on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month (except March 2023), during the school year, at Centennial High School, 3505 SE 182nd Ave, Gresham, 97030. 4:00pm to 5:00pm. Click here for distribution dates.

David Douglas [updated 9/8/22]

There are food pantries at the following David Douglas schools. Click here for a calendar that shows hours of operation and any closures.

  • Floyd Light Middle: 10800 SE Washington St. Mondays, 3:30 P.M to 4:30 p.m.
  • Cherry Park Elementary: 1930 SE 104th Ave. Mondays, 3:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
  • Earl Boyles Elementary: 10822 SE Bush St. Tuesdays, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 
  • Mill Park Elementary: 1900 SE 117th Ave. Tuesdays, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Gilbert Park Elementary: 13132 SE Ramona St. Wednesdays, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Menlo Park Elementary: 12900 NE Glisan St. Thursdays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • David Douglas High, South Campus: 1500 SE 130th Ave. Thursdays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Gilbert Heights Elementary: 12839 SE Holgate Blvd. Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. 


Gresham-Barlow [updated 9/8/22]

Click this link for meal resource information. There are food pantries at the following schools:

Other community food box information can be found at The Sunshine Division and Snowcap Community Charities

Parkrose [updated 10/5/22]

There are food pantries at the following schools (click the link for closures):


Portland [updated 10/5/22]

There are food pantries at the following schools. Please click on the link to check for closure information.

  • Lent K-8: 5105 SE 97th Ave. 1st and 3rd Mondays, 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
  • Harrison Park K-8: 2225 SE 87th Ave. 2nd and 4th Mondays, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Jefferson High: 5210 N Kerby Ave. Tuesdays except the last Tuesday of the month, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Lane Middle: 7200 SE 60th Ave. Tuesdays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Kelly Elementary: 9015 SE Rural St. Wednesdays, noon to 1:30 p.m.
  • Woodlawn K-5: 7200 NE 11th Ave. Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Rigler Elementary: 5401 NE Prescott St. 3rd Wednesday of the month, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • McDaniel High: 2735 NE 82nd Ave. Fridays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Sitton Elementary: 9930 N Smith St. 1st Friday of month, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Roosevelt High: 6941 N Central St. 2nd and 4th Fridays, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Bridger K-5: 7910 SE Market St. 3rd Friday of the month, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Reynolds [updated 11/9/22]

    Food pantries are located at the following schools. Click here for more information.
    • Glenfair Elementary: 15300 NE Glisan St. Tuesdays, noon to 1:30 p.m.
    • Reynolds High: 1698 SW Cherry Park Rd., Troutdale. Last Tuesday of the month, 2:30 p.m.
    • Alder Elementary: 17200 SE Alder St. Wednesdays 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    • Reynolds Middle: 1200 NE 201st Ave., Fairview. Fridays 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    • Wilkes Elementary: 17020 NE Wilkes Rd. 1st Friday of the month, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Davis Elementary: 19501 NE Davis St. 2nd Friday of the month, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    • H.B. Lee Middle: 1121 NE 172nd Ave. Call 503-255-5686 for information on accessing the food pantry
    • Walt Morey Middle: 2801 SW Lucas Ave., Troutdale. Call 503-810-9604 for information on accessing the food pantry

    Agencies, Community Organizations and Restaurants

    Information may change so please check their websites if a link is provided.

    C3 Pantry (NE): 6120 NE 57th Ave., Portland. Tuesdays, doors open at 11:30am, shopping is 12-1pm.

    Crossroads Food Bank (NE): 2505 NE 102nd Ave., Portland. Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon.

    Faithful Savior Lutheran Church (NE): 11100 NE Skidmore St., Portland. Food pantry Saturday, November 19th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

    Mainspring Food Pantry:  They suggest following them on social media to see locations.  Their current free food pantries are located at:
    • Dawson Park, 1 N Stanton St. Every 1st Tuesday from 10am to noon
    • Victory Outreach, 16022 SE Stark St. Every 3rd Tuesday from 10am to noon
    • East Portland Community Center, 740 SE 106th Ave. Every 2nd Wednesday from 9am to 11am
    Meals 4 Kids: serves qualified children and families within the City of Portland. Please visit their website to complete a request form.
    Northeast Emergency Food Program (NE): 4800 NE 72nd Ave., Portland. Open Thursday and Saturday, 10:30am to 1:30pm. Food boxes are prepared in advance for walk or drive up pick up.
    Parkrose United Methodist Church (NE): 11111 NE Knott St., Portland. Food pantry open 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    Portland Adventist Community Services (NE): 11020 NE Halsey St., Portland. Offering prepacked food boxes for pick up,  Monday – Friday 9am– 11am. They also provide a mobile food pantry service to some neighborhoods.
    One Hope Food Pantry (NE): Located at 5425 NE 27th Ave., Portland 97211. Open for drive-through and pickup Saturdays, 11 am - 1 pm. Food boxes are available each week and a hot meal is served on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays.
    Sunshine Division (SE):  free emergency food boxes to pick up or be delivered. They are located at 12436 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97233. For hours and more information, please visit or call 503.609.0285.
    William Temple House (NW): 2023 NW Hoyt St., Portland. Offering a walk-in pantry, Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-2 pm. A guide to the pantry can be found here.
    Lift Urban Portland (SW):  Located at 1838 SW Jefferson St., Portland 97201. Food pantry hours of operation are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. A random number lottery takes place 5 minutes before opening to determine your place in line.
    Portland Open Bible food pantry (SE):  Located at 3223 SE 92nd Ave., Portland 97266. Pick-up food boxes, information can be found here. Pantry times are Tuesdays 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Thursdays 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can also place an order online.
    For more information about access to food for families including the Oregon Food Bank, please call 211, or  text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877 for meals locations, or visit
    Self Enhancement Inc also has a list of community food resources that includes sites in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washingon and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Vancouver, WA area schools. Click the link and scroll down to food resources.

    Photo of a family reading a book together
    Did you know the best things you can do to help your child get ready to learn to read also happen to be some of the easiest, cheapest, and most fun things, too? They are! 

    From the time kids are born, their brains are learning all the things they need to know so eventually they can put letters together into words and words into sentences. Singing songs and hearing and talking about books and stories help kids learn vocabulary and the rhythm and sounds of a language. Smooshing play dough, cutting paper with scissors, and digging in sandboxes, dirt, or piles of rice help make fingers and hands strong to hold a crayon, pencil, or pen later on when they are learning to write. Making up rules to their own games or creating their own stories helps them with social skills and learning about beginnings, middles, and ends. 

    Reading, talking, singing, writing, and playing are all things you can do at home without expensive supplies; just sing and dance around to a favorite song or pick up a book, start reading, and ask questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” to get the early literacy learning started!

    If this sounds like the kind of fun learning your family loves, the library has a lot of resources to help!

    • Zoom Bags (not to be confused with the online meetings!) are easy-to-grab, age-based bags in Spanish and English filled with books and simple activity suggestions on kid-friendly topics. You can place those on hold and pick them up at your local library! 
    • Storytime staff have videos of books, songs, flannelboard stories, and activities that you can enjoy and sing-along with on the library YouTube. You can even favorite and make playlists of the ones your family really enjoys! 
    • There are booklists created on a variety of topics to help you find good read-aloud books, including these age-based lists, and you can always get suggestions just for you and your family with a quick email to My Librarian - Tasha, Amy, Kate, Sherita, and Diana all love picture books!

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

    Image of a family at home
    Multnomah County is home to an increasing number of young dual language learners, most of whom will grow up to become bilingual or multilingual members of our community.  Whether they are learning a second language from their families, or as part of a dual language immersion program, the library is here to help.    

    According to research, the language learning process begins before we are born, at around 33 weeks into pregnancy when the auditory system develops.  Also, the younger we are, the faster we can learn a new language.  That means the fastest language learners are babies!  For more about bilingual babies, check out Naja Ferjan Ramirez’ fascinating TED Talk “Creating Bilingual Minds.” 

    Families typically approach raising dual language learners in one of two ways:  

    • Some families prioritize one language at home– usually the parent or caregiver’s first language – while using the other language out in the community.  
    • Other families use two (or more) languages from the start and create opportunities for kids to experience both languages.  Playfully mixing languages is a part of becoming bilingual.  


    Families can support their kids’ language skills by finding enjoyable ways for them to interact with both languages via conversations, games, music, media, cultural events, and, of course, books!  For bilingual fun in English and Spanish, check out our new booklist for titles that include words and text both languages (below), or check out our Welcome to Reading and Bienvenidos a la Lectura titles to support beginning readers.     

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

    As a parent of three children with dyslexia, I have faced many of the challenges common to caregivers of a youth with dyslexia. 

    One of the biggest challenges I faced was navigating school special education to provide access to a free education appropriate to my students’ learning style. All students have a right to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) through Federal Law.  My kids were not learning how to read in the classroom, and the school didn’t seem to be doing anything. Oregon legislation has changed since my kids first started school, and schools are required to do more to address dyslexia. But is it enough? You may have to advocate for the youth in your life. 

    Things to consider...

    Mental health:

    • Research has shown that individuals with learning disabilities: 
      • may experience increased levels of anxiety.  
      • may be at greater risk for depression.  
      • experience higher levels of loneliness. 
      • may have a lower self-concept (self-esteem).  
      • are at greater risk for substance abuse. 
      • may be at greater risk for juvenile delinquency.
    • 20 percent of children with dyslexia also suffer from depression and another 20 percent suffer from an anxiety disorder.

    Incarceration Rates 

    • Percent of adults in custody with dyslexia: 48% 
    • Percent of adolescents with learning disabilities that will be arrested three to five years out of high school: 31%

    These facts are alarming. But there is good news … intervention helps! When modern, research based instruction is put into place in grades K-2, the reading disability rate drops.

    Knowing where to go or who to talk to get an assessment for dyslexia can be difficult. Many states have passed legislation to identify dyslexia in children early on.  If you aren’t in school or you feel that your school is missing something, check out our Uncovering Dyslexia blog post, which points to places in Multnomah County who will privately assess for dyslexia. 

    Resources for families affected by dyslexia 

    Looking for books to share with your family? Here are some fiction books for kids and teens featuring characters with dyslexia, and here are some nonfiction books on dyslexia written for kids. For more information on dyslexia, including some book recommendations for caregivers, please see our previous post on Uncovering Dyslexia.

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

    a red apple on top of three textbooks on a desk with grey background
    Parent-teacher conferences can make students and their grownups feel anxious, but it helps when you feel prepared. Like all good conversations, parent-teacher conferences are best when everyone involved talks and listens. This meeting is the time for you to find out about your student's progress in school and ask their teacher to show you information about their attendance, grades and test results. And to find out if your student is meeting school expectations and academic standards. This is also time for the teacher to find out how your student is at home. When you tell the teacher about your student's abilities, interests, needs, and dreams, the teacher can help them more. 

    Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your next parent-teacher conference.

    Main points for a successful meeting

    • Keep the emphasis on learning. 
    • Review samples of your student's work.
    • Listen carefully and take notes.
    • Ask questions.
    • Respect the conversation, stay calm.
    • Follow up if an action was decided upon.

    Remember, your student absolutely deserves to receive the attention, commitment and support they need to be successful in school. And the parent-teacher conference is one valuable way you can ensure this is happening.  

    Before the meeting

    • If you cannot attend the meeting on the day and time that it's scheduled, inform the teacher and request to reschedule.
    • Talk to your student about how they feel at school and how they think school is going.
    • Ask your student to share with you what they want to accomplish this school year.
    • If possible, set some learning goals together that you can share with their teacher.
    • Review homework, tests and grades (if you have them).
    • You will likely receive both positive feedback on your student's progress and feedback on areas that need improvement. Be prepared to ask questions about ways you and the teacher can help your student with some of their challenges.
    • If needed, request an interpreter beforehand; your child should not act as interpreter during the meeting.
    • Make a list of questions based on how your student is doing at school (see below for some sample questions).
    • If possible, send a note to the teacher with your questions ahead of time so they can prepare as well.

    During the meeting

    • Thank the teacher for meeting with you.    
    • Ask about your student's academic development. 
    • Ask for evaluations and samples of your student's work.
    • Ask for ideas on how to help your student at home.
    • Ask for explanations of anything you do not understand.
    • Ask the teacher how they will contribute to your student's success.
    • Respectfully discuss differences of opinion.
    • Pay attention to the teacher’s comments and take notes on what is said and planned.
    • In many cases we do not have the precise words to respond to the teacher’s comments in the moment. It is fine to "sleep on it" or get a second opinion before making decisions/agreements.
    • Focus your comments on academics. If your student engages in behaviors that are affecting their learning or achievement, ask the teacher for a different meeting to discuss.
    • Ask that the school notify you as soon as possible about any inappropriate behaviors. It is important to your student's future that you take action immediately.
    • Likewise, ask the teacher not to wait until the parent-teacher conference to tell you about your student's performance.

    After the meeting

    • Reflect on what topics were reviewed and what topics need a follow-up.
    • Make a plan to follow up on what you and the teacher agreed upon to help your student be successful in class.
    • Set a date to meet with the teacher again and keep in touch with the teacher.
    • Talk with your student.
    • Start working on an action plan or family agreement.
    • Learn more about the education system, the school curriculum, and the tests your student must take (the library can help!).

    Possible questions for parent-teacher conferences
    1. How is my student doing in your class? What are their grades?
    2. Is my student attending a special class, program or group? Why? What is the purpose of having my student there?
    3. Is my student on grade level for reading? What about math, science and writing? Do you have any recommendations for my student to improve their learning? (Note: If tutoring is mentioned, please check out our post on free tutoring resources.)
    4. What do you suggest we do if we are at home and my student gets “stuck” on homework?
    5. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my student needs to understand by the end of the year? 
    6. How do you measure academic progress?
    7. Has my student failed to return any homework or project?
    8. Does my student participate and express their opinions in class?
    9. Overall, do you have any concerns about my student's academic progress?
    10. What are the best school or district resources that we should consider using as a family to support our student in the classroom?
    11. What can I do to help you and my student?
    12. What is the best way for me to reach you?

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

    Para muchas personas, conocer a bibliotecarios fuera de la biblioteca es su primera experiencia con la Biblioteca del Condado de Multnomah. La biblioteca brinda servicios creados específicamente para las comunidades que hablan español, ruso, vietnamita y chino. El personal de la biblioteca dedicado a estos idiomas y culturas sale a la comunidad y se reúne con personas de la tercera edad, niños que están a punto de comenzar la escuela y familias en sus hogares.

    El equipo bilingüe de servicios en español colabora con escuelas y organizaciones sin fines de lucro para conectarse con los usuarios dentro y fuera de la biblioteca.

    En eventos comunitarios grandes, el personal bilingüe de la biblioteca pone una mesa con actividades, libros gratis y otros recursos. El personal ofrece juegos y comparte información sobre cómo la biblioteca puede ser un lugar divertido para toda la familia.

    Jeannine González, bibliotecaria juvenil bilingüe, ha coordinado eventos en escuelas, parques y albergues familiares.

    Librarian holding a book outside

    Jeannine dice que "el trabajo en los albergues familiares ha sido una oportunidad para interactuar y conectarse con familias que se encuentran en un momento de sus vidas en el que no pueden visitar una biblioteca o los servicios de la biblioteca pública son completamente nuevos para ellos como lo es el caso de muchas familias inmigrantes.”

    En cada visita, el personal de la biblioteca trae libros gratis y actividades. "Las actividades brindan una oportunidad para que las familias visiten nuestra mesa y aprendan sobre los servicios de la biblioteca. Cuando la biblioteca regala libros, eso también ayuda a las familias a coleccionar sus propios libros,” dice Jeannine.

    La bibliotecaria juvenil bilingüe Pati Morán disfruta conectarse con niños y sus padres en eventos comunitarios. A través del programa Transición Temprana al Kínder (Early Kindergarten Transition), Pati se conecta con los padres que tienen hijos que van a ingresar al kínder. El programa presenta recursos a los padres sobre cómo apoyar a sus niños mientras aprenden a leer.

    "A veces, en estos programas también conectamos a los padres con recursos para obtener vivienda y comida o con ayuda técnica como de la computadora,” dice Pati.

    Pati también ha conectado a los padres con Alonso Meléndez, el coordinador de inclusión y equidad digital bilingüe de la biblioteca. Alonso desarrolla clases de tecnología para adultos.

    "Las clases de computación que doy para adultos son una gran oportunidad para brindar apoyo de una manera cultural y en su propio idioma lo cual ayuda para que se sientan cómodos,” dice Alonso.

    Los estudiantes en las clases de Alonso aprenden muchas cosas sobre tecnología. Aprenden cómo encender una computadora y usar un teclado, enviar correos electrónicos, navegar por el Internet y usar Zoom.

    En colaboración con El Programa Hispano, la asistente bibliotecaria bilingüe, Laura Bradshaw, trabaja con personas de la tercera edad y se reúne con ellos a través de Zoom.

    "Las personas de la tercera edad son una de las poblaciones más vulnerables que presentan una variedad de necesidades, como el acceso a la atención médica, la seguridad económica y las barreras culturales y de idioma, entre otras. Nuestros ancianos experimentan aislamiento y reunirse como grupo en El Programa Hispano ayuda para que socialicen y se mantengan activos,” dice Laura.

    A través de este programa virtual, Laura ofrece cuentos, conversaciones y recursos para personas mayores.

    "Me encanta escuchar las historias personales de los ancianos, su sentido del humor es maravilloso y siempre están agradecidos,” dice Laura.

    ¡El equipo de español realiza entre diez o más eventos en la comunidad cada mes! Y no son el único grupo bilingüe que organiza este tipo de evento. Los equipos de la biblioteca también están presentes y brindan servicios en eventos de las comunidades china, vietnamita, rusa y más. Para conectarse con servicios bilingües en la Biblioteca del Condado de Multnomah, llame al 503.988.5123.

    Lucky Day titles are back at all library locations. Lucky Day books are highly anticipated books, often new releases or bestsellers, that you usually have to wait for because they are so popular. So if you’ve been waiting for a particular book, today might be your lucky day!

    Two staff members inside the library. One is holding two books, and the other is holding a Lucky Day sign.

    “There is a mystery to Lucky Day. You don't know what you're going to find, and it's serendipitous when you find what you hoped for. So if you saw a book on the bestseller list it might be here for you to check out,” says Kady Ferris, librarian. “The idea is that these are books you can’t find on the shelf right now — instead of waiting on hold for months, it’s your lucky day!”

    The library adds about 15 new titles to the Lucky Day collection each week, so you can expect to see new titles every time you visit. Come check it out. 

    New titles include: It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover, Finding Me by Viola Davis, An Immense World by Ed Yong, Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

    In 2021 the library formed an Indigenous team to provide better representation of Indigenous people in the library. The Indigenous team strives to offer multi-generational programs and better access to resources. They also create displays that value elders, youth, storytelling, tradition and activism.

    Six members of the Indigenous team inside a library standing with each other smiling

    Indigenous Outreach Specialist Eva Red Bird shares that  “The United States has over 570 federally recognized tribes and Portland has the ninth largest urban Native population in the country. Portland was once a federal relocation site and many Native people also moved here during WWII to work in what was once Vanport (like my family).”

    Team members represent tribes from different parts of the world. You can find Indigenous team members at Central Library and mid county library locations. 

    “I want the library to feel like a community center and a space where everyone is welcomed. Historically, libraries were places where people might have felt intimidated about coming to. I think it's a beautiful thing for our Native community to come into branches and see Indigenous staff who are approachable and to see materials on the shelves that reflect our cultures in a positive way,” shares Eva.

    The library’s Indigenous team spends time in library locations and out in the community at events.

    “We are prioritizing outreach efforts at Native community events to learn more about how the library can meet people's interests and needs,” shares Ekatrina Sotomayor, Indigenous Program Specialist with the library’s School Corps Division. If you see us at an event, please come talk to us about what is possible!” 

    To mark Native American Heritage Month this year, the team will highlight the strength of Native Nations. Displays will celebrate the legacies and ongoing contributions of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. 

    To learn more about the diverse history of American Indian and Alaskan Native Peoples, check out Tribal Nations & the United States: An Introduction from the National Congress of American Indians. American Indian and Alaska Native Culture Card also provides an overview of topics that are important to many Indigenous communities in the U.S., such as cultural customs, spirituality and regional differences.  

    Check out these books and resources to learn more about diverse Indigenous authors, cultures, history and lived experience: 

    During Native American Heritage Month, Libby and Overdrive will feature three select titles with no holds and unlimited checkouts:  

    Learn more on the library's website.

    While your library is closed for renovations, you can pick up your holds at another location. Holds at closed locations will be paused, so they won't fill for pick up but will keep moving up the waitlist. To change the pick-up location to an open library near you, go to your My MCL account or contact the library.

    Two staff members inside the library holding a sign that says "holds"

    How to change your hold pick-up location:

    • Log into your My MCL account.
    • In the top right corner, click the down arrow next to your user name.
    • Click on My Settings.
    • Under Account Preferences, click on Holds and Pick up Location.
    • Under First, click the down arrow in the box and choose another hold pick-up library.
    • Click on the Save Changes button.

    How to resume a hold:

    • Log into your My MCL account.
    • Click On Hold.
    • Click on the red Resume Hold button for each hold you want to activate.

    Holgate Library will be closed starting December 5, 2022, and Midland Library will be closed starting December 23, 2022.

    There is information about Holgate Library and Midland Library, and other building projects, on the library’s website.

    The library is adding a new selection of Ukrainian materials to its collection! The library has had a Ukrainian e-book and audiobook collection for several years, and there is a collection of over 400 e-materials. This new selection of Ukrainian materials expands the collection, giving patrons an opportunity to check out physical books too.

    The new collection includes over 350 physical books, and more will be added each year. Selections include adult and children’s books in fiction, nonfiction and other genres.

    Ukrainian selector Angela, holding two Ukrainian books in the library

    “After years of working towards building this collection in our library, I'm thrilled about the opportunity to offer Ukrainian language materials to our Ukrainian community,” says Angela Tveretinova, Ukrainian materials selector. 

    The Ukrainian collection will be part of the World Language Collection at the library. You can find the Ukrainian collection at Central Library in both the adult and children’s sections. Browse booklists for adult books and children’s books from the library website and have books delivered to your local library for pick up. 

    This combined e-collection and physical book collection means that there are more than 700 Ukrainian materials available at the library. The library is excited to share these books, so make sure to place your hold today!

    For many people, meeting library staff outside of a branch is their first experience with Multnomah County Library. Through community outreach events, library staff members significantly impact people who have never been to a library or cannot visit a library location. 

    The library provides services specifically created for Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Black and Indigenous communities. These services are provided by staff who identify as part of those communities. Dedicated staff from the library's six language and culture groups step outside library branches and meet with seniors in living facilities, children about to start school, soon-to-be first-time parents, and families in group homes, among many others. 

    The Spanish language team collaborates with schools, community partners and nonprofits to connect with patrons in and out of the library. 

    At large events, Spanish library staff will set up a table with activities, free books and resources. Staff enjoy offering games like Lotería and sharing information about how the library is a fun place for the whole family.

    Jeannine González, bilingual Spanish youth librarian

    Jeannine Gonzalez, bilingual Spanish youth librarian, has coordinated outreach events in schools, childcare centers, parks and family shelters. 

    Jeannine says that "the outreach work at family shelters has been an opportunity to interact and connect with families who are in a time in their lives where they can't make it into the library, or public library services are completely new to them as is the case with many immigrant families."

    Library staff bring books, giveaways and a craft activity each visit. "The activity portion provides a reason for families to hang out for a bit, and if they are interested in learning about library services, it's an excellent opportunity. Giving away books also helps families build their own little libraries and give ownership to children over something that is only theirs," says Jeannine.

    Bilingual Spanish Youth Librarian Pati Morán enjoys connecting with young children and their parents at smaller community events. Through the Early Kindergarten Transition (EKT) program, she connects with parents whose children will be entering kindergarten. The program encourages early literacy and presents resources to parents on how to best support children in learning how to read. 

    "Sometimes in these programs, we also connect parents with resources like housing, food and computer help," says Pati.

    Pati is also able to connect parents with Alonso Melendez, the library’s bilingual Spanish digital equity and inclusion coordinator. Alonso develops digital skills classes and runs the tech lending program. 

    "The computer classes I do with adult learners are a great opportunity to provide community members with the support in a culturally and linguistically responsive way that they can feel comfortable with," says Alonso.

    Students in Alonso's classes learn a wide range of computer skills, from basics like turning a computer on and typing, to sending emails, browsing the internet, and using Zoom. 

    In collaboration with El Programa Hispano, Bilingual Spanish Library Assistant Laura Bradshaw works with senior citizens and meets with them via Zoom.

    "Latino elders are one of the most vulnerable populations that present a variety of needs such as access to health care, economic security, and cultural and language barriers, among others. Our elders experience isolation, and gathering as a group at El Programa Hispano helps them to socialize and keep active," says Laura.

    Through this virtual program, Laura provides storytimes, conversations and resources for seniors. 

    "I love to hear the elders' personal stories, their sense of humor is wonderful, and they are always grateful," says Laura.

    The Spanish team does an average of ten or more outreach events each month at different community locations, and they are not the only language group to do this type of work. Library teams are also present and providing services at specific Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Black and Indigenous community events. For help connecting with specific language or cultural services at the library, call 503.988.5123. 

    Lecia Michelle is the author of The White Allies Handbook: 4 Weeks to Join the Racial Justice Fight for Black Women. She is a librarian by trade with experience at universities and public libraries. 

    Author Lecia Michelle

    Q: What is your background as an author?

    LM: This is my very first book. I have been a librarian for a really long time, so of course, I enjoy libraries, books and learning. I also started a Facebook group back in 2016 that focused on racial justice. We do training in the Facebook group for white women to be allies. Along with this, I started writing a ton of articles about racial justice. So all of that kind of prepared me to write this book, and what I noticed was missing was giving people steps to be an ally. So I decided to write a book that focuses on that part.

    Q: How did you develop the four-week program for becoming an ally?

    LM: There is too much to do in one week, so this makes it less overwhelming for people who are trying to work on being an ally. I wanted to make sure that each week we built on the previous week. I think this made it more manageable. I also wrote it in a way that keeps you constantly thinking about your own progress, where you are falling short, and also keeps you motivated. 

    Q: What are the key tools needed for a person to make a difference in the racial justice fight?

    LM: If you are a white person wanting to be effective in racial justice work, you must constantly be doing work on yourself. You have to be aware of how you're contributing to the problem or how you have contributed to the problem, and you have to be able to fix it. It’s very daunting to have to confront people who you consider friends or family, but you have to because those are the people that you have the most influence over. So those are the ones that you may need to have a conversation with about race.

    Q: If you could give people one piece of advice on how to make a difference in racial justice or what the next step is to take, what would it be?

    LM: Keep working toward the goal of antiracism work. So if you are getting tired, frustrated or overwhelmed, have an accountability partner you can talk to about that, but you have to keep going. I’ve met so many people who start out and then they get burnt out. Well, you know, it’s very privileged to say I’m tired. I don't want to do this anymore. But I don’t get to step away from Blackness. It is who I am. So I just say, understand that when you say you will do ally work and antiracism work, that my expectation is that it is a lifelong commitment and should be a lifelong commitment. 

    Q: Your program 7 Questions About Allyship You Were Afraid to Ask, is coming up on Thursday, October 20. What do you hope people get out of this experience?

    LM: I hope they are less afraid of either starting to be an ally or really stepping up their ally game. I hope I can make them feel more comfortable to be an ally and speak up and understand that part of your ally journey is going to be making mistakes and speaking up. 

    Check out author Lecia Michelle’s book recommendations!

    "Mara Bazua, Administradora de la Biblioteca de Holgate

    Cuando Mara Bazua llegó a los Estados Unidos de Guadalajara, México, ella no tenía una computadora. Fue a principios de la década de 2000, cuando los teléfonos celulares eran nuevos, las redes sociales recién estaban empezando y las aplicaciones de empleo acababan de pasar de formularios en papel a formularios en línea.

    Mara visitaba la biblioteca y usaba las computadoras públicas para revisar sus redes sociales como una forma de mantenerse conectada con su familia y amigos.

    “Durante mucho tiempo no pedí una tarjeta de la biblioteca porque no sabía que era gratis. Iba a la biblioteca y solo pedía un pase para usar la computadora,” dice Mara.

    “Me sentaba entre los estantes y miraba los libros y los ponía de vuelta en su lugar. Sabía exactamente dónde iba cada libro.”

    Durante una visita, una bibliotecaria le dijo a Mara que podía pedir prestados los libros para llevar a casa con una tarjeta de la biblioteca gratuita. Mara se sorprendió de que la biblioteca aquí fuera gratis, y con una gran sonrisa le dijo a la bibliotecaria que quería obtener una tarjeta de la biblioteca. Inmediatamente la bibliotecaria ayudó a Mara a obtener su tarjeta de la biblioteca y Mara estaba muy feliz de que ahora se podía llevar los libros a casa. 

    “En México existe ese concepto pero sólo puedes llevarte ciertos libros dependiendo de tu membresía. Estaba contando mi dinero. Pensé que era como pagar el alquiler. Estás alquilando un libro pero tienes que pagarlo. Fue increíble que me prestaran libros y no tuviera que pagar”, dice Mara.

    Mara conocía los estantes de la biblioteca como la palma de su mano y, a veces, incluso ayudaba a la gente en la biblioteca sin ella trabajar ahí. Los bibliotecarios notaron el interés de Mara en los libros y su amor por la biblioteca, así que un día le preguntaron: "¿Por qué no trabajas en la biblioteca?"

    Mara comenzó a trabajar en bibliotecas en 2009 y en 2011 visitó la Biblioteca de Holgate por primera vez. A principios de 2017, Mara comenzó a trabajar para la Biblioteca del Condado de Multnomah en la Biblioteca de North Portland. Después de siete meses, Mara comenzó a trabajar a tiempo completo en la Biblioteca de Gresham.

    “Siempre me gustó leer y sabía mucho sobre los libros. Me sentía como un pez en agua, trabajando en un empleo que me gusta, en el que soy bienvenida y donde se valora mi educación,” dice Mara.

    En el 2020, Mara se convirtió en la supervisora ​​de operaciones y de servicios juveniles (Youth Services Outreach and Operations Supervisor).

    “Es increíble y mágico como todo ha cambiado tan rápido, y todo comenzó simplemente yendo a la biblioteca, igual que la gente de nuestra comunidad, para sacar fotocopias, imprimir o usar las computadoras. Nunca imaginé cuántos servicios ofrece la biblioteca. Les daba mi identificación a las bibliotecarias para obtener un pase para usar las computadoras, y poco a poco el personal me hizo sentir bienvenida. Me pregunté —por qué son tan amables conmigo… pero luego aprendí que las bibliotecas son así con todas las personas. Quieren que las personas se sientan bienvenidas,” dice Mara.

    En 2021, Mara se convirtió en la Administradora de la Biblioteca de Holgate, donde supervisa las operaciones diarias de la biblioteca y los empleados.

    “Cada día es una nueva aventura y experiencia de aprendizaje. Aprendo mucho sobre la comunidad diversa de Holgate y todas las diferentes culturas,” dice Mara.

    Mara no vino a los Estados Unidos con amigos o una familia grande, pero la biblioteca ha sido un lugar donde ella puede conectarse con otros lectores y gente que habla español, y donde ella se ha sentido en comunidad.

    “Como inmigrante, estas conexiones te ayudan a no sentir tanta nostalgia. Te hace feliz hablar tu idioma, conocer a otras personas y ayudar a la gente.”

    Obtenga más información sobre la historia de la Biblioteca de Holgate y manténgase actualizado sobre el proyecto del Bono para la expansión y renovación de las bibliotecas del Condado de Multnomah. Ahora también puede ver cómo se verá la Biblioteca de Holgate después de las renovaciones.

    Over three million children in the United States experience a disability and almost all of them attend school.

    This wasn’t always true. Read Judith Heumann’s memoir of her life as a disability rights activist or watch the documentary Crip Camp to learn about the political and social fight for the rights of people with disabilities to receive an education, hold a job, and access the community.  Through these fights, the government formed the systems we use today to ensure that children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education.  

    Look out: acronyms ahead!  You may need a special education glossary like this one from is a fantastic resource for parents looking to understand the special education system, what you can expect, and how to advocate for your child.

    Birth to Kindergarten

    Some disabilities are apparent from birth, and some come to light in the first years of growth and development.  In Multnomah County, the Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MECP) provides early intervention services for children with disabilities between birth and kindergarten.  

    If you have a concern about how your child sees, hears, walks, talks, plays, or learns between birth and kindergarten, you can ask for a developmental evaluation.  Screen your child’s development using this online tool from the Oregon Screening Project out of the Center for Human Development at the University of Oregon.  Call 503-261-5535 to get in touch with MECP for early intervention services.  They will do several observations and interviews to assess your child.

    The results of the MECP evaluation may diagnose your child with a disability and qualify them for early intervention special education services.  Early intervention could include services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent education, and special education preschool.    You’ll meet with a team to develop an Individual and Family Support Plan (IFSP) that outlines which services your child and family will receive, how much, when, and where.  MECP services are free.  They are part of public school.

    School Age

    Children with disabilities in grades K-12 have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or 504 Plans.  Both outline what services and accommodations a child needs to be successful at school. 

    A child will qualify for an IEP if they have one of 13 disabilities defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IEPs have a more formal, standardized format and process for describing a child’s present levels of development, their annual goals, accommodations and modifications, service levels, and classroom placement.  

    A child qualifies for a 504 Plan if they have any disability that interferes with their ability to learn or navigate their school day.  There is no standard format, but the plan usually lists the services, accommodations, and supports the school will provide and the names of the people who will provide them.  

    Learn more about the differences between an IEP and 504 Plan and what you can expect from each.  

    If a child has an IFSP, you and your team will write an IEP or 504 Plan when they go to kindergarten.  

    Some disabilities may not become apparent until a child enters school: ADHD or dyslexia for example.  Parents or educators who notice a child struggling in school can request an educational evaluation.  That evaluation may lead to a diagnosis and an IEP or 504 plan.  Getting an evaluation and effective IEP after starting school has been known to require persistence. 

    When an IEP is in place, the child’s entire educational team meets annually to write the IEP for the coming year.  As a parent, you are an important part of that team.  The IEP includes a section for parent input where you can write about your child’s strengths, interests, and challenges to help the school know your child.  Your child is assessed every three years to determine that they still qualify for special education services.

    Graduation and beyond

    During the IEP meeting of your child’s sophomore year of high school, you’ll begin talking about diploma options and plans for after high school. 

    Getting help

    You don’t have to navigate this system alone!  Families and Communities Together (FACT Oregon) is a statewide group offering broad support for families experiencing disability. They offer help through parent education, connection to community, and a support line connecting you with other parents to help answer questions.  The IEP Toolkit and The IEP: What You Need to Know online training are two of their most popular resources.

    Special education can be complicated and confusing, and you might feel you need a second education about special education.  The many resources and support options help you understand and advocate for your child throughout their school life.

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

    The start of a new school year can be a stressful time as families transition to a new schedule and students adjust to new teachers and classmates. We want you to know that the library is here to help! We have pulled together some resources to assist you, and encourage you to contact us at for any further support.

    Educational Support

    Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Students & Families: Find resources on everything from school busing to graduation requirements

    Parent/teacher conferences: Prepare ahead of time for parent/teacher conferences to feel more comfortable and confident. 

    Who’s Who in Your Child’s School: This article from Reading Rockets introduces you to the various teachers, administrative staff and organizations you might encounter in your child’s school.

    Tutoring: We have listed a variety of free tutoring opportunities on our blog, including the library’s K-12 Virtual Tutoring service, providing 30-minute sessions with adult tutors once a week on Tuesdays.


    Meal resources for families: We try to keep this post up-to-date on meal resources in Multnomah County (and beyond).


    Mental Health Moment: Back-to-school anxiety: Going back to school has always made kids - and their caregivers! - anxious. We share some ideas to help smooth the transition. 

    Multnomah County Student Health Centers: Student Health Centers are like having a doctor’s office at school. They offer comprehensive primary and mental health care services to all Multnomah County youth ages 5-18. There are no out-of-pocket costs. 

    The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Mental Health and Well-being: The ODE is committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Oregon students and their families. 

    Talking with teens about mental health: As caregivers, we must listen to our teenagers and reach out if we see concerning signs. Here are some resources to help.

    What we can do to prevent bullying: Library staff offer resources, information and book recommendations about bullying and bullying prevention. 


    Affordable Connectivity Program: Provided by the FCC, this program helps households afford the broadband they need for school or work by providing a monthly discount.

    Library computers and internet access: The library offers free access to computers, chromebooks, printers and scanners within our library buildings. We also offer technology assistance in other ways. Please contact our Tech Help for more information or call us at 503.988.5123.

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

    How the library promotes literacy through music

    On Tuesday, Aug. 30, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners held a board briefing at which library representatives spoke about the critical connection between music and literacy, and the impact writing and music production has on youth in detention settings.

    County Commissioners and Books to Beats presenters linked arm in arm

    Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke introduced the Board to the work that Jody Redifer, a Multnomah County Library Black Cultural Library Advocate, and David Shine, a social studies and English teacher for the Multnomah Education Service District (MESD), have brought to the Donald E. Long School (DEL) for the past three years through the Books to Beats program. 

    Guest speakers also included Cherie Hernandez-Archuleta, a 17 year old who participated in the music program and volunteered in the Donald E. Long Detention Center's on-site library, as well as five-time Grammy Award winner and Portland native, Esperanza Spalding.

    Jody provides a variety of library services to youth who are incarcerated at the detention center. There, they have access to a collection of over 8,000 books, library volunteer programs, and music classes with a recording studio. 

    While he has selected some titles, Jody says he’s found that, “kids are the best selectors for their library.” He encourages them to read books out of their comfort zones and works with the teens to find culturally specific books and biographies written by people from marginalized communities.

    Many of the youth incarcerated at the Donald E. Long Detention Center interview for the popular library volunteer program. All get hired and through the position, find an invaluable opportunity to learn about books and literacy.

    “They help me curate the collection based on what they see and don’t see in the library,” says Jody.  

    However, both Jody’s and the youth’s favorite way to engage with the library is through music class, or “studio time.” Students come to class with notebooks full of lyrics, and a newfound determination to succeed in their school work and change their lives.

    One example of this is Cherie, who was previously detained at the detention center, and was among those who found refuge in studio time. She shared her story about how she grew up in the system and in and out of group homes. When Cherie discovered she could volunteer at the library, she took the opportunity.

    “I completely changed and it really wouldn't have been if it wasn't for Jody and the recording studio this time around,” says Cherie. 

    “I was reading about this poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, and how he learned how to read and write on his own in prison. And I just started writing poetry, and I fell in love. I loved that I could figure out how to rhyme and put my feelings on paper and make it all make sense to me — a different coping skill,” says Cherie. 

    Cherie worked with Jody to record her poems in the recording studio. 

    For many students at Donald E. Long School, the library’s music program is the first time they have an opportunity to learn how to write music, or even express their feelings through the written word. It’s also the first time they can learn how to use a recording studio, make beats and see it all come together. 

    “I have recorded youth talking about absolutely heartbreaking upbringings and the things that happened to them. I have also recorded youth talking about their greatest joys and very special people in their lives. In these sessions, I see a lot of common threads among the youth at DEL, and among youth in general,” says Jody.

    David Shine helps students develop their writing skills through his English classes. 

    “I use music in my curriculum every day… I use it to teach writing, figurative language, narratives, abstract thoughts, current events, history —  the list continues,” says David. “When we talk about literacy, it goes far beyond reading and writing. Literacy is really about the ability to communicate effectively through various channels.”

    “Poetry in its purest form is reliant on rhythm, form, structure, and pattern, as is music,” he continued. “Even spoken traditions and oral word poetry, they rely very heavily on rhythm, pattern and structure.”

    David then shared testimonies about students who he has worked with in this music program that because of it, recommitted to school, left the detention center in good standing and have continued on with their education - even one who graduated and is now a youth counselor. 

    “It’s really pretty amazing when you get a group of kids together who wouldn’t even even talk on the streets, or who may even be from rival gangs, and you see them working together and helping each other write and critique the music. There’s usually a lot of laughing and joking around that happens as well,” says Jody.

    Acclaimed musician Esperanza Spalding spoke of how music has influenced her life, sharing that it was through music and the library that she was able to fulfill her schooling and feel a sense of belonging. 

    “Music was the only place that I felt capable, where grownups were affirming my intelligence and my capacity,” says Esperanza. “(The library) was also the place where the books I needed to fulfill my home schooling requirements came from.”

    Books to Beats presenters talk at County Commission meeting

    She shared how one of the pivotal moments of her adolescence was coming to the Central Library for a jazz program where musicians welcomed any young person that would want to learn about instruments.

    “There is something about feeling invited in, as a young person, where you felt rejected by adults who are holding the keys to kind of this brain based future of academic or good writing, where you are just not welcome. I remembered this sensation of  ‘Oh, I'm welcomed in,’” says Esperanza.

    Esperanza also shared her experiences as a student, a musician and as a professor at Harvard University — specifically speaking to how music is a connecting thread between all of us, and she and others have rediscovered a love for learning through music. 

    The music program and partnership between the library and Donald E. Long School has inspired many young musicians to open up to learning and a new path in life. Jody sees a wide range of opportunities for youth to participate in similar programs, outside of detention settings in libraries.

    “You never know what talent you might find at Multnomah County Library…or somebody might not know what talent they have or what they are into…so if we can get recording spaces into libraries, I give my personal guarantee that they will be in constant use,” says Jody. 

    “I choose to do this work because I was justice-involved as a youth and young adult, and I know that everyone is a work in progress and everyone has the capacity to make different decisions and take different actions for better or worse. We, as humans, are never the same person as we were the day before.”

    Watch the board briefing.