MCL Blogs

Tracking down a historical stock price can be really easy... except when it’s really hard. It is a common question that we get at the library during tax season.

Here is an example of an easy stock price search.

1. A stock price is needed for a company for a particular date. (Let’s say Nike on February 13, 2009.)
2. You go to a website with historical stock information (like Yahoo! Finance or Wall St. Journal’s MarketWatch), search for the company name or ticker symbol, and voila! You have the closing price for that day. (Keep in mind that the closing price may or may not already be adjusted.)

But this only works if the company is still in business and hasn’t changed names, hasn’t been involved in a merger or acquisition, and is still trading on the stock exchange under the same ticker symbol. If any of those situations are not the case, the historical price that you need might not be available online.

Take, for example, Macy’s, which went public in 1922 under the name R.H. Macy, and which for many years traded under the symbol MZ. You won’t easily find historical stock prices from before 1992 for this company on Yahoo! Finance or in other online databases because in 1992 Macy’s merged with Federated Department Stores. (Thanks to New York Public Library for this example!)

Steps for trickier stock price searches.

So how does someone get a historical stock price from before 1992 for Macy’s, or for any other company whose historical prices aren’t online? There are two steps: first, researching the company history to find out any information about different names, ticker symbols, and listings on stock exchanges; and second, looking in a newspaper or newspaper database for the date that you need. The library can help you with both of these steps.

Step 1: Research the company history.

This step can require a little detective work. It is where you figure out the name and ticker symbol of the company or security at the time of the historical price and the stock exchange which it was trading on. Here are several sources that the library offers for learning about a company’s history (you may need to look at more than one of them in order to get a full sense of a company’s history):

  • Capital Changes Reporter: Lists capital changes (such as mergers and splits) for companies, by date, and includes information about stock exchanges and ticker symbols that the company traded under. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the CCH Intelliconnect database.
  • International Directory of Company Histories: Provides detailed corporate histories for many companies, both U.S. and international. There are currently 156 volumes. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the Gale Virtual Reference Library database (note: the most recent volumes are only available in print).
  • Mergent Intellect: Available through the library website. A database with lots of information about companies, including company histories.
  • Directory of Obsolete Securities: Lists and gives brief info for companies and banks whose original identities have been lost to events like changes in name, acquisitions, mergers, or bankruptcy. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • EDGAR: This is not a library resource, but it is freely available online through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and we can help you if you have trouble using it! It contains many documents that public companies are required to submit to the SEC, including company reports.

Step 2: Look up the historical price in a newspaper or other source from that historical date.

Once you have done some research about the company whose stock price you are looking for (and hopefully learned their name, ticker symbol, and the stock exchange they were traded on at the time of the historical price), you are ready to find the stock price in a newspaper or other source from that time. Note that you’ll want to look at a newspaper or publication for the day immediately after the date for which you need the price, since the price would not have been published until the next day’s paper. Here are two sources for this, both of which are available electronically through the library website:

  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009): Contains scans of articles from the New York Times, including stock prices. Choose “Advanced Search,” enter the date that you are looking for in the “Publication Date” section, and choose “Stock quote” from the “Document Type” menu. Leave the other search boxes blank, and do your search. You will retrieve a list of articles containing stock prices - to find the major stock exchanges, choose the articles with the most page numbers, then look in them for the company whose stock price you need.
  • The Historical Oregonian (1861-1987): This database will be most useful for stock prices of companies from the Pacific Northwest. Enter the date you are looking for in the “Date(s)” box, and then do a search in the "All Text" box for a word like NYSE or NASDAQ which would appear on the page with stock prices.

In addition to these electronic databases for the New York Times and the Oregonian, the library also has a number of useful resources available in print and on microfilm at Central Library:

So there you have the basic steps for finding historical stock prices. It can indeed be a little bit of a research project sometimes. But don’t despair! Librarians are happy to talk to you about your particular stock price need, and to help you find the information you are looking for. Just get in touch with us using one of the methods on our Contact a librarian webpage. Happy stock price searching!

Whether you are researching Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, or any country in between, these sources have the facts you need!

Photo of a globe

Culturegrams is an encyclopedia in which you can find out about the history of your country, as well the daily lives of its citizens. There are great printable maps and images of the country’s flag and lots of photos. You can even listen to the country’s national anthem or sample recipes! If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedia with your library card and PIN. You’ll want to choose the Kids Edition.

At National Geographic's Explore the World, click on a country on the map. You can find information about the geography, people, history, and nature.

At Global Trek, you can learn more about a country and its residents—sometimes from interviews with other students! You can even keep a travel journal.

Another great place to learn about the people who live in other countries is Dollar Street. The creators of this site collected 30,000 photos from families in 50 countries, so you can see how they work, cook, sleep, and play.

Looking for a picture of a county’s flag? Just click on the small image at the CIA World Factbook to get a larger printable version of the flag, as well as information about what all its symbols mean.

If you still need help with your research, contact a librarian for more assistance. Bon voyage! 

Need to know the capital of New Jersey? The senators from Hawaii? Or famous people from Oregon? Dig into the sites below to find the answers to those questions and more!

United States map

 

If you just need the basic facts about a state, visit State Facts for Students. Here you can find state population, capitals, area, and symbols. 

To dig a little deeper, go to U.S. States from National Geographic Kids, which also lists geography, wildlife, history, and other fascinating facts for each state. 

Fact Monster's The Fifty States is similar; it also includes short sections on the economy and tourist attractions of each state. Don't miss the links on the first page of this site, which allow you to compare states in a variety of ways and play games or take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Want to find the official website for each state? Find a list of those at the State Government page of USA.gov. 

To find articles about a state's history, visit Explore the States. Here you can also find stories about local events and customs.

If you are trying to learn the names of all 50 states, try watching Fifty States That Rhyme, which uses them in a song. Or, if you need to learn the state capitals, watch the States and Capitals Song video.

Finally, if you need a map of a state, visit the National Atlas's list of state maps. You can find several different types of maps for each state; you can either view them online or download a map as a PDF.

Didn't find what you need here? Contact a librarian if you need more help with your research. 

 

 

 

Do you need to know the national holidays of Sri Lanka? Find the agricultural products of Ecuador? Or maybe print an image of the Nigerian flag? You’ve come to the right place!

Culturegrams is an encyclopedia in which you can find out about the history and geography of a country, as well the daily lives of its citizens. There are great printable maps and images of the country’s flag and lots of photos. You can even listen to the country’s national anthem or sample recipes! If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedias with your library card and PIN. 

Image of world map
The CIA World Factbook has a wealth of information about the geography, people government and economy of countries, most of it in a table format. You can also visit their Flags of the World section to get a printable version of a country’s flag and information about what all its symbols mean.

At Background Notes from the U.S. State Department, you’ll find maps and flags for each country, as well as a history of its relations with the U.S. and links to in-depth country studies from Library of Congress.

The BBC has a page of Country Profiles, which are a good source for current events, as well as fast facts and timelines. And don’t miss National Geographic’s Destinationsa great source for travel articles, maps and colorful photos.

Another great place to learn about the people who live in other countries is Dollar Street. The creators of this site collected 30,000 photos from families in 50 countries, so you can see how they work, cook, sleep, and play.

Not finding what you need here? Contact a librarian for more help.

Five Themes of Geography

When you are learning about country, city or other place, ask yourself questions about the five themes of geography:

Location

  • Where is it? Geographers refer to absolute locations (like a street address or latitude/longitude coordinates) and relative locations, which show the relationships between places (for example, Vancouver, WA is just north of Portland, OR).
  • How far away is it from your home? This Travel Distance Calculator will help you find out.

Place

  • Are there physical features like mountains, rivers or deserts? What is the climate like? The World Book encyclopedia includes an atlas with specialized maps, including terrain, farmland, and climate data. Choose the Student edition, and then click on Maps and Atlas. If you aren’t at the Multnomah County Library, you’ll need to log in to the encyclopedia with your library card number and password.
  • What are the traditions of the people who live there? Culturegrams is a great resource to learn more about the customs and lifestyles of people around the world. You’ll need your library card number and password to use it.

Human-Environment Interactions

  • How do people use the land? National Geographic’s Map Maker Interactive lets you create a map of your own. Choose to include features like land cover (crops) or human impact on the environment.
  • Where do most people live and why? This video will help you understand why certain areas are more commonly settled.

Movement

Photo of train

  • How do people travel to the country? How do they get around when they are there? When researching a country in the World Factbook, find the transportation section, which highlights roads, airports and railways.
  • Does the country export goods to other places? What goods does it import? At the Atlas of Economic Complexity, you can type in questions such as “What did Canada export in 2013?”
  • Why might people come to or leave a place? This list of human migrations throughout history will help you understand why such movements occur.

Regions

  • How is the country similar to its neighbors (language, traditions, etc.)? At NationMaster, you can compare statistics on two countries or even two regions.
  • Are there political divisions (states, provinces, etc.)? Find this information in the World Factbook in the government section.

Not finding what you need here? Contact a librarian for more help.

Citizen scientists at work [Photo courtesy of Dennis Ward, Project BudBurst]
Have you ever wished you could spend a little bit of time working as a scientist?  I have good news: you can do it, without having to quit anything you already do in your daily life, and without having to get an advanced degree. Scientists all over the world are enlisting regular folks to help them with big projects -- this kind of scientist-support volunteering is called citizen science.

There are so many different citizen science projects, there’s sure to be one that suits you!  No matter your age, your occupation or vocation, or your level of education, there is a citizen science project you can help with.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The annual Christmas Bird Count.  Join a group of Portlanders to participate in the local arm of a nationwide bird census.  This year, local bird-counters will be attempting to count every single bird within a 15-mile radius around Portland, on January 2, 2016.

Great Backyard Bird Count.  If you miss this year's Christmas Bird Count, don't worry, citizen ortnithologists are needed for the Great Backyard Bird Count every February.  Spend a little time in your backyard (or anywhere), and count the number and type of birds you see.  This year’s count takes place February 12-15, 2016.

Be a Martian.  NASA is looking for Earthling volunteers to help improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet.

Portland Urban Coyote Project.  When you see a coyote, report it to help scientists at the Portland Audubon Society and the Geography Department at Portland State University who are studying how coyotes have adapted to urban environments.

Project Budburst.  Observe and record when plants produce leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit, to help the National Ecological Observatory Network understand more about how plants respond to climate changes.

National Map Corps.  Edit information about buildings and other data features for the United States Geological Survey’s National Map -- all in the form of “challenges” in which editors are asked to map, edit, and peer-review new additions to the map.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network.  Measure and map rain, snow and other precipitation, together with volunteers across the U.S. and Canada.

 

Do you want to see even more citizen science projects you might help out with?  Here are some great places to look for projects that need volunteers:

 


Remember, you can talk to a librarian about your science questions (or any questions!) whenever you’re at the library in person -- just ask the librarian on duty.  Or, call or email a librarian to get personalized help with via email, text, phone or chat.


 

Portland City Archives: A2001-004.94 : 219 N Cherry St
Nearly every house history researcher wants to see old photographs or drawings of their house.  Who wouldn't, right?  Unfortunately for Portland-area house history buffs, this can be one of the hardest bits of house history ephemera to track down!  But don't despair; there are surviving photographs of some houses and it is possible (sometimes) to find them. 

The challenge is that there has never been a comprehensive house-portrait project in Portland -- or any other city or town in our area -- so there is no treasure trove of photos of local homes that you can dig through.  You might wonder, if there's no big archive of house pictures, where should you start?  There are a few possibilities:

First, ask your neighbors or the people in your neighborhood association.  People who live on your street may have their own old photographs of family events, parties, or other occasions which include your house in the background.  And a bonus -- when you find that long-time resident and photo-saver, they may share stories about past residents of your house or other interesting neighborhood lore!

Houses sometimes appear in the background of photographs taken to record activity on the street.  The city of Portland has a lot of photographs of infrastructure and maintenance work they've done over the years. 

Many of these images are carefully preserved in the Portland City Archives collection. These images usually show city workers doing something in the neighborhood (such as repairing the sewer like in the photo at left) or were taken in connection with city planning work, like a street scene before the installation of a new traffic light.  You can search for records (including photographs) using the Archives' catalog, Efiles, and some have been published on the archives's Vintage Portland blog -- see below for more about that! But, most photographs in the collection aren't available online.  To look at photographs in person, you'll need to visit the Archives reading room downtown (1800 SW 6th Ave., Suite 550; 503.865.4100).  Be sure to read the Archives' policies and tips for researchers before you visit!

The Oregon Historical Society library is another treasure trove for house history researchers.  Their collection includes more than 2.5 million photographs and negatives of people, communities, commerce, and life in the Pacific Northwest -- the photograph collection doesn't have a section devoted to house portraits, but you may find photographs of your street, or photographs indexed under the name of a former owner of the house.  Some of the library's photographs have been digitized and can be viewed in the library's catalog, but most are available only by visiting in person (1200 SW Park Ave.; 503.222.1741).   Again, be sure to read the library's policies, hours and tips for researchers before you visit!  (And a note: Multnomah County residents can use the Oregon Historical Society library for free if they show picture i.d.; most others must pay an admission fee.)

Another potential source for house portraits and street scenes is the Vintage Portland blog, run by the Portland City Archives.  Every weekday the site features a different historical photograph (or sometimes a map or drawing) of Portland.  The posts are sorted into categories for neighborhoods, street names, time periods, and topics.  For example, if you are curious about the development of your neighborhood as well as the history of your house, you might want to look at the blog's many aerial photographs; or you might try looking at a neighborhood street like Foster Rd., Powell Blvd., or 82nd Ave.

If the house you're researching happens to be in the Albina district, you may find a photograph of it in The History of Albina, by Roy E. Roos.  The book begins with a brief a history of the district (and former city), but it also includes brief architectural history for a selection of houses and other buildings that are representative of different eras in Albina's development.  Many of the brief house histories are illustrated with contemporary photographs or have no pictures, but some have historic photographs or drawings.

Have fun hunting for a historic photo of your house!

 

  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) states that an average of 710,000 people have become new U.S. citizens each year since 2010. Even with that remarkable figure, there are still 22.1 million immigrants in the U.S. that are not naturalized citizens. These 22.1 million include permanent residents legally in the U.S., unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents with temporary visas. In Oregon, less than 40% of the  more than 390,000 immigrants are naturalized citizens. Why is that? While no single answer applies to everyone, for many the process can be overwhelming and complicated. Multnomah County Library can help with language learning opportunities and citizenship classes. Staff can also direct you to resources that help immigrants become naturalized citizens.   

Local Resources

There are many organizations throughout the Portland metro area that offer resources to aid those seeking citizenship:

Legal Assistance
Dohes Elias Haney's naturalization certificate, 1917

Those seeking citizenship often require legal assistance, especially with the USCIS N-400 form. Most citizenship classes do not focus on paperwork requirements but there are organizations that can provide that type of help. There may be a fee for legal services:

USCIS Citizenship Resources

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service provides many resources online for those seeking to become naturalized American citizens.

If you still have questions about becoming a citizen contact a librarian to get personalized assistance. We're always happy to help!

 

Pyramid photo
Ancient Egypt is fascinating! You can learn about how the pyramids were built (and about the treasures found inside), how mummies were made, and how to write in hieroglyphics. The ancient Egyptians also made numerous advances in science and architecture.

Did you know that the Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over 3000 years? Learn more about the pharaohs.

Here are four sites which have information on many topics related to Ancient Egypt:

The British Museum has an extensive website that covers subjects such as geography, gods and goddesses, trades, and Egyptian life.  You can read the stories to find out more or participate in challenge activities.

Image of sarcophagus

Click on a map of ancient Egypt to find out about topics like farming, temples, and warriors at the DK Find Out website.

The History Channel has several videos to watch, as well as a written history of ancient Egypt.

The Children’s University of Manchester Ancient Egypt site is great for younger kids and includes online activities.

Enjoy your exploration of Ancient Egypt, and don’t forget to contact a librarian if you need more help.

Statue of Roman god
Greek and Roman mythology share many of the same gods and goddesses in their stories, but most often the names are different. It can be difficult to keep straight who is who when referring to them with either their Greek or Roman name. Is it Zeus or Jupiter? Is it Hera or Juno? Is Aphrodite or Venus? Encyclopedia Mythica  is a great resource for anything Greek or Roman mythology. Here is a great list of major Greek deities and their Roman counterparts. When we are reading Percy Jackson we are working with the Greek names, but our planets are named for the Roman Gods and Goddesses.

When studying Greek and Roman mythology consider using some of the library’s databases. Using the “Reference Center” in World Book Encyclopedia can expand your study on the subject. Search for “Greek and Roman divinities,’ and you will get another chart matching up Greek and Roman counterparts with links to learn more about the individual deities. Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) is another online resource that will lead you to a variety of online e-books full of mythological information.

If you are trying to keep track of who is related to who in the Pantheon (all the gods of a people or religion collectively), Greek Mythological Link has great genealogy charts as well as maps. History for Kids also has brief descriptions on the different gods as well as book suggestions for further reading, many that you will find here at the library. Check out some of our reading suggestions too.

Artist's drawing of D.B. Cooper.
It was a hot day in Central Library. The air conditioner was busted, the doors were propped wide open, and, thanks to the latest forest fire out on the eastside, the air was about as smoky as the Virginia Cafe circa 1975. I thought about lighting up myself since it couldn’t make things much worse in here, but then I remembered that I quit smoking 20 years ago. Something bad was going to happen, I could feel it.

Mercifully, this is not the actual condition in the library at the moment! Everything is just fine. But if this scene appeals to you for some reason, maybe you should be reading more Portland crime fiction.

Did I leave something important off this list? Let me know!

Take a bite of an apple. Chew, swallow, and then presto, it comes out the other end! But how does it happen? How do our bodies turn an apple into fuel that helps us play sports, breathe, walk, and talk? The digestive system is the body system responsible for this process. The basic process is well understood by scientists but new research is coming out all the time changing the way we understand the inner workings of our guts.

Image of the organs of the digestive system
There are many resources on the Internet and through the library that can help you learn about the digestive system. Visit KidsHealth or TeensHealth to find information in English and Spanish for kids and teens including videos, articles, and puzzles to help you learn all about the digestive system and other health topics. Ask a Biologist lets you ask a real biologist science related questions. Ask a Biologist also has lots of great information about microbes and the role they play in our digestive systems.

The Multnomah County Library has science databases where you can search for topics, view videos and print pictures to help with school reports. Today's Science is a database that can help you answer questions like, "What is the latest research on the roll of bacteria in our guts?" or to ask more general questions such as, "how does the digestive system work?" For help using Today's Science, the library provides this useful handout.  If you need to look up basic facts about the digestive system, but can't use Wikipedia, try using World Book, an online encyclopedia. Here you will find information for elementary, middle and high schoolers, great for writing school reports.

When you use the library databases outside of the library, you will need to log in with a library card. Try using key words like: "Digestive System," and "Body Systems." Topics that might include the Digestive System are "Human Anatomy & Physiology," "Nutrition," and "Health."

Check out this video from KidsHealth about the Digestive System from KidsHealth:

How the Digestive System Works



If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have more questions about any of this, Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.
 

Christina Hammett and Troutdale: A Perfect Match

by Donna Childs

volunteer Christina Hammett

In the best relationships, each believes they got the better deal. That is clearly the case with Christina Hammett and Troutdale Library. Christina thinks the staff and patrons at Troutdale are terrific, and library staff has the highest praise for her artistic know-how, her shining attitude, and her unflagging readiness to help. 

Thanks to fond memories of participating in Summer Reading as a child, Christina began at Troutdale as a Summer Reading volunteer; now she is also a Branch Assistant and a Youth Program Assistant. She has really shone with youth programming, designing whimsically creative, interactive storyboards—often a couple a month--for the youth librarian to use in her storytime presentations. Because she is such a talented artist, the library has also asked her to make displays for other activities: Summer Reading, Lucky Day books, and the Lego group, for example. 

Christina studied journalism at Mount Hood Community College, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper; she has also been a sports reporter and photographer at the Gresham Outlook. However, with the decline in print journalism, plus the tight job market for new grads, Christina is now taking stock and trying to figure out what to do, whether to go back to school and what to study. Meanwhile she has a retail job and the Troutdale Library where she feels useful and connected to her community. She loves the people at the library, working with books, and interacting with people who read and talk about books. 

Every Wednesday, Christina goes through her 10-15 page list of holds requests. Like many volunteers, she finds this task a terrific way to discover new books she might not otherwise have known about. 

Christina may be unsure of her future path at the moment, but her intelligence, poise, creativity, and cheerful enthusiasm will make her an asset anywhere. Meanwhile, Troutdale benefits from her many talents.


A Few Facts About Christina

Home library: Troutdale Library

Currently reading: The works of Agatha Christie and A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

Most influential book: The Diary of Anne Frank

Favorite book from childhood: The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

A book that made you laugh or cry: The Green Mile by Stephen King

Favorite section of the library: Fiction and mystery

E-reader or paper? Paper

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: A Song of Ice and Fire (series) by George Martin and anything by Agatha Christie

Favorite place to read: My bed

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

Is your data safe? I don’t mean from hackers, I mean from catastrophic computer failures. We all hope it won’t happen to us, but do you really want to lose your music collection, digital photos or that paper you’ve been working on for 2 weeks? There are a number of ways to back up important data, and it’s even recommended that you use more than one of them, just to be safe.

The first level of data protection is often a local backup - usually to an external hard drive or a flash drive. If you own a business, experts recommend keeping a backup drive off-site so that you’re also protected should something happen not just to your computer, but to your business itself.

USB flash drive

One way to get your data to an external backup is to manually copy your important files to another hard drive or flash drive. This isn’t necessarily the easiest way, however, and it requires that you remember to do it! There are also many software programs that will do it for you. On Apple computers, the more recent operating systems come with Time Machine. Windows 7 machines have Backup and Restore built in, and Windows 8 uses File History. You can also do a search for ‘best backup software’ and you’ll find guides and reviews of both free and paid software options.

A second way to back up your data is to use online, or cloud solutions. While not strictly backup tools, cloud-based file storage services provide a small amount of online storage space for free (generally 2-15 GB, depending on the service) and additional space for a monthly or yearly fee. Some cloud storage services come with your email, like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Apple iCloud, and also feature access to online office software. Some services, such as Dropbox.com and Box.com, provide software that you can install to automatically sync one or more folders between your computer and the online storage, and your files will also be accessible online through their website. As an additional bonus, most of these services are also accessible from smartphones and tablets, which means you don’t have those photos and files taking up precious storage room on your handheld device.

cloud icon
Which cloud solution you choose depends on how much room you need, or if you need advanced features. There are so many options, it’s worth it to do some comparison shopping before picking one. You can search for recommendations, reviews, or lists of the best free and premium services. For example, I searched for ‘best cloud backup storage’ and found ‘The Best Cloud Storage Services for 2015’ from PC Magazine and ‘36 Online Backup Services Reviewed’ from about.com’s Tech page. One warning, though - it’s recommended that you do not save sensitive data to online storage, unless you encrypt the file first. (Some services offer encryption among their options as well.)

I hope this inspires you to make regular backups, if you don’t already, or gives you some ideas for more options try even if you do. Comment below if you know of some great services or software to recommend!

The first page of The Hound of the Baskervilles, from The Strand Magazine
Mmm... cereal. For the longest time I dreamed of opening a food cart which would serve nothing but different variations on breakfast cereal - and this was before food carts were such a très-Portland thing. But wait a second! I’m getting off track. This blog post isn’t about cereals, it’s about another 19th century innovation: serialized novels, stories told in installments.

Serials are big right now. Television epics like Game of Thrones or Mad Men are all serialized stories, with each episode leaving you hungry for the next. There’s the true-crime podcast titled simply (and rather unimaginatively, in my opinion) Serial. And if you want to get creative, even something like professional sports could be considered a serial: you follow the story of the Portland Trailblazers through regularly occurring games, newspaper columns, and blog posts, as the story of the season unfolds in all its promise and anticlimactic tragedy.

Serials used to be a big deal in written fiction, too. The dead white guy that everyone always talks about is Charles Dickens, but there were lots of other novelists whose works appeared monthly in literary magazines of the day: Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Wilkie Collins, and even Oregon’s own Abigail Scott Duniway, to name but a few. More recently, writers like Michael Chabon and Laura Lippman have released serialized stories in the New York Times Magazine.

If you want to really experience it 19th-century style, take a look at the Victorian Reading Project from Stanford University: you can download PDF scans of story installments from Dickens and Doyle exactly as they appeared in the magazines of the time. Try reading one installment every week, and see if you can resist the temptation to binge-read the entire story.

I’ve made a reading list of novels, both old and new, which started life as installments. I invite you to sit down, pour yourself a big bowl of serial, and dig in. One chapter at a time.

laptop
At your Multnomah County Libraries, you can find a wide array of free computer classes - from computer labs where you can get extra assistance to e-book and e-reader classes to office productivity skills, like spreadsheets and word processing.  Here are some other great options:

Three dozen Head Start preschoolers loudly proclaim in unison, “1-2-3, we are awesome!”

Markham Head Start self portraits

The refrain was a fitting recognition of the hard work of these young artists, who contributed Andy Warhol-style self portraits to an art show at Capitol Hill Library in Southwest Portland. On May 5 the children gathered with families, teachers and supporters to show off their colorful art.

“When I first saw these self portraits, I was blown away,” said Neighborhood House Executive Director Rick Nitti. “They create a reflection of self and an expression of self esteem. This partnership with the library is fantastic.”

Markham Head Start self portraits
The event was the brainchild of teachers at Neighborhood House’s Markham Head Start Classroom in partnership with Capitol Hill Library staff to engage children and families with the library as preparations for summer begin.

After proudly showcasing their work, the students joined Capitol Hill’s youth librarian, Natasha Forrester, for an interactive reading of Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and sang a song about friendship with lyrics in English, Spanish, Somali and Swahili.

Each month, library staff (including Natasha or Suad Mohamed, a Somali-speaking library assistant) visit Markham Head Start classrooms to delight children with stories, songs and crafts. It’s part of Multnomah County Library’s mission to support and serve educators, children and families beyond the walls of the library. Many of the Head Start program’s students are Somali immigrants, and Capitol Hill Library is the first in Multnomah County to feature a Somali-speaking staff member. Suad leads the Somali Family Time program at Capitol Hill and she also selects books in Somali for Central, Midland and Rockwood libraries.

The partnership, one of many between the library and nonprofit agencies across Multnomah County, serves multiple purposes. It helps new immigrants become familiar with the services of the library in their native language and become comfortable in a setting that can help contribute to their success throughout their education and later in life.

“This is special,” said Head Start Program Director Nancy Perin. “It’s such a diverse, multicultural group and bringing them all together at the library, it’s special.”
The exhibition is expected to last through May 15.

Markham Head Start self portraits

Photograph of donation boxes, by Flickr user Joe Schueller.
Is simplifying and spring cleaning in full swing at your house? Have you accumulated quite a collection of unnecessary belongings that need to go? In my house the answer to both is, yes! Luckily there are many resources to help you find where to donate or recycle these items.

Oregon Metro is my go to site for information on where to donate, recycle, or as a last resort dispose of as garbage. They have a database where you enter what you want to get rid of and it finds places to either donate, recycle, or dispose of it. There is also information on where to bring hazardous wastes, neighborhood collection programs, and tips on reducing waste in the first place.

211 Info is a clearinghouse of resources. Simply put in your zip code and "donation" in the search bar and it brings up a list of organizations that accept items ranging from glasses to camping gear. If you like more of a list format this is the website for you.

If you have questions about recycling check out Earth911. They have a recycling guide as well as a search feature to find local places to recycle. 

What about that growing collection of old electronics? Free Geek accepts donations of computers, phones, and other electronics. If able to be reused your device will be refurbished and donated back to the community, how cool is that! If it can't be reused your device can be recycled through Oregon E-Cycles. If you aren't able to make it to Free Geek, Oregon E-Cycles has many other collection sites. 

If you aren't able to go to donation sites the good news is there organizations that can come to you. The Vietnam Veterans of America and The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas both offer pick up services.

Finally here are my my personal favorites:

  • SCRAP accepts a wide range of art and office supplies. Just be careful not to leave with more than you donated!
  • The Rebuilding Center accepts building supplies and it's a fun place to wander around for hours. They also offer a pick up service.

What library blog would be complete without mentioning that the Friends of the Multnomah County Library can accept your book and DVD donations? If you have a small donation your local library will be happy to accept it.


Do you have questions about recycling, donating your unwanted posessions to local organizations, or anything else?  Librarians love questions, so please call, email, or text us -- or just ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library in person.  We'd be happy to help you get more information, or even just help you get your curiosity satisifed.


 

heading from an early page of the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths

Have you ever had trouble finding an obituary for a Portland ancestor who died around the turn of the last century?  You’re not alone!

In the 19th century and even in the early 20th, newspapers often put obituaries in with the regular news, making them hard to find.  This was also before it was common for Portland newspapers to include a "Daily city statistics" section listing the names of people who had died in the city recently.  So it’s no wonder that it can be a big challenge to find Portland obituaries from before about 1910.  

But I have good news for you: if your ancestor was a Portlander, and if they died within city limits 1881-1917, their death was probably recorded in the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.

What is the Ledger Index?

The Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is a long list of people who died in the city of Portland 1881-1917.  It’s quite a bit more robust than most modern death indexes -- in addition to the name and death date of each person included, it includes details like the address or name of the place where the person died, their cause of death, and (in some years) the name of the cemetery where they were buried.  This additional information makes the Ledger Index a pretty decent substitute for obituaries.  

Here’s what the Ledger Index actually looks like.  The library has a microfilmed copy, which is why it’s white text on a black background.

Finding your ancestor

The Ledger Index is arranged by date of death -- because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Chronologic Index.”  If you know the date your ancestor died, simply go to that date and hopefully you’ll find them!

If you don’t know your ancestor’s date of death, try looking for their name in the Oregon State Archives’ Oregon Historical Records Index.  This index includes most records from the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.  If your ancestor is listed, their date of death should lead you to the correct page of the Ledger Index.

Racial classification in the Ledger Index

There are some challenges to using the Ledger Index.  The information in the Index is a primary source, created a full century ago, and it is a government record reflecting the mainstream standards and ideas of its time.  There is no context or commentary to interpret the index for you -- you will have to provide your own analysis.  

One thing these records show us is the unexamined racism of the past.  The Ledger Index states the race of each person listed, often using terms that are decidedly not used in polite speech today: “Chinese,” “Colored,” “Half-Breed,” “Mulatto,” “White,” and possibly others.  Some of these terms appear on detail from January 1882 at left.  In later years, single-letter abbreviations are used.  There is no key showing what the abbreviations meant, but I’ve guessed that “C” stands for “colored” (meaning Black or African-American); “W” for “white;” and “Y” for “yellow” (meaning Asian or Asian-American).   

Causes of death in the Ledger Index

This detail from a January 1882 Ledger Index page shows some familiar-sounding causes of death: “still born,” "consumption," “scarlet fever.”  But read if you read through a few pages worth of deaths, you'll also find unexpected causes like “softening of spinal marrow.”  If you find your ancestor’s death has officially been recorded due to something that doesn’t sound like it would kill a person, be prepared to draw gentle, careful conclusions.  And remember, you may need to do some research to discover what a cause-of-death term meant in the past. 

Portland deaths only

Another thing to beware of when using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is that it only includes people who died within the city limits of Portland.  And the city was quite a bit smaller 100 years ago than it is now! 

Fortunately, the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has a very helpful map showing historical annexations to the city of Portland (pdf), which you can look at to get a sense for where city limits were during your ancestor’s lifetime.  

Of course, people are mobile.  The Ledger Index lists people who died in Portland, not people who lived there.  Your ancestor who lived in Linnton or East Portland or St. Johns could well have died within Portland city limits, particularly if they died in an accident or in a hospital.

Using the Ledger Index, and getting help with it

You can consult the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths at Central Library.  Ask at any reference desk, and the librarian on duty will help you get the volumes you need.  To read it, you’ll need to use one of Central Library’s microfilm machines -- read more about that in my colleague Ross B.’s post Microfilm at the library.

But you don’t have to visit the library to tap the riches of this great resource --  librarians are always happy to help.  Just get in touch with us by phone or email via Ask the Librarian, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or help you plan your research. 

In the meantime, happy researching!

 

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the background
Local Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

The League of Woman Voters of Portland provides a handy Directory of Elected Officials of local, state, and federal elected officials for the entire Multnomah County including local school districts.

 

State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   

 

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009
Federal Government

USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

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