Blogs: Local interest

Portland author Nicole Mones’ novels are so interesting. You get well-developed characters, a bit of romance, and good writing, but you also get to share in her wealth of knowledge including, but not limited to, all things Chinese. Ms. Mones owned a textile business for many years that required her to spend a lot of time in China. Between that and the research she's done for her books, she is such an expert on China that she’s now a member of  the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Her novel, A Cup of Light is full of information about Chinese porcelain, and The Last Chinese Chef offers an introduction to the fascinating philosophy that guides Chinese cuisine.

Her new book, Night in Shanghai, introduced me to an astonishingly interesting and vivid city. Shanghai in the 1930s was an open port, with a thriving International District. It was full of money, jazz clubs, dangerous women and political intrigue. Communists jockeyed for position against Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist party, powerful crime gangs fought each other, and the Japanese army had long been an increasingly menacing presence in the city. Black American jazz musicians came in multitudes because in China, they could escape from the racism and segregation they left behind in the United States and could earn a fair living. Shanghai also came to be a haven for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, mostly because of one man, Ho Feng-Shan, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna. Jews were desperate to flee Austria, but no one was issuing visas for Jews anymore, and they were not allowed to leave without a visa. Shanghai, as an open port, did not require visas, but in order to help thousands of Jews escape, Ho set his staff to creating fake ones, as fast as they could, in spite of the fact that his superiors were ordering him to stop. His heroic actions didn’t do much for his career, but he is still honored in Israel for them.

In this exciting city, a  romance blossoms between Thomas Greene, a classically trained pianist turned jazz musician, and Song, an indentured servant and secret communist.  It’s ever more obvious that World War II is coming, and as Japan allies with Germany against the United States, we wonder if Greene will get out in time, and will Song go with him, or if she’ll stay in China to fight with the communists. And what will happen to all those Jews who have found refuge in Shanghai now that Germany is demanding that the "Jewish Problem" is addressed there?

Mones writes beautifully in this book about music, how it feels to improvise, and how music can change the world. More Portlanders should know about this local author. Give her books a try!

Portland hill walksWe all sometimes feel like we can't escape the office, but we library folks are unique, I think, in that we get a real kick out of seeing someone enjoying a library resource when we are out and about. A few weeks ago I was walking some stairs in my neighborhood (the never ending quest for fitness continues), and I spotted a young man walking in front of me. He was wearing a backpack, walking slowly, and seemed to be studying everything around him as he walked. As I got closer, I could see that he had a book in his hands. Excited now, I said to my fitness partner, 'He's got a book! I'll bet it's a Laura Foster book!'. Laura writes very interesting books about the neighborhoods of Portland and how to explore them on foot. As we got closer, I saw that the young man was reading Portland Hill Walksand, better yet, his book had a Multnomah County Library stamp on the top! 

We chatted a bit about the book, the neighborhood, but especially the library. Having just moved to Portland, this young man was very excited to make use of our wonderful library system. And I was very excited to chat it up. In my work at the library, I don't get a chance to interact with the public as much as I used to, so I relish these chances to spread the good word about us when outside a library building. I have spotted Multnomah County library books on planes, trains, and automobiles, and they are always a catalyst to a wonderful conversation. Maybe I'll meet you out and about, and we'll talk about the library book you are carrying.

 

I love the Columbia River. I spend much of my free time on or near it and enjoy its beauty and grandeur. When I travel, I am reminded that most other rivers are not in its league.  The Columbia River defines this region. Without the Columbia River, Portland would not be an important port. There would be no Columbia Gorge and also no Bonneville Power Administration. These four books help to capture what the Columbia River was and now is.

Sources of the River book jacketI always like to start with history. Sources of the RIver: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America by Jack Nisbet tells the story of David Thompson. He explored western North America from 1784 to 1812 and was the first person to chart the entire route of the Columbia River. Two hundred years ago he was one of a handful of white Europeans and Americans to explore the area which was home to many Native American tribes. He was looking for better fur trading routes and ended up helping to expand trade and settlement in the Northwest.

The Columbia River was a wild and free flowing river until the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams were built in the 1930s. They were A River Lost book jacketthe first of fourteen dams that changed the river into the relatively tame river it is today. A River Lost: The Life and  Death of the Columbia by Blaine Harden looks at the modern river. He tries to explain what has happened to the river and how it is perceived by those who live near it and depend on it for their livelihoods.

Voyage of a Summer Sun book jacketThe book that opened my eyes to how dams change a river is Robin Cody’s Voyage of a Summer Sun: Canoeing the Columbia River. It is a journal of his trip down the entire river, from the headwaters to the ocean by canoe. His voyage is down a modern managed river whose ecology has been greatly damaged. It is a river that David Thompson would hardly recognise.

Wanting to end on a happier note, my last book is by Sam McKinney, an Oregon native and a  respected maritime historian. He has written several books about the Columbia River. Reach of Tide, Ring of History: A Columbia River Voyage is about his journey up the lower Columbia River from the mouth to Portland. He tells about the towns and places along the way and the people who lived and worked on the river. Most of the towns have faded into obscurity, but the lower Columbia being is still free flowing and is most like the river it used to be.

These books will give you much to ponder while you hike, sightsee and go boating on the Columbia River this summer. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Pride Northwest LogoThe Pride Festival & Parade this year has extra reason to be proud, what with Judge McShane’s ruling on Monday, May 19, declaring Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

And Multnomah County Library is also extra proud, because we will be at the Pride Festival this year on Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15, down at the Tom Mccall Waterfront Park from noon to 6:00 PM. Stop by and see us!

Leading up to the event we will be sharing a variety of blog posts and reading lists showcasing the resources the library offers Multnomah County’s LGBTQ community, as well as their family and friends. Books on LGBTQ history (see below), queer films, books & zines you can check out, resources for gay parents, great LGBTQ teen novels, and more.

We would love to hear your recommendations and requests for ways we can serve the LGBTQ community here in Multnomah County. Everything from a particular title we should own, to programs and workshops we should offer, to other events we should attend. Feel free to comment below.

And once again, stop by and visit the Multnomah County Library table at the Pride Festival. We’ll see you there!

Are you doing business in the Portland metro area?  Do you want to identify movers and shakers in our local business community?  For the past 30 years, the Portland Business Journal's Book of Lists has established itself as a key tool for doing business in the area.  This year's list is "by far the most comprehensive edition to date" according to their publisher, Craig Wessel.   A wide range of industry sectors are included to help you identify executives and companies who are major players in their field.  In addition to the Book of Lists, the Portland Business Journal also provides comprehensive coverage of business news and information for the Portland area.  Free remote access is available with a Multnomah County Library card and password.  Apply online if you don't already have a Multnomah County Library card, and open the door to this - and many other subscription-based resources at no charge. 

It’s raining (again) in PBioswaleortland today. When I’m not staffing an information desk at Central Library, I have a cubicle on Central’s fourth floor, directly under a skylight, and right now I can hear the rain pitter-pattering (actually it’s a little more than a pitter-patter at the moment) on the skylight. When I hear the rain, I think of Central’s eco-roof (also directly overhead) and the hard work that it is doing on a day like this.

Our eco-roof has a very important job: Instead of the rainwater running off the building and joining all the other runoff in a mad, gravity-inspired dash to the Willamette River – a dash that on very rainy days can overwhelm the wastewater-treatment system and cause nasty things to enter the Willamette without being treated – the Central eco-roof absorbs the rain in its planting pallets, reducing runoff by up to 70%. On top of that, it just looks nice!

Consider taking a tour of the eco-roof, viewing it from the windows of Central’s fifth floor.  Just click here, or type eco-roof tour into the search box on the home page. Come more than once … it changes with the seasons. 

The City of Portland’s Green Streets projects (pictured) operate in a similar way to our eco-roof. The rainwater runoff enters the plant-filled bioswales and collects there. Instead of racing into the sewer system, the water slowly filters into the soil, replenishing the groundwater. The plants themselves – like the plants on the eco-roof – filter many pollutants from the air and water.  Plus – it bears repeating -- they look nice!

Read more about green streets, eco-roofs, and the way cities are altering their built environments.  Green cities celebrate Earth Day every day.

Portland’s newest bridge was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People today by TriMet, and I thought you might be interested in a little background on the familiar word "tilikum,”* and Chinuk Wawa, the language of which it is part.

definition of "tilixam" from the book Chinuk Wawa [click for a larger version]First, tilikum!

Here's a definition of the word from Chinuk Wawa: kakwa nsayka ulman-tilixam laska munk-kemteks nsakya - As our elders teach us to speak it, a Chinuk Wawa dictionary, grammar, and text for learners produced by the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.  This definition is supported by an etymological note, which gives the historical roots of the word.

Chinuk Wawa

Chinuk Wawa is a trade language, used historically by people from many different language traditions.  In the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries, it was the lingua franca of Native people and foreigners all around the lower Columbia river area.  But although this language is no longer heard throughout our region as a part of the sound of everyday business, it is by no means lost. 

In addition to spearheading the Chinuk Wawa dictionary project, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde hosts a regular series of Chinuk Wawa language classes, which are free to all -- though my sense is that it is expected that learners will become teachers also, nurturing the language and sharing their experiences with it.  Classes take place in Portland as well as at Grand Ronde and in Eugene.  The teacher for the Portland classes, Eric Michael Bernando, also teaches a Chinuk Wawa class at Portland Community College.

definition of "tilacum," from The Chinook Book [click for a larger version]Older definitions of tilikum. . .

As I said, the library has many English / Chinuk Wawa dictionaries and glossaries.  Most are quite old, and these older dictionaries are all (so far as I can tell) written by non-Native scholars who learned the language as adults.  Therefore, their definitions may have the benefit of research done among fluent speakers from 100 years ago or more, but they don't have the authority of modern scholarship rooted in Native communities.  However, I do want to share one of these definitions with you, from The Chinook Book, by El Comancho (W.S. Phillips), published waaay back in 1913.  It's a fairly rich definition, with lots of examples of idiomatic usage.

 


* I've used the spelling "tilikum" throughout this post, because it's the spelling TriMet chose for the name of the new bridge.  As you can see, many different transliterations and spellings of this, and other Chinuk Wawa words have been used over time -- tilacum, tillikum, tilixam, and no doubt many others. 


 

bike picture six people

When I first moved to Portland, everyone asked if I was going to get a bike.  My response was a doubtful maybe.  After relying on public transportation for most of my adult life, it seemed unnecessary.  Seven years later, I’m contemplating which bike to add to my growing two wheeled family and can’t imagine getting around Portland any other way.

The road to year round riding was paved with a stolen bike(later found), scarily inappropriate routes, and an informative lesson about riding on ice. However, despite any obstacles  I’ve rode a long way baby. Perhaps not in distance like the dedicated bike tourers, but around town you’ll see me on my commuter bike with the best of them.

One of my favorite afternoon jaunts is the Springwater Corridor.  It's an amazing trail.  However, If you need a change of scene,   Portland’s Bureau of Transportation’s “Best rides around Portland” offers a multitude of route suggestions and maps for local and regional trips.  Don’t know the best way to get somewhere? Bike Portland can help you sort out route information from other cyclists on their forums. Looking for detailed maps of your neighborhood?  PBOT's resourceful Bike and Walk maps will get you rolling!  More of a group rider? Attend one of the many Pedalpalooza rides that take place for three weeks every June. Craving some kindred spirits off the saddle? Look no further than the Filmed by Bike festival held every April.

That’s only the beginning, but before you lock up and put the away the helmet, don’t forget about what the library has to offer.  There’s a wide array of books and maps with plenty of routes to keep you spinning around for the whole year.  Additionally, our helpful reference staff can assist you in navigating any of the above resources to get you in gear!

 


NOTE: This post was updated Sunday, October 12, 2014 with details about the redesigned Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).


Front page of the Oregonian, June 10, 1973There is lots of information about history in books, but sometimes the best way to find out about the past is to look at materials which were created at the time you are studying.  Newspapers can be a great tool for this kind of primary source research.

People investigating local history here in Multnomah County are lucky -- there have been many, many newspapers published in Portland, Gresham, and other local cities over the last 150 years.  The longest-lived Portland newspaper, the Oregonian, is also considered by many to be the “paper of record” for the state, and Multnomah County Library cardholders can read, search and browse every page of nearly every issue of the Oregonian published 1861-1987, using the library’s Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).

Let’s try a search! Start by going to the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) page on the library's website, click on the blue Begin using this resource button, and then type in your library card number and PIN.

 

Say you want to see articles about the Rose Festival parades from past years.  Type the keywords “rose parade” into the search box at the upper left corner of the page (remember to use those quotation marks -- they limit your search to the phrase “rose parade” with the words right next to each other and in order).  Now click on Search.

This gives you 1,781 results!  Quite a lot.  The reason it's so many is that your search returns every occurrence of the phrase "rose parade" in every article, headline, or advertisement in every day's paper from 1851 to 1987.  Whew! 

As you can see, the articles in your list of results aren't arranged by publication date; they're ranked with the most "relevant" article at the top.  If you want change the ranking to see your list of articles in chronological order, click on one of the options listed next to Sort by at the top right of the results list.   You can also change the ranking before you even do your search, by choosing the sort order you want in the Sort by dropdown menu up in the search area.

But however you sort the articles, you probably don’t have time to read 1,781 of them in one sitting.  So let’s find some ways to get a shorter, more precise list.

 

One great way to narrow your search is by limiting to articles from a specific date range.  To see articles about the 1952 parade, type the year 1952 into the second search box at the top of the screen (the one labelled "Date").  Click on the yellow Search button again to see articles published in 1952 that contain the phrase "rose parade."

This gives you a much more manageable list of 69 articles.   If you find one you like, click on the snippet that shows the headline (or on the View article link), and you'll get a new page which shows the article.

 

Let's try a different way to narrow your search -- by adding a second topic.  If you are a long-time lover of the Grand Floral Parade, you've probably been to at least a few parades held under cloudy or rainy skies.  Portland in June, right?  Let's look for articles about rainy parades.

You can start a new search by typing your new search terms into the search area at the top of the screen.  This time, you want the phrase"rose parade" (with the quotes, just like before!), and the word rain in the first box.  The Date box should be blank, but this time, change the Sort by box to say Oldest matches firstI.  Now click on the yellow Search button again to see your results.

This gets you a nice list of 55 articles, arranged in reverse chronological order. 

 

Let's take a look at one of the articles.  Scroll down the page a bit and you'll see an article from the front page of the June 13, 1941 paper.  Click on the snippet of the headline (it's zoomed in kind of far, so only the words "For Rose Parade" are showing).  This gets you the full page so you can read the article.

It turns out, the article does include the word "rain," but only because the weather was forecast to be dry!  The author says "the weatherman found no threat of rain to mar Friday's Rose Festival floral parade although some cloudiness is expected to continue."  1941, I guess, was a good year for parade-goers.

 

Here are some more tips and things to remember about using the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987):

  • When you search this resource, you are searching the words and phrases that appeared in the newspaper.  If you're looking for a topic that can be expressed in different ways, you might need to try different terms.  For example: sometimes, journalists used the phrase "rose parade" to describe the big daytime parade that's always on a Saturday in June.  But they might also have used the phrase "rose festival parade," or they might have said something like "the parade at this year's Rose Festival."  Nowadays we have several parades every year, so it might also be good to search specifically for the "grand floral parade" or the "starlight parade."  If you don't see the results you expect, try a different phrase or term.   If your search finds only a few articles, read them and see if they offer any clues as to new search terms you can use that might get better results.
  • These old newspapers are historical artifacts, and they reflect the culture, attitudes, and language of their times.  Articles and advertisements from the past may stereotype individuals and groups, or use terms that are now considered derogatory and offensive.  Historical newspapers may also use other out-of-date or unfamiliar terms, for example: filling station instead of the modern gas station, or automobile instead of car.
  • Librarians are here to help!  Ask whenever you have questions, or any time you'd like more searching tips.  You can contact a librarian by email, chat, text or telephone, or of course ask the librarian on duty any time you're at the library in person.

Now that you have a little grounding in how the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) works, take it out for a spin!  And share your discoveries in the comments, if you like.

 


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles?  Are you working on a local history project?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

The Portland area is rich with beautiful parks and wild spaces. The cities of Gresham, Fairview, Portland, Troutdale and Wood Village all manage local parks, as does our regional government, Metro.

From formal Victorian rose gardens to old growth forests and everything in between, this is a great place to enjoy parks. But where should you start? These books will help you choose the right park for you!

Wild in the City is the classic guide to parks, trails and natural areas around our region. This fine natural history of the cities on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers contains short chapters describing specific birds, mammals, trees, hikes, parks, paddles, a wealth of facts and memories of natural places and experiences, and discussion of initiatives and policies for increasing and protecting the urban watersheds and natural areas.

In Nature Walks In & Around Portland, long-time local park explorers Karen and Terry Whitehill present 37 of their favorite nature walks, ranging from one-half to six miles in length. From well-known parks and natural areas like Sauvie's Island to hidden gems like SW Portland's Marshall Park, a glittering tree-covered treasure hidden between busy urban thoroughfares, this book is a great guide for walk and park lovers!

Portland Hill Walks features twenty-four miniature adventures stocked with stunning views, hidden stairways, leafy byways, urban forests, and places to sit, eat, and soak in the local scene. Whether you feel like meandering through old streetcar neighborhoods or climbing a lava dome, there is a hill walk for every mood. And of course, author Laura O. Foster features many walks in or through parks.

Do you want more options?  Take a look at the great list of books to help you get outdoors, below!

 

  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

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