Blogs: Current events

President Obama and former President Clinton at the White House, September 2014In May 2015 the Obama Foundation will announce that the Barack Obama Library and Museum will be located on the south side of Chicago with a winning bid from the University of Chicago.  Presidential libraries are generally established in a city that is significant in the life of the President and the Obama Presidential Library will be no exception.  The Obama Library is planned where First Lady Michelle Obama grew up and where the President began his political career as a community organizer. The Barack Obama Library and Museum will be the 14th Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). 

Presidential libraries do more than just house the papers of former Presidents, they also act as monuments to the men and seek to shape their legacies. The earliest Presidential Library administered by NARA is that of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States. The Hoover Presidential Library & Museum is all inclusive, from Hoover’s birthplace cottage to his and his wife’s final resting place. This isn’t unusual. In all, nine American presidents are, or will be buried on the grounds of their Presidential libraries.

Entrance to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumThe Presidential Library system itself began in 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his Presidential papers and other historical materials to the federal government.  Before that time all Presidential papers were considered the personal property of the President after they left office. As one would expect many materials have since been lost or were even intentionally destroyed such as the personal papers of Calvin Coolidge and the correspondence between Martha and George Washington.

Today in addition to the NARA administered Presidential libraries, older collections have sometimes been successfully brought back together digitally if not physically. The Theodore Roosevelt Center is one such example, whose mission it is to digitize copies of Roosevelt’s personal and Presidential papers wherever they may physically be. They are available online for all to access and include both film clips and audio recordings.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library Presidential SealPresidential libraries are spread across the country. If a grand road trip to each location isn’t an option, you can often access selected parts of their collections online. For example, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has an online collection of Historic Speeches that can be watched or listened to and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum has a 360 degree artifacts Presidential Gifts collection . You can access a full lineup of Presidential Libraries websites and print resources on the topic in the Multnomah County Library’s Presidential Libraries resource list.  Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like additional help.

 

Outline of the U.S. and image of a camera lens, with the words "CHOOSE PRIVACY" beneath them.What does privacy mean to you? Is it a place where no one is watching you or listening to what you say? Thanks to our ever-connected gadgets (our phones, computers, televisions, e-readers) such places are becoming more and more scarce. Every digital breath we take is noted, collected, and recorded for future marketing or security purposes.

Should we care? After all, we get many benefits by giving up our privacy: we receive recognition from others, we can easily share and communicate with groups of friends, we get free email. But a world without privacy is also a world where you are not free to ask questions or seek information without being monitored.

Libraries care about privacy, and the American Library Association has declared the first week of May to be Choose Privacy Week. Why? “Because the freedom to read and receive ideas anonymously is at the heart of individual liberty in a democracy” (from ALA's "Why libraries?" webpage). 

To learn more about online privacy, attend one of the library's upcoming Privacy and Safety Online classes. You can also take a look at Portland Community College’s Privacy Online guide: it includes videos and links about the ways that privacy is compromised online, and tips for how you can protect it.

Book cover for Intellectual Privacy by Neil RichardsIf, like me, you’re more of a book person, I’ve made a reading list called “Privacy? What’s privacy?” - it includes current books that will help you start to answer that question. If you’d rather get your dystopia in a make-believe format, another reading list, “Surveillance stories and privacy parables,” includes books and DVDs about the privacy-less society that we just might be headed toward.

Are you taking steps to protect your privacy? Or have you already given up on the notion of privacy? Leave your comments below (and please feel free to do so anonymously).

Earthquakes are sudden and have lasting, devastating impact. The tragedy in Nepal resulting from an initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015 is ongoing and will be a main focal point in the news for many days and weeks to come. There are other resources besides the news to learn more about earthquakes and Nepal.

The United States Geological Survey is a reliable source for scientific information; its Earthquake Hazards Program monitors and reports earthquakes, assesses earthquake impacts and hazards, and researches the causes and effects of earthquakes.

 

Organizations such as the American Red Cross travel around the world to assist with food, water, shelter and health care needs of those affected.

Learn more about the history, people and customs of Nepal by using CultureGrams, a database Multnomah County Library subscribes to and you can use for free with your library card.

You may also hear more people talking about the potential for earthquakes in Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest. The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries for the State of Oregon details local plans to address geologic hazards and has information on how you can prepare for potential emergencies at home.

 

Protesters in Ferguson, MO August 2014These three words have entered our consciousness, spoken by Eric Garner as he was choked to death by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in July 2014.  In Portland, James Chasse, Jr.  died after an encounter with Portland Police officers in 2006

How many have died?

The journalists at ProPublica have analyzed recent federal crime statistics and report that black male teenagers (age 15 to 19) are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white male teenagers of the same age. The New York Times reported on the increasing numbers of situations where the “police officers find themselves playing dual roles as law enforcers and psychiatric social workers,” often with deadly consequences.

Portland Copwatch tracks local incidents of deadly force by the police beginning in 1992; however, its reporting by race is spotty.

The public outcry and demonstrations recently have been fueled not only by the deaths themselves but by the decisions by grand juries not to indict the responsible police officers.

How do I find out what happened?

When events like this trend, we hear about it at the library. People come with questions:

  • What exactly happened?
  • Where has it happened before?
  • Who is in charge and what is s/he doing about it?
  • Why does this happen?
  • How can I help change things?

We have a wealth of resources here at the library, along with the skills and experience to help identify which are the most relevant and impartial.

Library resources

If you were searching for a comprehensive list of articles and analysis of the shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson, an excellent place to begin is at the library database, Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Just search for Michael Brown.

Dig deeper into Opposing Viewpoints for a broad range of information addressing police violence, including discussions from many sides of this important topic. While police violence is not yet an official (i.e., listed) issue in this database, I believe it soon will be. In the meantime, search for police misconduct or police brutality.

Check out this booklist for more in-depth research. 

A number of other libraries have created research guides to finding out more about police violence and its unarmed victims.

Or, how a holiday celebrating friends and family became an exercise in crass commercialism.

Shoppers at Walmart on Thanksgiving Day 2013. Image from Wikimedia Commons.The confluence of Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of the holiday shopping season is pretty much a second-half-of-the-20th-century phenomenon, spurred by the burgeoning consumer economy that took off following the end of World War II. The Friday after Thanksgiving became “Black Friday” originally in 1961, coined by some disgruntled Philadelphia police officers who grew to hate the downtown traffic jams created by shoppers. It was only in the 1980s that the term took on a economic meaning: Success on this day sends retail businesses into the “black.” Big box retailers attract shoppers with deep discounts on popular gift items, discounts only available on Black Friday.

In this century, Black Friday just keeps creeping forward: 6 am on Friday morning, midnight on Friday morning, 8 pm on Thursday night, 5 pm on Thursday, to the absolute nadir (in this writer’s opinion) of 6 am on Thanksgiving morning. Kmart owns this dubious honor for 2013 and is repeating it this year. Of course, there’s a name for this: Brown Thursday or Gray Thursday.

Small Business Saturday

Using an if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em philosophy, smaller retailers gave into the Black Friday juggernaut in 2010, redirecting shoppers away from the big box stores by creating their own shopping “event,” Small Business Saturday. Sure, this event says, you’ll probably want to take advantage of those big sales at the big boxes, but -- while you’re still in the shopping zone --  wouldn’t you like to support a local business too? And many of these retailers (not all of them small businesses) can’t resist a poke at those open on Thanksgiving Day: We pride ourselves on letting our employees enjoy a day off with their families.

Portland, being Portland, has created its own version of Small Business Saturday: Little Boxes. Shoppers are gently encouraged to “welcome in the holiday season by discovering the quality and variety of Portland’s indie and local retail shopping scene.” Only in Portland do we have an “indie” shopping scene. Still, there are prizes.

Buy Nothing Day

A countermovement to Black Friday’s unfettered consumerism sprung up in the 1990s with Buy Nothing Day, created in Canada and spreading to the United States and elsewhere in the West over the past 20 years. Its founders encourage waggish bits of civil disobedience such as “whirl-mart” -- a conga line of empty shopping carts making its way through a mall or big box store (see video) -- and the “zombie walk” -- staggering through retail establishments with a blank stare.

For those of you who prefer to spend that Friday enjoying a roast turkey sandwich, some leftover pumpkin pie and a good book, here’s a reading list about shopping (or not) in America. And never fear, the library will be open!
 

Ursula K. Le Guin [photo by Eileen Gunn]Portlander Ursula K. Le Guin was honored yesterday with The National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, at the National Book Award ceremony in New York.

Many of the news stories about Le Guin’s speech focus on her criticism of publishing companies’ increasing corporatism and the profit-driven model of the industry -- particularly Amazon and its conflict with the publisher Hachette earlier this year.  

 

Le Guin also called out a critical issue for public libraries. In her remarks, she highlighted the challenges libraries face in getting access to e-books, citing her own publisher’s practice of charging libraries six times the amount it charges individuals for many e-book titles.

Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke shares this concern and has been assertive about advocating for greater public access to e-books.  "The ecosystem of reading is changing before our eyes," she said today, in response to Le Guin’s speech.  "The sands are shifting rapidly beneath authors and artists, and not in their favor, as Ms. Le Guin so astutely noted. Public libraries are also challenged to serve patrons as they have come to expect under some of the current models imposed by publishers and content distributors. So long as pricing and access to e-books for public libraries remain unbalanced, readers everywhere are the ones who will suffer."

 

From my own viewpoint as a librarian, I’d say the most stirring aspect of Le Guin’s acceptance speech was the great faith she placed in writers as artists, as creative communicators with a unique ability to imagine solutions and make space for humanity:  

"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.   We will need writers who can remember freedom.  Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality."


Would you like to see more?  Watch Ursula K. Le Guin’s entire acceptance speech, or, take a peek at this year’s National Book Award winners, below.

 

Sunsetchoice

noun \ˈchȯis\

the act of choosing : the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities

the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision

a range of things that can be chosen

 

Choice. We cherish our freedom to make choices, and Oregonians facing end-of-life decisions for themselves or family members have an unprecedented range of options from which to choose. Sometimes the path forward is obvious, but many times it is not. Fortunately, none of us facing such decisions need feel alone. We have a wealth of information and resources available to help.

How do we even express our choices, though, if we haven’t yet talked with our friends and families? TEDMED speaker Michael Hebb notes that, “How we want to die represents the most important and costly conversation Americans aren’t having.” Hoping, he says, “to spark the gentlest revolution imaginable,” Hebb founded Let's have dinner and talk about death, a web-based initiative designed to give us the tools to have these difficult and potentially transformative conversations.

The National Institutes of Health offers an online “End of Life” module aimed at helping people understand the many practical and emotional aspects of preparing for death. The module provides visitors with information about the most common issues faced by the dying and their caregivers.

Seriously ill or frail Oregonians may opt to talk with their healthcare providers about Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment--commonly known as POLSTs. POLSTs help individuals exercise more control over the type of end-of-life care they receive; they are medical orders that emergency personnel will follow to ensure that the desired level of care is provided.

Hospice care is often chosen when curative treatment is no longer effective or no longer wanted, and when life expectancy is measured in months or weeks. Hospice is a philosophy of compassionate and comprehensive care for dying persons and their families that addresses the medical, psychosocial, spiritual and practical needs of the individual, and the related needs of the family and loved ones, throughout the periods of illness and bereavement. The Oregon Hospice Association provides information on resources for families and patients.

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Since then, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In How to Die in Oregon, available at Multnomah County Library as a program, DVD, and streaming video, Filmmaker Peter Richardson enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether--and when--to end their lives by lethal overdose. The film examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. More information on the Death with Dignity Act is available from the Oregon Public Health Division and from Compassion & Choices.

Finally, caregivers face special challenges as a loved one faces death. Support and resources are available through the Family Caregiver Alliance and this booklist

Contributed by Jenny W. 

Signing the Equal Suffrage Amendment in 1912Each election, Oregon’s “initiative” system of government produces a number of hot-button issues requiring the decision of our ever-patient voters. (My theory about vote-by-mail is that we didn’t want to spend all the time required to vote on our myriad measures hunched over our ballots in those rickety cardboard “booths” when we could do it in the comfort of our own homes.) Others have addressed driving "cards" for undocumented residents, labeling of genetically modified foods, legalization of marijuana.  I want to talk about a less glamorous amendment to the Oregon Constitution proposed under Ballot Measure 89:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.

Most of the muted discussion on this issue has been about whether or not it is necessary.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU) says not. “[T]he Oregon Constitution already has the strongest possible protection against sex discrimination and the Oregon Supreme Court has enforced that protection.”  The ACLU identifies Article 1, section 20 as this protection: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Supporters of the measure caution that Supreme Courts can change; best to be on the safe side. They also point to the symbolic value of those words in the state’s Constitution, and express the hope that this vote will somehow compel our federal legislators to vote to begin the process to amend the U.S. Constitution. (According to equalrightsamendment.org, such bills have been introduced to every Congress since 1982 [when the ERA failed to meet its deadline for ratification by 2/3 of the states].)

Vote however you please this year, but for goodness sake, vote!  And take a look at these books and websites about the fight for equal rights for women in the past 100 years.

If you're anything like me, you just looked at the calendar and realized Halloween is less than two weeks away. Eek! What is my kiddo going to be for Halloween?! If you have older kids, perhaps they already have strong opinions of their own, which may be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the idea! But for those of us with toddlers, the task of coming up with a cute costume on the cheap can feel a bit daunting, especially if you want to make it yourself. Or maybe you don't have kids but need to come up with a cool costume for the Halloween party you just got invited to. Never fear, the library is here to help! 

 In November 2014 Oregon will vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana. Other states also have many laws regarding weed, although there are a lot of pros and cons about legalizing pot. Although marijuana for medical use already exists in many states, it has its pros and cons too.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington both legalized marijuana usage. Legalization hasn’t solved the problems; it’s just raised new ones. The state of Washington has detailed rules about how marijuana will be raised, sold, and regulated. The state is looking at the business of pot and the many faces of legal marijuana as they move forward. How do you guard the ganja? How does banking hinder the legal weed industry?  Who are the new entrepreneurs?

Need some specific information we haven’t covered? Contact a librarian and we’ll be glad to help.

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