Blogs: Current events

Many people think censorship applies to only to books, but actually, it applies to any art form.  In this latest example, it's drama.  In January 2016, a Connecticut high school production of the play Green Day's American Idiot, was cancelled by the principal and drama director because “a very small number of extremely vocal people” objected to the mature content and language of the full Broadway production.  What they didn't know was the the director had started to work with the publisher to develop a version appropriate for high school productions.  Read all about it in this blog post written on Feb. 8, 2016 on the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom blog.  And if that's not enough, be sure to ask a librarian!

 

DEQ map of Air Toxicity in Portland, OR

February 3, 2016, The Mercury recently reported findings of high levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air in SE Portland. Days later, the DEQ released a map that showed many areas throughout Portland to be affected.

If you are wondering, “Should I get tested for arsenic or cadmium poisoning?” this Portland Mercury article cites Dr. Gillian Beauchamp, a Toxicology Fellow at the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU, who offers advice.

A timely resource for updates on current action by Portland residents (meetings, information sharing, etc.) is the Facebook Public Group Inner SE Air Quality. Although the focus is SE Portland, there’s much information about air quality in other areas in the city being shared here too. Inner SE Air Quality is also sharing community-generated/created Google maps of cancers and serious illnessesa map for people that have tested for heavy metal exposure, and a map showing results of soil testing for heavy metals.  Check here for updates on community meetings you can attend. Neighbors for Clean Air Facebook page is another good resource.

If you are interested more broadly about air quality in Portland, check the ToxNet map. Use the Beta version and click on "zoom to a location" then enter an address to see emissions near you. If you click on "more" you can see the levels of toxins a facility reports. This doesn’t report these recent SE Portland findings.

There has been concern about a cancer cluster in SE Portland.  The Oregon Health Authority’s Cancer Registry researches possible clusters in communities. 

Questions? Call, text or email a librarian to get personalized help – or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!

Come say hello to the library at the 29th annual Fix It Fair!  The last fair is this Saturday , 2/20 at George Middle School from 9:30am-3:00pm.  Want to learn more about the Fix It Fair?  Check out their website including the brochure for Saturday's event. With workshops on Health, Home Repair and Utilities, Finances and Gardening there is something for everyone. This Fix It Fair also includes classes in Spanish, too!

We'll have library resources for you to check out (Gardening Projects for Kids, DIY Solar Projects, Making Healthy Food Taste Great and much, much more), information about library programs and library staff experts ready to answer your questions.  See you there!

Celebrate your freedom to read on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 from 2:00 to 3:30 at Midland Library by attending Censorship by Omission: The Diversity Deficit.  Moderated by author Swati Avasthi , three amazing local teen authors Stacey LeeIsabel Quintero, and Tess Sharpe will discuss why books with characters and stories outside the dominant culture are often the most challenged and least published.  They'll talk about getting published, why diverse books matter, and their current books. 

Made possible by The National Endowment for the Humanities Fund of The Library Foundation.

 

Want to know more about the books most often challenged in 2014 (the most current information available)?  Take a look at this cool chart created by the American Library Association: 2014 Book Challenges Infographic.

2014 Book Challenges Infographic describing the books on the 2014 most challenged list from the ALA.

It's Banned Books Week from Sept. 27 - Oct. 3rd!  Celebrate your freedom to read by reading a book that's been challenged.  Take a look at one of the ALA Challenged Books lists.  Pick one of the books and read it...because you can!  Each of the books on these lists have been "challenged" several times for being inappropriate in some way.  Remember that a challenge is the first step in having a book banned or removed from a library.  So when you read a challenged book, you are supporting your right to choose what you want to read!

What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which neighborhoods undergo a rapid increase in value as properties are purchased and renovated by wealthier people than those currently living in the community. This most often occurs in poor and working-class urban neighborhoods resulting in the displacement of those residents. In recent years the signs of gentrification in Portland are easily identifiable and abundant. New owners purchase properties then either improved or tear down and replace what was there. This leads to rents going up dramatically, wealthier people moving into the neighborhood, and area businesses becoming more upscale. All this means that less wealthy, long-time residents can no longer afford to stay.  In fact, a 2015 study by Governing Magazine found that Portland, Oregon has experienced this gentrification process more severely than any other U.S. city since 2000. This has had a profound impact on many Portland neighborhoods as housing costs continue to rise.  More and more people are unable to remain in the neighborhoods where they have long resided and some are unable to find affordable housing within the city limits at all.

What causes gentrification?

Gentrification can happen in any neighborhood where property values suddenly rise as newer, wealthier residents move in, invest in improvements and/or new construction then displace those who have previously lived there. Often, gentrification is a legacy of past policies that restricted people of color to certain neighborhoods and denied them access to financing. This process occurred through redlining. This excerpt from the documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion illustrates how redlining worked:

 

 

In Portland, African Americans were largely restricted to North and Northeast Portland, so it is no surprise that those are two parts of the city undergoing the most rapid gentrification. The Oregonian’s “Roots of Gentrification” series provides an excellent overview of the changes in the city that have greatly contributed to the gentrification of North and Northeast Portland.  Also, the city’s State of Housing in Portland report provides a good overview of the scope of the problem.

 

What has been the result?

While gentrification has affected areas across the city, among the most impacted has been North and Northeast Portland, the long-time center of the city’s African American population. The impact on that community has been profound. Largely priced out of their homes, the city’s black residents are increasingly moving into east Multnomah County where housing is less expensive. This has meant there is far less diversity in traditionally black neighborhoods. A clear example of gentrification in an historically African American community is the Alberta neighborhood. Studies done in 1992 and 2015 show just how much the area has changed. Gentrification also contributes to the rapid increase in rent. A recent study showed Portland's rents rose at  the nation's sixth-fastest rate over the last five years.

 

What is the solution?

That all depends on who you ask, but because gentrification is not the result of a single, simple cause, there is likely no single, simple solution. It is an issue intimately tied to other challenging social problems surrounding race, class, and economic opportunity. The City of Portland has prepared a study of gentrification risk that identifies different strategies to address the issue. Recently, the Portland Housing Advisory Commission recommended a significant increase in the amount of public money spent on affordable housing. In August 2015, city leaders announced new projects in Northeast Portland to provide jobs and subsidized housing. A coalition of community groups has recommended a comprehensive 11-point plan to combat gentrification but still recognize that there is “no silver bullet” that will solve the problem. To address the issue of high rent, the Portland Renters Assembly organizes meetings across the city and would like to take direct action against the rising cost of rent. Clearly, a variety of tactics are needed to ease the most damaging effects of gentrification. It is impossible to know now what will ultimately be the result.

Link to whatslegaloregon.comIn November 2014 Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing the possession and sale of cannabis by adults 21 and older for recreational use (here is the full text of Measure 91.) Deciphering the details of the law can be tricky, especially if you are considering starting a marijuana-related business.

The most reliable source of information about the laws surrounding recreational marijuana is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Their What’s Legal? Educate Before You Recreate site lays out what you can and cannot do starting July 1, 2015.

The OLCC Rules Advisory Committee & Subcommittees on Recreational Marijuana recently had a series of public meetings at their main office at 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd. in Portland. You can look up agendas and listen to audio of past meetings online.

If you are considering starting a marijuana-related business, start with the OLCC’s frequently asked questions on marijuana licensing. The OLCC will not be accepting applications for recreational marijuana licenses until January 4, 2016, and the rules are still being written; to stay up-to-date, subscribe to receive email alerts from the OLCC.

Measure 91 has no impact on Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act. You can apply for a Medical Marijuana card through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), or apply to be a medical marijuana dispensary through the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program.

To stay informed, you can find the OLCC's updates on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to receive OLCC updates by email.

Link to Legalization of Marijuana booklistIf you’re interested in looking at the broader issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana, check out this blog post on legalizing marijuana that my colleague Cathy wrote before the election. And here are some books that go more in depth into the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and medical use.

Always use caution when searching for information and make sure your sources of information are credible; the Southern Illinois University Law Library has a great guide to Evaluating Websites and Other Information Resources. And remember, you can always ask a librarian for help; we love questions!

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.

 

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.

 

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