Blogs: Current events

And Baby Makes More bookjacketSo after years of planning and dreaming, you finally have a child. Now what?! If you’re anything like me, the point of all that planning--the actual child-raising--at times can feel overwhelming. When my wife and I decided to get pregnant two years ago, I found I was so focused on the steps it took to make it happen, that once the little peanut arrived I felt at a loss over what to do next. I remember just staring at our daughter hours after she was born, thinking, I’m responsible for you! No one else is going to take care of you! Fast forward ten months and that yowling tiny newborn has turned into a sweet, curious kidlet before my eyes. I am sleeping more and--gasp!--actually have time to myself in the evenings. But even though our family has settled into a nice routine, I still feel like I am adjusting to what life with a child means for myself and for my marriage. Who am I now that I am someone’s mother? What does it mean to say goodbye to the autonomous self I used to be while becoming this new self, this mama-self?

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight bookjacketFor queer families like mine, the post-baby adjustment can feel even more difficult due to the sometimes complicated situations that can arise from how our families are created. Right off the bat there are decisions to make. Known or anonymous sperm/egg donor? Open adoption or foster parent? And what about surrogacy? The list goes on and on. And with these decisions come even more questions. For example, if you use a known egg or sperm donor, will they be in the child’s life? What will they be called? In an open adoption, how much contact will you have with the birth mother? With her family? When using a surrogate, what happens if she disagrees with the medical care you want for your child in utero?

Luckily, there are many resources out there to help with these kinds of important questions, including parenting choices and support once the little bundle arrives. Some of my personal favorite titles are And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families and Does this Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad.  I’d also recommend taking a look at our magazines Gay Parent and Hip Mama, Ariel Gore’s long-standing zine. And for book reviews and articles, the database LGBT Life can’t be beat.

What Makes a Baby bookjacketThere are also some amazing books out there for kids. One of my absolute favorites is called What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg. One of our friends gifted it to us before our daughter was born and I am completely in love with it. Realizing most kid’s books that explained where babies came from left many types of families out, Silverberg wrote a story that is completely all-inclusive, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. Best of all, it has a section for parents to tell the child the specifics of their arrival into their family. I look forward to the day I read it to our daughter and all the learning and growing that comes with it in this messy adventure called parenthood. 

For more MCL queer parenting resources, you can always contact us! And be sure to check out the library’s booth at the Pride Festival, June 14 and 15 at Tom Mccall Waterfront Park!

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!

Don't know much about geography ... (Thanks to the singer Sam Cooke for a line from his 1960 hit  "Wonderful World.")

Let’s begin with a quiz (answers at the end … don’t peek!)

  1. Name the capital of the only country in the Middle East that borders the Caspian Sea.
  2. The fertile floodplain of the Chao Phraya River is the chief rice-growing region in what country?
  3.  The Merrimack River, formed by the junction of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers, empties into what major body of water?
  4. The Tarim Basin, which is one of the world’s largest lowland areas that does not drain into an ocean, is found in which country?

One of the answers to the Buzzfeed 2013 geography quiz

I found these questions at the “Take the Quiz” page of the National Geographic Bee website. The annual event, for students in grades 4 to 8, will be held in late May. The Quiz gives multiple choice options, but I figured that adults wouldn’t sweat on these questions.

Or would you? OK, so these are pretty hard, but we Americans are pretty sucky at geography. In a 2006 survey of the geographic literacy of 18- to 24-year-olds, over half of them couldn’t find New York State on a map and nearly two-thirds couldn’t find Iraq (where U.S. troops had been stationed for three years).  More recently (and hilariously), the website Buzzfeed asked its readers to write in the names of the countries on a blank map of Europe). The results are pretty pathetic once participants get past England, France and Italy.

Can you find Ukraine on that map of Europe? What about Oso, Washington? What about what happened on that slope before it took out the town?

We can just check Google Maps, right?  It doesn’t really matter that we don’t know our geography?  Yes, actually it does. Because it’s not just about the maps anymore. Our world is deeply interconnected, nearly everything that we do has global implications. We cannot afford (economically, technologically, environmentally) to not know what is going on on the other side of the planet. We need context, and geography can provide it. How can our companies do business in Asia if they aren’t aware of its cultural differences (and similarities) or what’s going on ecologically or politically? How can immigrants from Asia become part of our community if we don’t know enough about their culture to connect with them?

Rice paddy in ThailandYou might think it’s not important to know that Thailand’s chief rice-growing region is the floodplain of the Chao Phraya River, but what if you need to know if the rice you eat was grown in pesticide-free waters? Or if a Chinese or Mexican restaurant’s supply of rice will remain consistent throughout next year? What if you needed this information in 2005, six months after the Indian Ocean tsunami?  Would it have been important then to know where the Chao Phraya was?

Could you use a refresher on geography? Check out the books on this list.

Answers to the quiz:

  1. Tehran, Iran
  2. Thailand
  3. Atlantic Ocean
  4. China

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. 


The short answer is, Yes, people still try to ban books

Here's a recent example right here in Oregon.  In January 2014 some parents in Sweet Home challenged the use in an 8th grade Language Arts class of the critically acclaimed Book Coveryoung adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  According to an article in the Albany Democrat Herald, two parents asked for the book to be removed from the 8th grade curriculum. 

The result?  Again reported by the Democrat Herald, on February 13, 2014, after 3 hours of public testimony the Sweet Home School District reconsideration committee "voted Wednesday to retain the young adult novel, but [the superintendent] will be responsible for determining the appropriate grade level for its use..."

What's the fuss about?

"This work of young adult fiction tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to improve his future, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, [the book], which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings...chronicles the adolescence of one Native American teen as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live."

Even though the book received the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, it's also been the center of controversy for profanity, racism, discussion of sex, abuse and alcoholism.  But as one of the teachers said, "'s use...prompts the most intense discussions about racism, bullying, tolerance and the daily choices students make in handling relationships." 

I think that's worth keeping.  What do you think?

And remember, if you need more help be sure to Ask the Librarian!

Old maps are more than just geographical information presented in an appealing visual format – antique maps tell us about changes in the landscape, for sure, but they also inform us about the human past.  After all, maps are made by people, produced within specific cultural frameworks.

A new study of a 9,000-year old mural in the Turkish archaeological site Çatalhöyük argues that it is, in fact, the world's oldest map, and that it shows an eruption of the nearby volcano Hasan Dağı in progress. (The study offers evidence that Hasan Dağı did actually erupt around the time that the mural was created.) If news of this development has you thinking about old and antique maps, you're in luck! Multnomah County Library has a wide array of books about the history of maps, many with beautiful and thought-provoking reproductions and illustrations.  Take a look at the reading list below for a few of my personal favorites.

Detail of the map of the moon, from the Hand Atlas.Remember, also, that Multnomah County Library actually owns a lot of maps!  Most of the library's oldest maps are kept at Central Library, either in the map collection in the Literature & History room (on the third floor), or in the John Wilson Special Collections.  Most older maps, are of course, reference items that cannot be checked out of the library – but there's plenty of room to enjoy them at Central Library!  Here are a few gems:

One of my favorite old maps in the library's collection is the 1896 Hand Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude.  That's a big, long German title, and indeed, the entire atlas is in German!  But maps are visual things, and even if the place names are in an unfamiliar language, this world atlas is both useful and beautiful – particularly if you're interested in seeing a snapshot of national borders in the 1890s.  The image here is from the very beginning of the atlas, in the section of maps of heavenly bodies.  This one, I'm sure you can see, is of the moon.

Detail of sheet 27, which includes the city of Seaside, Metkser's Atlas of Clatsop County, 1930.Moving forward a bit in time, here's a snippet of one of the property ownership maps in the Metsker Atlas of Clatsop County – it's sheet 27 of the 1930 atlas, showing the town of Seaside.  The library has a large collection of atlases published by the Metsker Co., covering all of Oregon's 36 counties (plus a few Metsker atlases of Washington counties that are near the Portland area). Most of the Metsker atlases were published from the 1920s to the 1970s. They contain lovely, detailed maps showing street names and subdivision names -- often this is interesting, particularly when you look at an older map and can see big changes like the neighborhoods that were present before a freeway was built, or farm and forest land where there is now an urban area.  Larger parcels of land are marked with the owner's name too, which can be most illuminating.

"Car Lines in the Business District, Showing Downtown Loops," from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland, 1944.One great place to look for charming little maps is in the pages of now-out-of-date travel guidebooks, and the library has plenty of examples!  The cutie to the left shows the streetcar lines, trolley car lines ("trolley car" is an old term for an electric bus), and motor coaches (early 20th century-speak for a gasoline- or diesel-powered bus) in downtown Portland, circa 1944.  The map is from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland.

Detail of "London: from 1800 to 1900," from the Mapbook of English Literature.But the library's collection is not limited to maps showing landforms, details for tourists, and property information.  For a different sort of map entirely, take a peek at the lovely Mapbook of English Literature, an elegantly-drawn collection of maps illustrating important literary-geographical connections.  The section of the London map at right, which features literary facts from 1800-1900, shows details from the world of fiction: "The Quips (Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-41) lived here;" and biographical bits and pieces about English authors: "Keats was a student here (1815-16) Guy's Hospital."

Do you have a favorite map, or a favorite book about maps?  Share them!

And of course, if you've got a question about maps, the library's collection about maps, or anything else, there's a friendly librarian who'd love to help you!  Just get in touch using Ask the Libarian, or ask at the information desk the next time you're at the library.


If you have already broken those New Year's resolutions, you have another chance.  
This Friday, January 31st, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are twelve animals and five elements in the Chinese zodiac and 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse,
sometimes called the Green Horse.  For each of the animals, there are certain qualities, which are passed to the persons born under that sign.  Those born in horse years are said to be cheerful, enthusiastic, and enjoy making new friends. To find out what your zodiac animal is, take a look at this chart:

Celebrations for the Chinese New Year include dragon and lion dances, fireworks, the giving of red envelopes, and sweet treats, culminating in a lantern festival. The Lunar New Year will be celebrated at Gregory Heights and Midland Libraries with various cultural performances.  Holgate Library will be hosting Tales from the Year of the Horse. The library will also have a table at the Oregon Convention Center, Saturday February 1, for the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair. If you're there, stop by and say hello!


The new year is upon us! 

In addition to remembering to write 2014, making and following our new year’s resolutions, and welcoming the gradual return of the light, we also have a slew of new laws in the state of Oregon that will take effect January 1, 2014.

Large stack of papers.

The news outlets, such as The Oregonian and KVAL 13, have published stories about the new laws, providing a digest of some of the most interesting or unique laws soon to be in effect.

Highlights include Senate Bill 444 A that makes smoking in a motor vehicle with a minor under the age of 18 present a secondary traffic violation ($250 fine for first offense). The Oregon American Lung Association has additional information online as part of the Smokefree Cars for Kids campaign. Another motor vehicle law of interest for many may be Senate Bill 9 B that increases the fine to a maximum of $500 for using a cell phone or other mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle, some limited exceptions do apply.

A more specific law due to take effect January 1, 2014 is  House Bill 2104 A that will prohibit medical imaging procedures done for any other reason than a medical purpose ordered by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner.  While this bill stops the creation of ultrasound images by nonmedical professional made purely as keepsakes, another bill House Bill 2612 will now permit postpartum mothers to take home their placentas from the hospital if they so wish. Even more unique is House Bill 2025 B that establishes economic liability for bison owners who allow their bison to run at large and cause damage.

Oregon State Legislature Bill and Reports IconsAs you can see there is a new law for almost every occasion. If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, even the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are broken up into the 2013 Regular Session and the 2013 1st Special Session.  From the  Oregon State Legislature website you can search the bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also access a list of just the Senate and House Bills that were actually enacted in the Regular Session and the Special Session.  These reports and a number of other legislative reports can be found by clicking on the Reports icon. You can also learn how an idea becomes law and review a flow chart illustration of the process.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's I’m Just a Bill.    

As always librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we can happily make suggestions about research tools to use to find the information you are seeking.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!


Can you, or do you know someone who can, remember what you were doing on November 22, 1963? For baby boomers, this day is as memorable as 9/11 is for Gen Xers or Millennials. It is, of course, the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Hundreds of books have been written about the assassination and the brief JFK presidency, and this 50th anniversary has produced even more. A selection of these new materials is below.

One of the enduring mysteries of the assassination is what happened exactly? The Warren Commission said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (as did his killer, Jack Ruby), but most Americans don’t believe that.  There are almost as many theories out there as years that have passed since that day. Was it the CIA? The mob? Vice President Johnson? What’s your theory?

And why does this event of half a century ago still resonate?


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