Blogs: Teens

Getting ready for college is a state of mind


Florida State 1904Every year, hundreds of high school juniors and seniors in the Portland area are faced with the decision of whether to go to college, which colleges to apply to, what to study, how to get accepted, and how to pay for it. The library can help! 

If you’re wondering if you’re ready or not, ask the advice of a trusted high school counselor, teacher, or librarian. They can help you find resources to decide whether you have learned to set clear, achievable goals, can manage your time well, and have the skills you’ll need for college-level courses.

Compare your options

College Blue BookThe library has several different resources to help you evaluate your options. One of the best available is the six-volume College Blue Book. You can look at it online or come in to Central Library to browse.

The first volume has the most narrative information about different options. Find the number of students and faculty, entrance requirements, costs per year, and lots more. You could use this volume, for example, to compare the campus at George Fox University to Lewis & Clark College.  

Looking for which degrees are offered by college and subject? Volume 3 is where you can find, for example, that Portland State University and University of Oregon both offer degrees in architecture. Volume 5 has an up-to-date list of scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans. And if you're interested in distance learning programs, look at Volume 6. Almost every course, certificate, and degree program that you can take on campus is also available in a distance learning format.

Deciding what to study

Occupational Outlook HandbookDuring high school, students typically begin forming some idea of what they want to study or do for work. The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help with up-to-date vocational guidance, employment forecasting, and information about different occupations. You can also use their electronic resources online for career information about hundreds of occupations.

For each job, the book discusses work tasks, job outlook for the next few years, training and education needed, pay, work environment, similar occupations, and additional information sources.

The library also has the Oregon Career Information System (CIS) database which provides information about occupations in Oregon that relate to your interests, aptitudes, and abilities. After you create a portfolio, you can use CIS to take college admissions practice tests, upload your career search, and build a résumé. Deciding whether to return to school? CIS has career assessment tools to help you out.

Considering whether to use a college consultant

College consultants can help you develop strategies about planning for college. Look for someone who is knowledgeable about a wide range of colleges and their admissions processes. They can help identify your strengths and weaknesses, and help find schools that are a good fit. They can also advise on what you need to do to prepare for applying to college, such as choosing college prep classes, participating in school activities, and volunteering in the community.

There are many college consultants in the Portland area. The following sites have tools for finding phone numbers and addresses of local consultants.

Independent Educational Consultants Association

Higher Education Consultants Association

Book cover for All Ages by Mark Sten.1977 was the year when punk rock took hold in cities across the U.S. and the world, weird bands popping up all over like flowers in a barren wasteland of boring. Many of these early punk scenes have been documented in books, and now we have a book for Portland: All Ages, The History of Portland Punk, 1977-1981 by Mark Sten.

Sten was active in many punk organizations from this period, and he played in a lot of the bands. He also kept stuff: in his book there are lists of every punk or new wave (whatever you want to call it) show that happened in the city, and flyers and photos from a lot of them. The overall effect is a feeling like you’re really there, at every show and meeting, as seen through Sten’s eyes and experienced through his brain. This is both awesome and a little ... maybe not the view that you might have from inside your own head.

But at least it’s honest! A lot of the books about punk rock scenes take the form of oral histories, with the story being told through quotes by the fans and the rockers who were there - this format sounds objective, except for the fact that the editor of the book has carefully chosen and arranged the quotes to tell the story that they want to tell. Sten’s book holds no such pretensions towards impartiality.

Photo of Ross with mohawk, from 1996.It can be interesting to read a few of these scene histories, to see what’s different and what’s the same. For example, take We Got the Neutron Bomb by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, a history of the Los Angeles scene. Whereas that city was full of celebrities and managers and professional schmoozers in the late 1970s (I’m sure it’s really different now...), Portland bands had no choice but to collectivize and create their own venues and opportunities. And in terms of the books themselves, Neutron Bomb is downright spartan and spotty in its coverage when compared to the comprehensive All Ages.

I love reading about punk rock scenes. There’s hope and excitement in the uninhibited creation of something new. There’s the spirit of rebellion, the drugs, the sex, the drama, and the part at the end where some people rocket to stardom and legend (or at least continue to tour in their 60’s) and others die or fade away. And, of course, there’s also the music, which was powerful, raw, intense, and changed our lives. And our hair.

(Thanks to Janice Morlan for her exceptional editorial assistance on this post.)

Subversive Cross Stitch book coverAhhh...summer is finally here. For some (lucky) folks that means time to relax, enjoy the sun, read, binge watch Netflix, and maybe take up a new craft. But what new craft should I get into, you ask? This is where Subversive Cross Stitch comes to the rescue. Of course cross stitching isn’t a “new” craft, and maybe you have already dabbled in stitchery, but hear me out on this. When I saw this book sitting on our new book shelf, opened it up and saw beautiful cross stitch patterns with sayings like “Cheer Up, Loser”, “Too Bad So Sad” and “Kiss My Grits” (and these are just some of the more rated-PG patterns), I knew that I had found my new summer craft. That night I found myself in the craft store loading up a basket with embroidery thread, wooden embroidery hoops, needles, canvas and cute little scissors. Over a weekend, while binge watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I proudly finished my first cross stitch. I would post a picture for you, but that might get me fired, so instead you can feast your eyes on the censored piece that I started a few days ago. Half done cross stitch
The patterns in this book are fantastically snarky, fun and easy to follow. Plus the author starts the book out with basic cross stitch instructions and techniques. Perfect for the novice cross stitcher, like myself, and the experienced needleworker who wants to explore their “sassy side”.

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 and, 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 iconWhich 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’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!

Cool Japan Guide book jacketLots of Americans are way into manga and anime, but Abby Denson loves both so much that she tries to go to Japan every year.  She’s pretty much a fan of all Japanese pop culture and now she’s written and illustrated a fun travel guide to help others navigate the land of manga, lucky cats and ramen.  She’ll tell you about the best times to go, how to deal with the weird toilets, where to find the most awesome souvenirs, what to eat (the ramen is WAY better than the stuff you find in the U.S. and the sweets are to die for), along with interesting things to see and do. You’ll also learn a few Japanese words from Abby’s cat, Kitty Sweet Tooth.

Comics conventions! Maid and butler cafes! Vending machines with funky food and drink! Abby throws you right into the middle of it all.  After reading the Cool Japan Guide, you’ll want to hop the next flight to Tokyo and start your search for the perfect omamori and Taiyaki.

For another fun illustrated guide to Japan, check out Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet.

Books are for chumps drawingAbout a year ago this picture landed on my desk. Drawn on the back of a library survey that had been given out to hundreds of middle and high school students. A hastily drawn angry face with a speech bubble that says “Books are for CHUMPS!” When I first saw the drawing I couldn’t help but laugh. Then I wondered, who was it who drew this? Do they really think that books are for chumps? What even is a chump? Since the creator of this drawing is an anonymous student, I will respond to their cry for bookish help in the form of an advice column.
Dear Books Are For Chumps,
I understand that you do not think that books are fun or interesting to read. I sympathize with your struggle. I was once like you until I realized that it wasn’t that books were boring, it was just that I hadn’t yet met the right book. I know very little about you other than that you do not like to read, you do like to express yourself, and you have a great sense of humor. So with those three things in mind, here are some titles that I think will change your opinion about books.
Ready Player One book coverLet’s start with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Imagine that it is 2044 and the world has become a bleak place. Most people escape their extremely grim reality by immersing themselves in a virtual reality called the OASIS. The deceased creator of OASIS, James Halliday, leaves his inheritance to any gamer who can solve three puzzles that he has left within the OASIS. After years of isolation Wade Watts finds himself juggling real world danger, romance, friendship and 80’s nostalgia in a fast paced cyber quest.
Why read this: You love video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and 80s movies.
Grasshopper Jungle book coverIf you are in the mood for dystopian fiction with more of a  comical bend I recommend giving Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith a try. This is a book that is hard to explain and impossible to forget. Grasshopper Jungle is a first person chronicle of the end of the world told from the perspective of 16-year old Austin Szerba. Austin is a normal teen living in a small Midwest town, hanging out, having fun and struggling with his affection for his best friend, Robby and his girlfriend, Shann. Meanwhile there are 6-foot tall praying mantis-like alien Unstoppable Soldiers (that Austin and Robby accidently let loose) poised to take over the world. 
Why read this: 6-foot tall praying mantis-like aliens. Need I say more?
Dorothy Must Die book coverDorothy Must Die is the first book in a  new series  by Danielle Paige (the second book The Wicked Will Rise came out earlier this year). This is a “what happens after” story and a twisted take on the Land of Oz. Amy Gumm is another girl from Kansas who gets swept away to Oz. But the land that she visits is not the same Technicolor fantasy from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. Oz is a gray, sad place ruled by a powerful and horrible tyrant, Dorothy. This series is an awesome spin on a classic tale. 
Why read this: You want to know what happens after the movie ends.
The Shadow Hero book coverMaybe a graphic novel is what you need. If so check out the Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang. The Shadow Hero revives the 1940s comic book story of the Green Turtle, the  first Asian American superhero. 19-year old Hank Chu is the son of Chinese immigrants living in a fictional 1930s Chinatown. After his mother is rescued by a superhero, she decides that it is her son's destiny to become a superhero. This is a comical take on the traditional superhero origin story.
Why read this: You have (and maybe stiil do) fantasized about being a cape wearing superhero.
So my challenge to you, B. A. F. C. , is to read at least two of these books over the summer, then get back to me and let me know if you still think that books are for chumps.

Popular book jacketThis summer I was over at my mom's going through some things from my youth and found several diaries from middle and high school.  I glanced through the entries that mostly consisted of "Went to the football game", "Hung out at the mall", "Stalked the cute guy who works at the bowling alley".  Given my lack of meaningful (or even remotely interesting) teen years writing content, I am always somewhat suspicious when I see teen memoirs. What could they possibly have to write about in their short lives? Well plenty it turns out!  In her brand, spankin’ new book, Popular a memoir: Vintage wisdom for a modern geek, Maya van Wagenen tells us about the school year she spent figuring out the meaning of popularity and trying to achieve it.  At first, this sounds like what many middle and high school students attempt, but here’s the twist:  she used a book written for teens in 1951 for her popularity experiment! 

When Maya’s family was clearing out the house one month, she came upon a book her dad had bought at a garage sale, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide, and thus was born an exciting but scary idea.  Each month of her 8th grade year she would read a chapter and then put into practice Cornell’s advice.  Hilarity ensues as she buys and wears a girdle, tries out a bunch of different hairstyles including a Princess Leia-esque do (“Love your buns, Maya!”), and infiltrates different cliques at their lunch tables.  Does Maya go from being an introverted sort-of-slob to a neat-as-a-pin, pearl-wearing popularity princess?  Can advice from the 1950s still be relevant to today’s teens?  Read Popular and find out!

Take a look at this list for some memorable teen memoirs.

I’ve played the game “Would you rather?” a few times before where you have to choose which of two things you would rather do/be/have etc.  Some decisions were hard because both choices are equally yucky:  “Would you rather eat a worm or a spider?”  I’d rather eat neither.  Some decisions were hard because both choices seemed to have potential:  “Would you rather be a troll or a Viking for Halloween?”  One choice that frequently comes up in this game is “Would you rather be deaf or blind?”  That one was easy for me.  I need my eyes to do most of the things I enjoy:  reading, crafting, watching TV, observing flora and fauna as I hike, etc.  If I were deaf, although I would have to live without music, I also wouldn’t have to hear the garbage men at 6:00 a.m. or my upstairs neighbors walking around (fortunately, the current ones are really considerate!).  To me, it seems all around easier to be deaf than blind.

El Deafo book jacketBeing deaf is no piece of cake, though, as Cece Bell shows us in El Deafo, her memoir in graphic form. When she was four years old, she contracted meningitis and was left with a severe hearing impairment.  She was able to hear with the help of several devices, but her deafness still set her apart and, at times, left her feeling lonely and isolated.  In addition to dealing with the usual childhood concerns like making friends and keeping up in school, Cece had to cope with people who couldn’t understand her condition.  Although she really, really wanted to help them figure it out, it was hard to communicate what she needed.  El Deafo was her superhero alter ego who could stand up for herself and right the wrongs inflicted on her by mostly well-meaning, but frankly clueless kids and adults.  Her superpower was the ability to hear people – like teachers - from very far away (with the help of her Phonic Ear device). The illustrations, in which people are portrayed as rabbits, are colorful, charming and full of expression. We experience Cece’s big anxieties, but also her joys like her first crush and the fun of discovering a new best friend.  By the time you read the last panel, you’ll want to be pals with Cece!

For other memoirs for kids that are illustrated or in a graphic format, check out this list.

Ready for a good cry?  The film version of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes out June 12, and it's already getting some great buzz.  If you're looking for more smart, tragic fare (and maybe you've already devoured The Fault in Our Stars), here are some great options.  We affectionately call them Downers.

support groupsAs some smart person once observed, looking for work is work, darn hard work.  And the pay stinks.  It's a process full of frustration and disappointment, which makes keeping the focus and motivation necessary for a good outcome difficult.  But you don't have to go it alone.  The Portland/Multnomah County area is full of people in the same boat as you, willing and able to offer their comradery, support and advice to help you through these trying times.  I recently sat in on one such group, the Job Finders Support Group, which meets at the Capitol Hill branch, noon to 3pm every Friday.  I was greeted warmly by a bunch of very together people who were happy to share their experiences with job applications, networking events, social media, the latest job search-related apps, company research, interview strategies - in short, they were on top of all different aspects of the job search game and very encouraging and supportive of each other.  It is facilitated by local author Cleon Cox and he lists many other local support groups and other job seeking resources on his website.  Another source of support in the east county area is the Job Seekers Support Group which meets at Gresham Library at 1:30pm on Tuesdays. Finally, an option in your job search arsonal is the job fair, where employers vie for the attention of prospective employees like you - the State of Oregon website lists job fairs and events in the area

Need help finding more job resources? Let us help!


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