Blogs: Basic information tools

Finding and securing affordable rental housing for yourself and your family in the Portland metro area has become more and more of a challenge. There are a number of reasons for this, from a low vacancy rate of only 3% to the steady gentrification of Portland neighborhoods since 2000.   While the exact rate of increase is variable depending on neighborhood and data collected, an October 2015 State of Housing in Portland (pdf) report found that “average rents across the city have increased between 8-9%, or roughly $100 per month, since this time last year.” On October 7, 2015 the Portland City Council declared a housing emergency with Mayor Hales agreeing that renters need protection. The hope is that the declaration and subsequent actions taken will help with both increasing affordable housing (defined as no more than 30% of one’s income) and also begin to address the rising number of people experiencing homelessness in our community. Immediate Portland City Council measures require landlords to give more notice to tenants before rent increases and no-cause evictions.

Colorful icon of a house

What do you do if you find yourself looking for rental housing in this tight environment? What happens if you find a no-cause eviction notice taped to your door? What can you do to keep your relationship with your landlord amenable and ensure you are retaining your tenant rights?

The rental housing market in the Portland metro area is the tightest it has been in many years and is currently one of the hardest in which to find affordable housing in the country.  It is tough out there!  You are not alone, however.  There are many resources and organizations that can help and your library can help connect you to these resources.

Where do I look for housing?

There are many places online that you can do a general search for housing. They include but are not limited to:

Be aware of possible scams and do not send payment in advance to secure housing.  Be skeptical of any listing that looks too good to be true.

You can also search for housing and housing assistance specifically for people and families on limited incomes using these resources:

The lists are long and the process is overwhelming.  Where can I get more help?

  • 211info is a great place to start for a directory of community renter resources including deposit/fee assistance, eviction prevention, housing search assistance, neighbor and landlord mediation, renters rights, and renting classes.

  • Oregon CAT - Community Alliance of Tenants is a tenant membership organization that declared a Renter State of Emergency in September 2015 to address rent increases and no-cause evictions. In addition to a Renters’ Rights Hotline (503) 288-0130, they have many valuable resources including information on how to find and keep affordable housing, how to research a prospective landlord, as well as a Landlord-Tenant Law Booklet.

For help staying in your current home look to:

Contact your library for assistance getting connected to the right housing resource.  We are happy to help!

Photograph of donation boxes, by Flickr user Joe Schueller.Is simplifying and spring cleaning in full swing at your house? Have you accumulated quite a collection of unnecessary belongings that need to go? In my house the answer to both is, yes! Luckily there are many resources to help you find where to donate or recycle these items.

Oregon Metro is my go to site for information on where to donate, recycle, or as a last resort dispose of as garbage. They have a database where you enter what you want to get rid of and it finds places to either donate, recycle, or dispose of it. There is also information on where to bring hazardous wastes, neighborhood collection programs, and tips on reducing waste in the first place.

211 Info is a clearinghouse of resources. Simply put in your zip code and "donation" in the search bar and it brings up a list of organizations that accept items ranging from glasses to camping gear. If you like more of a list format this is the website for you.

If you have questions about recycling check out Earth911. They have a recycling guide as well as a search feature to find local places to recycle. 

What about that growing collection of old electronics? Free Geek accepts donations of computers, phones, and other electronics. If able to be reused your device will be refurbished and donated back to the community, how cool is that! If it can't be reused your device can be recycled through Oregon E-Cycles. If you aren't able to make it to Free Geek, Oregon E-Cycles has many other collection sites

If you aren't able to go to donation sites the good news is there organizations that can come to you. The Vietnam Veterans of America and The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas both offer pick up services.

Finally here are my my personal favorites:

  • Have you noticed those green boxes popping up all around Portland? They are part of the Gaia Movement USA. They are an easy way to recycle your clothes and shoes. Use their map to find a drop off box nearest you. 
  • SCRAP accepts a wide range of art and office supplies. Just be careful not to leave with more than you donated!
  • The Rebuilding Center accepts building supplies and it's a fun place to wander around for hours. They also offer a pick up service.

What library blog would be complete without mentioning that the Friends of the Multnomah County Library can accept your book and DVD donations? If you have a small donation your local library will be happy to accept it.

Do you have questions about recycling, donating your unwanted posessions to local organizations, or anything else?  Librarians love questions, so please call, email, or text us -- or just ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library in person.  We'd be happy to help you get more information, or even just help you get your curiosity satisifed.


Close-up image of microfilm in a microfilm reader.Microfilm & microfilm readers

Microfilm is photographic film used to record miniaturized images on sheets or reels. Often these are images of pages from newspapers and magazines. The reels of film use less space than the original items (for example, 50 years of Sports Illustrated on film takes up the same space as 1 year of the paper magazine, and the boxes of microfilm can fit in one small drawer). To read the microscopic images on film, you use a microfilm reader which enlarges them for you.

Central Library has recently added two brand-new digital microfilm readers. These readers offer many new options for editing and saving images from microfilm, including the ability to crop, enhance images and add notes. The two new readers are located in the Periodicals room at Central Library, and older microfilm readers are available in the Literature & History room. 

Digital microfilm machines at Central Library.So, what kinds of magazines and newspapers does the library have on microfilm?

All sorts! Here is a selection of historic gems that we have available at Central Library for your micro-perusing:

  • The Black Panther, 1968 to 1980
  • Harper’s, 1963-2013
  • Macworld, 1984 to 2005
  • Reader’s Digest, 1922 to 2013
  • TV Guide, 1953 to 1994
  • and many, many more!

In addition to national publications like the ones listed above, Central Library also has a large collection of local newspapers on microfilm, including the Oregon Journal, The Oregonian, The Portland Telegram and the Willamette Week. For more information about searching in local newspapers, take a look at the blog post “Research with historical Portland newspapers, beyond the Oregonian.”

Microfilm readers are also located at the Gresham, North Portland, and Sellwood libraries. These locations have smaller collections of microfilm materials which are specific to their communities: The Gresham Outlook, The Sellwood Bee and (at North Portland Library) many local African-American periodicals like The Skanner, The Portland Observer and The Newspaper.

Newspaper article about the Grateful DeadA couple of notes before you begin your micro-searching:

  1. When you use microfilm, it is like browsing through a big stack of newspapers or magazines arranged by date. If you don’t know the exact date for the article that you are seeking, you might need to use an index (usually this index is a book or an online resource) to look it up.
  2. Some magazines and newspapers are only available on microfilm at the library, but many are also available through the library’s online databases. These databases can sometimes be a better choice for your searching.

Remember, you can always Ask a Librarian and we will be happy to help you find the information or articles that you need!

Wikipedia logo.Wikipedia, is a free encyclopedia with over 4 million articles in multiple languages, created by users all over the world. Can you trust all of them? Probably not, although this website can be great for finding a quick answer when you don't need the information to be 100%-guaranteed accurate.

Your professor or teacher might say that you can't use Wikipedia when you're writing a research paper - but this doesn't mean that it's not useful to you in your research. Many of the articles in Wikipedia have citations indicated throughout them, and a list of references at the end where the authors are claiming to have found their information. This doesn't prove that everything in the Wikipedia article is true - but if you find a fact that you need, you can use the citations and the list of references in the article to find out which source might have that fact. 

And if you need help finding any of the sources listed in your Wikipedia article, just ask a librarian and we can help!

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.

- Mark Twain (though he satirically attributed it to Benjamin Franklin)

Close up of clock face showing 7 - 8 - 9.The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as “the action or the habit of postponing or putting something off,” and the word itself is derived from Latin meaning “to put off for tomorrow.”* Most of us do give in to some level of procrastination; students and writers are especially predisposed (this blog author included). We all do our best to start our research early but when that does not happen the library is here to help.  

Here are the top go-to research tools and resources I recommend for authoritative research when time is truly of the essence. You can immediately use each of these resources with your library card, anywhere you have internet access.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)

GVRL is my top recommended resource for immediate research on a variety of topics, including research in biography, business, culture, education, health information, history, religion, science and general reference. It is a collection of more than 1,400 e-books and databases from encyclopedias to biographies. Each article is available to read immediately online or can be downloaded as a PDF to be viewed as they appear in the print edition. Citations indicate the articles are from actual books or encyclopedias (digital and print) and include page numbers.  You can tell your professor or teacher, “Yes these are actual books!”   

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Do you need access to primary resources? Are you writing a persuasive essay or on a debate team?  May I strongly recommend Opposing Viewpoints in Context? This invaluable research tool provides information and discussion about current topics in the news.  Importantly it includes arguments from different points of view. From police violence to drug abuse, or gun rights and gun control; Opposing Viewpoints is the place to go for all sides of an issue. The resources provided are overflowing: video and audio clips, magazine and newspaper articles, academic journals, images, and primary resources.  In addition, there are original persuasive pieces called “Viewpoint essays” that clearly lay out one side of an issue and provide a list of books and periodicals for further reading.


The last resource to have at the ready when you are done procrastinating is eLibrary.  This is a perfect resource for getting an overview of a topic.  Having trouble deciding what to focus on? Right away eLibrary asks, “Starting a Research Paper? Find your Research Topic here” and then provides a link to a list of possible topics linked to a wide range of resources.   With one search you can find information in books, journals, and the media; in print, audio, or video. Like GVRL and Opposing Viewpoints, eLibrary also provides citations . You can email yourself any of the resources you find for later review.

Would you like more assistance?

Don’t hesitate to contact an information professional (that’s us!) and we can help you navigate these or any other of our many research tools and resources. For the most immediate assistance (who knows, your homework might be due tomorrow) come see us at any of our 19 library locations,  call Information services at 503.988.5234 anytime during Central Library’s business hours, or chat with a librarian 24 hours a day.  You can even text us! If you have a little bit more wiggle room on your deadline (i.e. not due tomorrow) you can also send us an email or request to book a librarian for one-on-one help with your research at any library location.  

No matter when or how you request it, we will be happy to help!


* - “Later,” by James Surowiecki. The New Yorker, 10/11/2010.


what you say matters

    We are deep in social media, of course. 74% of adults who use the internet use social media sites! It’s what we do now: how we maintain friendships, meet people, have conversations, begin relationships, learn about news, undertake social change, and market our services and products. There’s a lot (A LOT) that can be said about this, from whether or not it’s good for us to what Big Data from social media tells us about ourselves.

    So we do social media, and it results in a whole lot of writing. Research from last decade indicates that people are writing more than ever before. If we’re going to do a ton of writing in social media, we should do it well!

    That could mean a few different things:

    Hungry for more books on how (or why) to do social media? There’s something out there for the beginner, for the optimist, for the contrarian, or the pragmatist.

    Kids aren't born knowing how to use a keyboard.  But in today’s keyboard-centric world, kids need to learn to type. Luckily, there are some good free online typing programs aimed at students.

    The article  Ed Tech Ideas: Keyboarding Sites for Kids lists many links to other free typing games.

    Need more help? Contact a librarian

    Photo of a cameraYou need a photo or an image for a project you’re working on. You need it fast. You don’t want to pay anything to anybody, or get sued for copyright violation. Luckily, there are a lot of sources on the Web for finding royalty-free images! (Royalty-free = you don’t have to pay any money to use it.) Here is a list of some of the best websites for finding these types of photos and images. Is there a website that you like to use? Add a comment and let us all know!

    The creators of many of the images on these websites are giving up some of their copyright protection and allowing you to use their photos and artwork. However, they may have usage rules that they require you to follow: for example, they might ask you to attribute the creator of the image if you use it. (Attribution = including information, on your website or wherever you use the image, saying who made the image and where you found it.) Before you copy or use any image, it’s a good idea to look at the webpage for the image and check for usage or licensing rules. I’ve included links to the general usage rules for many of the websites in this list. Quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide advice regarding your legal rights. However, I can help find material that might assist you in your research, or help you learn how to contact a lawyer. Questions? Please ask!

    Creative Commons logoCreative Commons Search - Creative Commons is an organization that creates standards for sharing content on the Web (photos, videos, writing, anything!) This webpage has buttons to search many different websites for images and other content that are free to use based on Creative Commons standards - choose a website and then type in your search. Searchable websites from this page include Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, and more. Usage information is included on the bottom of the page, below the buttons for the different sites.19th century painting of an American schooner

    U.S. Government Images search - The search engine lets you look for photos and images from the federal government. You can find photos of just about anything, from satellites to Socks the cat, with little or no usage restrictions. Most of the results take you to images located on the Flickr website: before you use the image for your own project, make sure to look for usage information on the image's Flickr page.

    Children reading a wireless newspaperThe Commons - The Commons is a section of the photo-sharing website Flickr which provides access to images from public photography archives at museums and libraries around the world. It’s a great place to find historic photos, and everyone (including you!) is encouraged to add comments and tags to the images. The photos on this site have “no known copyright.”

    Encyclopedia of Life - this website’s mission is to “increase awareness and understanding of living nature,” and it includes information and images on all kinds of living creatures, from moths to amoebas to mollusks to monkeys. It includes many images, most of which are free to use as long as you attribute the source. Here is a usage statement for the site.

    Photo of a flowerMorgue File - a morgue file is “a place to keep post production materials for use of reference.” In other words, it is a place to store things. In this particular online morgue file, you can find many high resolution stock photos. Here is a usage statement for the site.

    Openclipart - Unlike many websites which offer photos to use, this site has royalty-free clip art (clip art = little images and drawings ready to use in electronic documents). You can even register and submit your own clip-art for other people to use! Here is a usage policy for the site.Scissors illustration

    Are websites not your thing? Do you prefer books? Well, the library still has plenty of those. We have many books of illustrations and prints on all sorts of topics, most of them royalty-free. To find them, just do a subject search in the library catalog for “clip art.” You’ll find books with images of Victorian women’s fashion, birds, children’s book illustrations, fairies, and much more, many of them including CD-ROMs with computer files of all the images in the book. At the end of this blog post is a book list showing examples of the types of clip art books that the library owns.

    If you still have trouble finding the images that you want, or if you have more questions about any of this, you know what to do: Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.

    Images included in this post:

    Earth Science Week logoDo you like maps, plans and diagrams?  Are you fascinated by rocks, soils or earthy disasters like earthquakes and landslides?  Then rejoice!  This Friday, October 17th is a holiday designed for you: Geologic Map Day, part of the American Geosciences Institute’s annual Earth Science Week.

    A geologic map shows shows rock, soil, and other geologic features as a part of the landscape.  The theme for this year’s Earth Science Week -- and also for Geologic Map Day -- celebrates Earth’s Connected Systems.  Especially fitting, I think, because maps are wonderful tools for illustrating complex, interconnected systems and structures.

    The Connected Systems of the Columbia River on the Oregon - Washington Border, from Oregon DOGAMIThe library has a wide variety of geologic maps (and books about geologic maps) that you might want to check out -- my colleague Ross has assembled some favorites in the list below.

    You can also find some really wonderful geologic maps online.  For example, the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has released a lovely new poster for Geologic Map Day, showcasing the connected systems of the Columbia River on the Oregon - Washington border.  

    DOGAMI has a lot of other great geologic map resources on their website.  I’m a fan of their geologic history of Oregon and the wide range of interactive maps they produce on subjects from tsunami evacuation zones to lidar data.


    Do these great geologic map resources whet your appetite for more and more maps?  Let us know!  Knowledgeable and friendly librarians are always standing by to help you with your map and research needs!  Ask us your map-related questions (or really, any questions) by email or phone, or talk to the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library in person.     


    In my first post, I talked about how to find science information that’s written for scientists to read.  

    But sometimes we’re not interested in an intensely technical analysis!  We may want a quick answer to a science-related question.  Or, we may be absolutely ready to read a long article or book -- so long as it’s written for a general audience.  

    So, let’s talk about:

    The way scientists talk to us non-scientists  

    The general public is a very diverse group, so there are a lot of reasons scientists might want to communicate with us, and a lot of reasons we might want to hear from them:

    • Some scientists actively reach out to a wide audience.  There are many ways they might do this, but a few common ones are: giving public lectures, hosting community discussions, or writing newspaper columns or popular science books.  

    • For some scientists, communication with the public is an important part of their formal role. Government researchers, for example, or scientists who work for public-oriented organizations like science museums or environmental nonprofits.  

    • And sometimes, the interest comes straight from the public. We non-scientists want to know about the latest cancer research, about work that's being done to better predict the occurrence of wildfires, about breakthroughs in our understanding of the workings of the other planets in our solar system, and so on.

    As you can see, scientists’ communication with the public might take a lot of different forms.  How to navigate them all?  Use your imagination, and always remember to ask the question, “How would scientists communicate about the question I’m exploring?”  This can lead you to a wide array of resources that are designed to be read by regular people like you and me, such as:

    Now you should have a good start finding science information that’s designed for us non-scientists to read and use in our lives.  Have fun learning, reading and exploring!


    Remember, librarians are always happy to help you with your questions and research needs -- whether they’re science-related or not!  So ask the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.




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