Blogs: Community Services

Michael White: Renaissance ManVolunteer Michael White

by Sarah Binns

When bibliophiles crave a story, a library visit often meets that need. What Gresham book-lovers may not know is that some of the best stories at their local library are not contained in a book, but in the experiences of the computer lab volunteer, Michael White.

Michael's path to library volunteering doesn't hew to traditional tales of late-night novel reading or a passion for the library. Raised in Oregon farm country, Michael showed an early gusto for learning. He demonstrated drawing talent before he could talk and was fascinated by computer programming in high school. However, he suspended his education to join the army at 18, followed by the Oregon National Guard. After 25 years away from the Portland area Michael returned but faced homelessness, an experience not uncommon for veterans. (According to the 2013 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, veterans comprise 11% of the Multnomah County homeless population.) “When I was homeless I used the Gresham Library wi-fi. One day I overheard that the computer lab wasn't available because there was no volunteer. My ears perked up and I said, ‘Well, I can be the volunteer in the computer lab.’” 

Michael initially signed up for weekly two-hour shifts teaching everything from basic computer skills to building resumes. Described by Gresham Library staff as a “computer genius,” Michael developed a following among patrons. “You could say I got a bunch of customers,” he laughs. A recent high point was discovering that a woman he’d helped in her job search for six months had found employment. 

Michael works two jobs while studying for a bachelor's degree in software development through University of Phoenix. He left his volunteer position in October after 210 hours of service. His next adventure leads him back to the library in a different capacity as he plans to read a “marathon” through each of the 120,000 books in the Gresham branch. Michael struck me as a renaissance man - in fact, he is also building his own video game, one he hopes will “bring soul back” to the experience. With his broad interests and skills he is sure to succeed.

A Few Facts About Michael

Home library: Gresham Library

Currently reading: An R.A. Salvatore series; also waiting on the next Game of Thrones installment

Most influential book: George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. "[Martin] doesn’t focus on how awesome his characters are, he concentrates on their weaknesses and humanity, which makes them more believable.”

Favorite book from childhood: The Horseclans series by Robert Adams 

Favorite section of the library: I’d head to the sci-fi or computer development section.

Favorite place to read: It depends upon what I'm reading. If I'm reading a novel for entertainment, I either lay on the couch or bed. If it's a software manual, I'm usually sitting at my desk with the book propped up…

Favorite video game: Baldur’s Gate or Ultima Online

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.


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. 

Virtual Librarian

by Mindy Moreland

Volunteer Amy SchoppertMultnomah County Library's volunteers are a dedicated bunch. But some volunteers, like Amy Schoppert, take their devotion to a new level. As an Answerland volunteer, Amy not only serves library patrons from across Oregon, but she does so from Tacoma, Washington. Answerland, also known as Chat with a librarian, is an online service that uses librarians from across the state and around the world to provide 24-hour reference service for all Oregonians. Amy and her fellow volunteers chat online with patrons seeking help on a wide variety of projects, from homework assignments to research to questions about library resources. Every shift is different, Amy says. "It can be non-stop challenging questions, and it can be perfectly paced and engaging, but pretty manageable, and sometimes, rarely, it is very quiet. I try to prepare myself mentally for anything!"

Amy was inspired to become an Answerland volunteer when her husband, also a librarian, started volunteering with the service. “The first time he did a shift I knew I wanted to volunteer for Answerland,” Amy recalls. “I was in library school at the time and I remember asking how soon I could volunteer.” Even though surgery, a broken computer, and some scheduling issues delayed her start with Answerland, Amy’s dedication was unwavering. Finally, all the stars aligned. “I was so thrilled when I was finally able to volunteer and get my own shifts,” she recalls.

Answerland staffers answer more than 35,000 questions each year, working with patrons by chat, email, and text message. Over 40 Oregon libraries and over 50 MCL volunteers staff the service. Librarians from all over the country cover shifts when Oregon librarians are unavailable, making it possible to serve Oregonians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Funding for Answerland comes from the Oregon State Library through the Library Services and Technology Act.

Though she helps patrons of all ages, Amy particularly enjoys working with young students seeking homework help. “They are so pleased and so surprised that a service like this exists,” she says, “Being able to tell them that we are here and available to support their learning is really satisfying.”

A Few Facts About Amy

Your home library is: As I live in Tacoma, WA (but I'm from Portland!) and work for King County Library System, my KCLS branch is my home library.

What are you reading now? I'm reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and To Know As We Are Known by Parker J. Palmer.

What book has most influenced you? Mastering the Art of French Cooking, from which I only cook two recipes -- but we would be eating, I am convinced, nothing but meatloaf and Cheerios if it weren't for Julia Child.

What is your favorite book from childhood? I didn't have any one favorite book. But I certainly remember enjoying Pippi Longstocking and The Borrowers an awful lot.

A book that made you laugh or cry: Beware of God by Shalom Auslander made me laugh AND cry.

What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Gardening, cooking, fashion.

Which do you prefer: e-reader or paper book? Paper, although I am not allergic to e-readers.

What is your reading guilty pleasure? Books about clothes and fashion.

Where is your favorite place to read? The bathtub!

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

A Proud Advocate for the LibraryVolunteer Jack Tan

by Mindy Moreland

When most of us hear the word “library,” we picture tall shelves of well-ordered volumes, or maybe a quiet place to sit and read. But as Jack Tan has learned over the past four years, books are only the beginning of what the library has to offer. Jack grew up in Taishan, in China’s Guangdong Province, and moved to Portland four years ago. When he arrived,he spoke little English, so his uncle suggested a trip to the Rockwood Library, near his family’s home. Jack started taking English classes at Rockwood and using the library. “That’s how I fell in love with the library,” he says. “And I use the library so much, why not give back?” 

Jack became a Summer Reading volunteer at Rockwood, helping young readers to select books, choose prizes, and complete their game boards. He especially enjoyed seeing young children learning to read, and the encouragement and support their parents provided. “Jack utilized his every minute here. He never sat still; he always looked for something to help out with,” writes Reid Craig, the volunteer coordinator at Rockwood. “As such, we thought he would make an excellent Computer and Homework Helper. This is a pilot program in the Rockwood Library where we match trained volunteers with children that need help with their reading and homework.” When Summer Reading ended, Jack transitioned into this new volunteer opportunity. “It has been thrilling to see Jack at work helping so many youth,” Reid continues. “There are folks in the community that come to the library especially to get help from Jack.” 

After his first year studying accounting at George Fox University, Jack has taken on a new role and a chance to understand more of how the library system as a whole operates. In the summer of 2014, he is a Communications Intern as part of the Multnomah County Office of Diversity and Equity’s summer mentorship program, working on several different research and media projects. This position fits Jack well, since he is a proud advocate for the library’s array of resources and opportunities. “The most fascinating thing about libraries is the social services they provide,” Jack says. “They make people feel thankful, and make them feel a sense of home.” As Jack would tell you—and as his own experience proves—libraries are indeed about much more than books. 

A Few Facts About Jack 


Your home library is: Rockwood Library

What are you reading now? I don't reading any book now, but the last book I read was call The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

What book has most influenced you? The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino 

When you were a child, what was your favorite book? My Childhood by Maxim Gorky
What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Adult non-fiction
Which do you prefer--e-reader or paper book? Paper book

What is your reading guilty pleasure? All of the pleasure, and none of them is guilt. Because I believe books are magic portal to another dimension, out there you will left everything behind you, and just enjoy that moment while you have it.

Where is your favorite place to read? In my bed. Right before I go to sleep.

Extraordinary Volunteer and ScholarVolunteer Julia Yu

by Donna Childs


Each year,  1000 high school seniors across the country receive prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarships.  This year, out of 21 recipients from Oregon, nine are from Portland, and two 

are volunteers at a Multnomah County Library.  One of those, Julia Yu, is a recent Franklin High School graduate who will attend Emory University in Atlanta in the fall.  (The other volunteer, Enat Arega, is the sister of library volunteer Melaku Arega, who was featured in a previous Volunteer Spotlight in August 2013.)

Julia is a charming, hard-working, talented young woman who has volunteered at the Holgate Library since 7th grade, for a total of almost 500 hours.  She started because she loved reading and because the library was a refuge after school while her parents worked.  Over the years, she has helped with Summer Reading, worked as a branch assistant, and served on the Teen Council, spending as many as four days a week at Holgate Library in the summer.

Not only is she a top student and library volunteer, but Julia was very active in her school’s Key Club, Red Cross chapter, and National Honor Society.  A natural leader, Julia was Key Club Secretary, Preparedness Coordinator at the Red Cross, and Vice President of the National Honor Society.  She initiated several events to improve the Honor Society, increasing membership from 70 to over 180 students.

There isn’t space in this brief profile to list everything this impressive young woman has accomplished already.  She wrote eight essays for her Gates application, before school began in September. She worked for six months as an intern at OHSU, all day every Saturday, which included lectures and lab research on proteins. She plans to major in biology at Emory and pursue a career in medicine. She works in the summers with the Gear-Up college preparatory program and has been president of the math club at Franklin.  Keep an eye on this young woman - she will go far!

A Few Facts About Julia


Your home library is: Holgate Library
What are you reading now?  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

What book has most influenced you? Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

What is your favorite book from childhood? the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
A book that made you laugh or cry: Thirst by Christopher Pike
What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Science fiction and teen romance
Which do you prefer--e-reader or paper book? Paper book

What is your reading guilty pleasure? Supernatural reads such as The Vampire Diaries (L.J. Smith), Thirst (Christopher Pike), and The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman)

Where is your favorite place to read? In my room on my comfy bed.

Job search image

If you're looking for work and aren't sure where to start, consider these top sites that will help you begin your job search, network with others find out when jobs in your area of interest open up.
OregonLive: Best Local Jobs
Take a look at the Oregonian’s online employment classified section.
Craigslist isn't just for getting a couple of bucks for selling that old futon in your basement - you'll also find lists of local jobs in a wide-variety of categories. Here's a great article on getting the most out of Craigslist for your job search.
Craig isn't the only one with a list - this is a newsletter and website that posts jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities from hundreds of Portland Metro and greater Oregon non-profits, public agencies, and private employers. It also offers a resource page with recommended books, career coaches and more.
LinkedIn is a profession-focused network that allows you to link to people you know and network with those who know them. Its job board allows you to post your resume and it also includes a browser toolbar widget that can help connect you with your targeted employer. Still not sure what LinkedIn is or how it can with your job search? Take a look at LinkedIn's job searching tips and here are some tips from Forbes that LinkedIn won't tell you.
Indeed allows you to set up searches and have the results emailed to you daily and/or pushed to you via RSS. Easy to limit to a particular location. As with LinkedIn, this site also lets you post your resume.
Search for jobs throughout the state - use the advanced search to limit to a wage per hour, occupational group and more.

Energetic Volunteer

by Donna ChildsVolunteer Carol Lidberg

Carol Lidberg is a dedicated, high-energy volunteer at the Capitol Hill LibraryShe often begins her 2-hour shift before the library opens and races through her list of 130-200 hold requests, challenging herself to find them all in under two hours.  Not only is she a swift and accurate book searcher, she often manages time to check them in to trigger holds, tag them for the library to which they will be sent, and put them in the appropriate crates. Whew!

Carol’s career as a library volunteer began in 7th grade, when she helped at her local library, and continued through college with a work-study job in the college library.  After several years of working full-time, she resumed her library volunteering in 2008 when she left her job to begin an unpaid career in “family management,” caring for her husband and son.

In addition to her weekly stint at Capitol Hill Library, Carol also volunteers at her son's school library at Capitol Hill Elementary. There she checks out books for classes visiting the library and shelves books for the next visit.  She has worn many hats at Capitol Hill School, spearheading various projects and fundraisers, serving on the PTA for several years, helping in the office—whatever needed doing.

Although Carol previously took summers off from her volunteer jobs to be home with her son, now that he is growing up, she will be working at Capitol Hill Library this summer.   And she won’t be alone:  her son is going to begin his library volunteer career working in the Summer Reading program at Capitol Hill.  Like his mother, he is starting young.  

A Few Facts About Carol

Home library: Capitol Hill Library
Currently reading: When Darkness Falls, by James Grippando.
Favorite book from childhood: Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children books.
A book that made you laugh or cry: Any Spenser novel by Robert Parker makes me laugh.
Favorite section of the library: Mysteries and travel.
E-reader or paper book? Paper book, at least until my arthritis gets too bad.
Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Peanuts comics.
Favorite place to read: On the couch with an afghan and a cat.

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.


"Reading is a gift for life."

Volunteer Pam Jacobs

by Mindy Moreland

For Pam Jacobs, seeing a young child’s face light up at the prospect of a new story is a delight that never fades. Books, kids, and fostering literacy were the guiding passions of Pam’s career as preschool and Head Start teacher, and these same passions continue to inspire her as a volunteer. Today she donates her time and energies to several literacy organizations, including SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) and a read-aloud program at an assisted living facility, as well as two library programs.

When she first contacted the library in 2009 to inquire about becoming a volunteer, Pam recalls, her branch needed help with the Summer Reading program. She happily signed on, using her love of children’s literature and her early childhood education background to connect with parents and children eager to choose prizes and advance on their game boards. She’s delighted by their excitement and eager to encourage a love of reading, Pam says. She has helped with Summer Reading every year since, amassing a stack of Summer Reading t-shirts in the process. She enjoys the chance to get to know the library staff as well as the community she serves. “Volunteering is great,” she says.

Pam also volunteers year-round with Every Child, the early childhood outreach program, helping to sort, sticker, and prepare library materials for distribution. She works on projects such as assembling the library gift bags sent home with each new baby born in a local hospital.These contain a board book and information on storytimes and early learning programs. She’s proud to be able to help Every Child, developing young learners who will soon be excitedly completing their own Summer Reading game boards. “We want to keep them on that path,” Pam says. “Reading is a gift for a lifetime.”


A Few Facts About Pam

Home library: Hollywood Library

Currently reading: The Bartender's Tale, by Ivan Doig. Doig's style captures me. He is a real old-fashioned story teller.

Most influential book: The Good Earth. This book began an ongoing interest in the works of Pearl S. Buck and a fascination in other cultures. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. A college instructor made Faulkner's work come alive. Other authors that have touched my life in later years are Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, and Alice Hoffman.

Favorite book from childhood: The series about the Bobbsey twins (Laura Lee Hope) and later, Little Women (Louisa May Alcott).

A book that made you laugh or cry: Kent Haruf's books make me do both. So do the books of Anne Lamott.

Favorite section of the library: Definitely, the children's section!

E-reader or paper book? I prefer the feel of a paper book.

Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Mysteries of all kinds.

Favorite place to read: In my bed, at a coffee shop, and most of the beach!


Elizabeth Blackwell - first woman physicianLadies! Your health issues are different from those of the males in your life. Luckily, there are lots of resources around to help you learn more about your health.  

Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration has a page devoted to women? You can find information about medicine and pregnancy, heart health and women (did you know that women can experience the signs of a heart attack in different ways than men?) and much more.

The National Institutes of Health includes an Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), which partners with the other 27 National Institutes and Centers to “ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH—and throughout the scientific community.”

The ORWH has partnered with the National Library of Medicine to create a women’s health resources portal that links to many resources, including information for women veterans, the ORWH’s Primer for Women’s Health, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse resources, information on exercise and fitness, and much more. is a site created by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH). Follow the OWH blog for up to date news and thoughts on womens’ health, search for information, or browse health topics A - Z. This site is also available in Spanish.

OWH also maintains a site for girls ages 10 - 16. At, girls can learn about health, fitness, nutrition, bullying, and more.

MedlinePlus, the National Institute of Health’s consumer website, is a great place to go for health information. The site contains a wealth of information about women’s health, including information on specific conditions, stages of life, prevention, and more. The site is also available in Spanish, and contains information about women’s health in Chinese (traditional) and Korean.

Multnomah County has a women’s services page, too, as well as a pregnancy resources page.  

Many-Talented VolunteerPicture of Grace Ramstad

by Donna Childs

Grace is a mature, gracious, and responsible high school sophomore and multi-purpose volunteer at the Troutdale Library. A lover of books, Grace began as a Summer Reading volunteer before 9th grade, but she has greatly expanded that role since.  

The best relationships are often ones in which everyone benefits. Grace and Troutdale Library have that kind of relationship. With the end of summer, and Summer Reading, Grace searched for other ways to be involved, which led her to Storytime and Teen Council. In the words of librarian Deborah Gitlitz, Grace “quickly demonstrated such warmth, quick thinking, and ability that I recruited her to join the Teen Council, serve as Storytime Assistant at Pajama Time, and this year to serve as one of our Summer Reading Leaders.”   

Grace spends 10-15 hours a week helping to organize everything, keeping track of toys and prizes, doing data entry and anything else that needs doing. For Storytime, she leads activities, sets an example of good behavior, helps set up and put away props, books, chairs. To quote Deborah Gitlitz again, she is “an enormous help in helping kids to get involved and feel welcome... she can even make name tag interactions into literacy moments.” At Teen Council, she helps design activities to attract young readers, advises librarians, and serves as liaison between youth and library staff.  

Grace’s commitment to volunteerism doesn't end at the library. She is a member of her high school debate team, participating in meets with other schools, and is active in her school’s Future Business Leaders of America. One of five children (two older, a twin brother, and a younger sister) Grace has a full, active, and useful life, happily for her and for the Troutdale Library.


A Few Facts About Grace

Home library: Troutdale Library

Currently reading: Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Most influential book: The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)

Favorite book from childhood: The Boxcar Children 

A book that made you laugh or cry: The Fault in our Stars (John Green)

Favorite section of the library: The YA section

E-reader or paper book? Paper book

Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Corny romance books

Favorite place to read: On my couch


See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.


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