Michael White: Renaissance Man
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