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Connie Willis’ multiple-Hugo winning Oxford Historians series began with the short story Fire Watch in the early 1980s, a good ten years before the first novel in the series (Doomsday Book). 
Fire Watch cover
 
The central conceit was scaffolded in this first story: graduate students in 2050 time travel to do their original research. Some aspects are not as well-developed in Fire Watch as in the novels — the formidable Professor Dunworthy insists on sending student Bartholomew to London during the Blitz rather than the Middle East in the 1st Century because of a misplaced possessive (St. Paul’s vs. St. Paul). The Professor we know from the novels would not be so capricious.
 
Or perhaps he would — because there is a chance that Dunworthy feels Bartholomew will learn something from serving in the Fire Watch, laboring to keep the symbol of London’s soul from burning, that he will not learn in traveling with the Saint. 
 
And learning that about humanity is the heart that runs through this series. In Fire Watch and Doomsday Book it takes the form of poignancy. The students in both stories are first hand witnesses to death, and although everyone they encounter has already been dead for a long, long time they learn that they are not the faceless mass of the long past, but precious and brave individuals. 
 
Time travel novels can do this magic, combining science and history into a unique alchemy. While Willis is a favorite, there are many more time travel novels to be savored in our collection. Check out the Time Travel Gems list for more.

bike picture six people

When I first moved to Portland, everyone asked if I was going to get a bike.  My response was a doubtful maybe.  After relying on public transportation for most of my adult life, it seemed unnecessary.  Seven years later, I’m contemplating which bike to add to my growing two wheeled family and can’t imagine getting around Portland any other way.

The road to year round riding was paved with a stolen bike(later found), scarily inappropriate routes, and an informative lesson about riding on ice. However, despite any obstacles  I’ve rode a long way baby. Perhaps not in distance like the dedicated bike tourers, but around town you’ll see me on my commuter bike with the best of them.

One of my favorite afternoon jaunts is the Springwater Corridor.  It's an amazing trail.  However, If you need a change of scene,   Portland’s Bureau of Transportation’s “Best rides around Portland” offers a multitude of route suggestions and maps for local and regional trips.  Don’t know the best way to get somewhere? Bike Portland can help you sort out route information from other cyclists on their forums. More of a group rider? Attend one of the many Pedalpalooza rides that take place for three weeks every June. Craving some kindred spirits off the saddle? Look no further than the Filmed by Bike festival held every April.

That’s only the beginning, but before you lock up and put the away the helmet, don’t forget about what the library has to offer.  There’s a wide array of books and maps with plenty of routes to keep you spinning around for the whole year.  Additionally, our helpful reference staff can assist you in navigating any of the above resources to get you in gear!

 

Have you ever been in love? That was actually your Limbic System.  

Have you every wonder why you get  hot, cold, or hungry. It was probably a part of your diencephalon which is a part of your brain that controls the parts of your brain which regulate internal body condition. 

Are you right or left brained? Maybe both? 

If you are curious about how the brain works, need to write a report, or do reasearch on the brain, check out MCL's database on Teen and Health Wellness and click on Body Basics. There are  articles, detailed images, charts that you can look through and that are easy to follow. The articles include an MLA, APA, and Chicago citation!  

 

An image of the human brain depicting left and ride side functions. The logical left brain and the creative right brain.

If you need more information on the human brain, click on contact a librarian. You can text, email, or call us! 

 

 

As a child, I spent a lot of time with animals. My family had dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, lizards, assorted tropical birds, and even a herd of 13 goats. Moose visited the yard once or twice a week, and when the snow was deep sometimes ermine (those little weaselly-looking white critters with the black-tipped tails) peeked in our windows. To while away the dark winter nights we would check out a film projector from the local library, tack a white sheet up on the wall of the log cabin, and watch films (on reels!) of wildebeests stampeding across Africa, bears fishing in Canada, warthogs wallowing in the mud… somewhere far warmer than where we were. To this day, I can’t resist checking out lavish books of animal photography, big expensive books that would be awkward to own but that are a treat to look at for a few weeks.

Across the Ravaged Land book jacketAcross the Ravaged Land by Nick Brandt. is my favorite of these. When it arrived on hold, I was shocked by its size. Opening it revealed majestic and ominous black and white photos of elephants, lions, hyenas, and other African wildlife, created without a telephoto lens or digital camera. Apparently Brandt is gutsy enough to walk right up to a hyena to take its portrait. Especially striking are the eerie shots of animals whose every last feather and hoof have been preserved by the mineral waters of a natron lake, including a bat perched among thorns that looks like it belongs on the cover of some long lost apocalyptic folk album. But the heart of the book is with the elephants, so monumental and solemn - fittingly so, since some were killed by poachers not long after their portraits were taken. A beautiful but sometimes bleak book, well worth a look.

Front page of the Oregonian, June 10, 1973There is lots of information about history in books, but sometimes the best way to find out about the past is to look at materials created at the time you’re studying.  Newspapers can be a great source for this kind of primary source research.

People investigating local history here in Multnomah County are lucky -- there have been many, many newspapers published in Portland, Gresham, and other local cities over the last 150 years.  The longest-lived Portland newspaper, the Oregonian, is also considered by many to be the “paper of record” for the state, and Multnomah County Library cardholders can read, search and browse every page of nearly every issue of the Oregonian published 1861-1987, using the library’s Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).

Let’s try a search! Start by going to the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) page on the library's website, and click on the blue Begin using this resource button, and then type in your library card number and PIN.

 

Say you want to see articles about the Rose Festival parades from past years.  Type the keywords “rose parade” into the search box at the upper left corner of the page (remember to use those quotation marks -- they limit your search to the phrase “rose parade” with the words right next to each other and in order).  Now click on Search.

This gives you 1,781 results!  Quite a lot.  The reason it's so many is that your search returns every occurrence of the phrase "rose parade" in every article, headline, or advertisement in every day's paper from 1851 to 1987.  Whew! 

As you can see, the articles in your list of results are arranged chronologically, with the oldest articles at the top.  Since you probably don’t have time to read 1,781 articles in one sitting, let’s find some ways to get a shorter, more precise list.

 

One great way to narrow your search is by limiting to articles from a specific date range.  To see articles about the 1952 parade, click on the Dates and Eras tab and then type in the year 1952.  Click on the green Search button again to see articles published in 1952 that contain the phrase "rose parade."

This gives you a much more manageable list of 69 articles.   If you find one you like, click on the snippet that shows the headline (or on the View article link), and you'll get a new page which shows the article.

 

Let's try a different way to narrow your search -- by adding a second topic.  If you are a long-time lover of the Grand Floral Parade, you've probably been to at least a few parades held under cloudy or rainy skies.  Portland in June, right?  Let's look for articles about rainy parades.

Go back to the main screen and start a new search.  This time, type in the phrase "rose parade" (with the quotes, just like before!), and also the word rain, and then click on the green Search button.  

This gets you a nice list of about 50 articles, again arranged with the oldest one first. 

 

Let's take a look at one of the articles.  Scroll down the page a bit and you'll see an article from the front page of the June 13, 1941 paper.  Click on the snippet of the headline (it's zoomed in kind of far, so only the words "For Rose Parade" are showing).  This gets you the full page so you can read the article.

It turns out, the article does include the word "rain," but only because it the weather was forecast to be dry!  The author says "the weatherman found no threat of rain to mar Friday's Rose Festival floral parade although some cloudiness is expected to continue."  1941, I guess, was a good year.

Now that you have a little grounding in how the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) works, take it out for a spin!  And share your discoveries in the comments, if you like.

 

 


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles?  Are you working on a local history project?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

Information Literacy. It’s a fancy term that teachers and librarians really like. There is an official definition from the American Library Association full of phrases like “locate, evaluate, and use effectively” and “proliferating information sources” and a bit about “escalating complexity”. So other than confirming that librarians like using lots of words, what does all of this mean?

Think of information literacy as the background skills (the Big Six, not to be confused with the Big Ten) that you need to be good at research. It is all about understanding what to do with what you find so you can get good grades and you know, learn something. While there are a lot of places that information literacy will serve you well, searching online can get really murky.

But you’re not alone! Check out these short and silly locally grown videos and other research tips for ways to make your homework all that much easier.

Our videos were made with the acting help and guidance of the teen councils of Midland, Northwest, Sellwood and Troutdale libraries.

 

Troutdale Library Teen Council  Mack the Labrador with Northwest Library teens  Sellwood Teen Council members  Northwest teen council member


Looking for more help? Contact a librarian!

How to do effective research. Five videos to help!

Calico Pie,

The little Birds fly

Down to the calico tree,

Their wings were blue

And they sang 'Tilly-loo!'

Till away they flew,—

And they never came back to me!

They never came back!                                                                                                   

They never came back!

They never came back to me!

A couple of years ago I was a school librarian desperately trying to encourage poetry reading and appreciation among students kindergarten-eighth grade. I was succeeding to a certain degree, but one afternoon I was sitting at my desk wondering if I ever would be able to get through the barrage of Disney princesses and  Lego warriors to the just plain silliness of Edward Lear.  

Among the things  I tried with my students:

  • Reading out loud in unison
  • Memorizing
  • Colouring a picture with the words
  • Clapping the rthymn
  • Encouraging students  to write their own silly ryhmes

The response was lukewarm and after my last class left I sat there wanting to cry from frustration thinking that such poems would be lost to the newer generations forever.  Lucky for me I did what I often do when upset - listened to music.  Suddenly I heard from my computer where Pandora had been merrily playing away - Calico Pie, Little Bird fly….WHAT?  HOW? The very poem I had just read to the  first graders.  The tune was peppy and clean.  I was so happy  I felt like dancing. The voice sounded familiar.  Was it  Natalie Merchant?  Yes, Yes it was.  When given the option to listen to the whole album, I hit  'enter' so enthusiastically  that my keyboard almost  bounced off the the desk .Natalie Merchant Leave your sleep

The rest of the afternoon passed  in a dream, poem after poem set to music and sung with Natalie Merchant’s unique personal style.  One poem was  new: "Bleezers Ice Cream", by Jack Prelutsky, but most were classics; " Maggie and Milly and Molly and me"- by e.e. cummings and "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" by Gerald Manley Hopkins.

Other verses like "The King of China’s Daughter" and "The Man in the Wilderness" were so well-worn into my memory that I couldn’t remember where I had first heard them. When I consulted Natalie Merchant’s website I found that she and I were worried about the same thing: how to give children a sense of poetry, a sense that past things should be remembered. Natalie wanted her young daughter to know poetry at an early age. So she composed music for a selection of her favorite poems. She looked up the background of each poet  and added it to the package.  The result is Leave Your Sleep, a beautiful collection of readable, singable poems. I have been singing them ever since. I am no longer a school librarian but I know that many of my students memorized poems through her music and I am inspired to know that there are still those who are using their talents to keep poetry alive.

 

Librarian Beverly is reading The Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt. She says: "What impressed me in Sarah Bernhardt's memoirs was her courage during the Franco-German War, when she established a military hospital in the theatre where she was an actress, and her ever present readiness for new places and experiences."

For imagery, it may prove elusive to locate just exactly the idea you are looking for on the internet, or by searching for books in the Library Catalog. Long before the invention of the internet, Central Library staff created the Picture Files to help solve this problem. For many years, books beyond repair, outdated calendars, and discarded magazines were reviewed by librarians and organized by volunteers into massive file cabinets of pictures, all by subject. 

Multnomah County Library picture file collection sampleThe composite picture shown here is from the file of womens' fashion from 1950, just the single year 1950. Womens' fashion design is one of the most extensive sections, with a file for each year from 1900-2005. There are picture files for hundreds of topics from the arts, history, social sciences and natural sciences.

Pictures can be checked out just like books. To use this collection, ask for picture files at the Central Library 3rd floor, Art and Music Reference Desk. You can check out up to 50 images selected from multiple folders.

The individual pictures are all protected by copyright laws of the US, since they are from printed books and magazines, published after 1922. As such, the goal of the collection is for helping people shape the ideas for their projects.

Questions about the Picture Files?
Contact Central Library Information Services:
503.988.5234

The House of Special Purpose book jacketIn a tiny Russian village of Kashen, seventeen year-old Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of a bullet meant for the Tsar’s uncle. As a reward for his bravery, Georgy is offered a job working for Tsar Nicholas and his family as the personal bodyguard to young Alexei Romanov. Georgy excels at his job and becomes part of the Tsar’s inner circle. But when Georgy meets and falls in love with the Tsar’s youngest daughter Anastasia, his life is changed forever. Flash forward to 1981, when an aging Georgy is retired, living in London and caring for his cancer-stricken wife Zoya. Told in alternating chapters, these two worlds travel toward their inevitable meeting. Readers get a bird’s eye view of life in imperial Russia, from the glitz and glamour of life in the Winter Palace to the evil influence of the legendary Rasputin and finally to the sad fate of the Romanov family at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

As with many of his other fascinating novels, including Crippen, The Absolutist and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne has once again made history accessible and timeless. In The House of Special Purpose, he takes a much-examined story and makes it fresh and inviting. It is a story of love across sixty-five years of history, and a testament to the power of accident and determination to control our lives.

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