The Elephant House, EdinburghThis summer, I got to see the birthplace of Harry Potter!  I’d been in Edinburgh before but had managed to miss the café in which J.K. Rowling first began writing about Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I also had a pint in Inspector Rebus’s pub, The Oxford Bar, and revisited the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  Visiting literary sites and libraries is something I try to do on every trip, and I had a bookish bonanza this year in Scotland.  In past years, I’ve wandered the Portobello Road antiques market in London where Paddington Bear’s friend, Mr. Gruber, has his shop, have made a pilgrimage to James Herriot’s veterinary clinic in Thirsk, England, and ridden the rails in Yorkshire close to Thomas the Tank Engine’s home.

When I was a child, we did a lot of traveling around the Pacific Northwest as well as Pennsylvania and KentuckyThe Oxford Bar, Edinburgh where my family’s relatives lived.  All of those trips were fun, but I can only imagine how excited I would have been had I gotten to commune with Peter Rabbit in England’s Lake District or been lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes place.  If you or your children have a hankering to visit places you’ve come to love in favorite books, there are several guides to help you get there.

Storybook TStorybook Travels book jacketravels covers thirty literary landmarks around the world.  The guide gives you information about the books covered, suggested itineraries, and addresses, phone numbers  and websites of the places to visit.  Portland gets a mention for Beverly Cleary's books!

Once Upon a Time in Great Britain covers literary sites in England, Scotland and Wales and also notes sites where you can see original artwork and manuscripts.

I don’t know where I’ll travel next, but I’m sure it will include places important in my reading life.

From Summer Reading Assistant to Film Star

by Donna ChildsVolunteer Ryder Dopp

Summer Reading Leader, Teen Council member, Branch Assistant, Storytime Assistant, TechnoHost and video star, Ryder Dopp does it all. He is at the Holgate Library at least 2-3 hours a week, more when the Teen Council meets and even more when Summer Reading begins.

Ryder, who would otherwise be moving from middle to high school this fall, is homeschooled, which gives him freedom to learn in different ways. For example, he and his family lived in a 40-foot school bus for several years, traveling to Mexico and parts of the US. More recently, they have taken some 2-month long “big trips,” to Nicaragua, where they helped build a house, and to Thailand.

Here in Portland, Ryder’s responsibilities at Holgate give him opportunities to interact with other young people and to serve his community. As a Summer Reading Leader, Ryder’s tasks include supervising Summer Reading volunteers, entering data on readers, making sure prizes are available, and finding substitutes for Summer Reading volunteers.

As a Teen Council member, he meets twice monthly with other teens and library staff to discuss youth and library issues, undertakes projects (such as making ugly dolls or 1000 paper cranes), plans activities and creates games for kids.

His Storytime Assistant role, like Summer Reading, involves data entry (sign-ups, keeping track of attendees) and helping with details like name tags, for example. As a Branch Assistant, he pulls holds, reads shelves, and, sometimes acts as a TechnoHost, helping with computers, printers, and iPads.  

A Few Facts About Ryder

Home library: Holgate Library
Currently reading: Hunger (in the Gone series)
Favorite book from childhood: Falcon Quinn
A book that made you laugh or cry: Time Riders
Favorite section of the library: Young Adult books
E-reader or paper? Paper
Favorite place to read: My bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

For those of us who love classic literature, Multnomah County Library is a great resource. There are Classics Pageturners book discussion groups at Hillsdale Library and Hollywood Library.  The book lists for those discussion series are below, and include the dates of the discussions in the annotations.  Following that are a series of lists of Western and non-Western literature from every era.

Here are the Classics Pageturners schedules:

Hillsdale Library Classics Pageturners,

second Saturdays, 3-5 pm


September 12, 2015, The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman


October 10, 2015, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by  Bashō Matsuo


November 14, 2015, Lord Jim, by  Joseph Conrad


December 12, 2015,The Satires of Horace, by Horace


January 9, 2016, Death with Interruptions, by Jose Saramago


February 13, 2016, The Lusiads, by Luís de Camões


March 12, 2016, Villette, by Charlotte Bronte


April 9, 2016, Snow Country, by Kawabata Yasunari


May 14, 2016, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), by José Rizal


June 11, 2016, The Dubliners, by James Joyce

Hollywood Library Classics Pageturners,

third Sundays, 2-4 pm


September 20, 2015, The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner


October 18, 2015, Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov


November 15, 2015,The Satyricon by Petronius


December 20, 2015, Histories by Herodotus, Books 1 through 4


January 17, 2016, Histories by Herodotus, Books 5 through 9


February 21, 2016, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe


March 20, 2016,The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol 


April 17, 2016, Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach


May 15, 2016, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev


June 19, 2016,The Book of Margery Kempe by Margery Kempe


I'm a sucker for stories that feature librarians. When I was a little kid, I turned my bookshelves into a library and made my sister and my stuffed animals check out books.The Book of Speculation bookjacket

Right now, I'm in the middle of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation. The narrator, Simon Watson, is a librarian living alone in his deteriorating family house on a cliff on the Long Island Sound. One day, a mysterious book is delivered to his doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. The ancient tome is a log written by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700’s. Oddly enough, Simon’s grandmother’s name is written in it but more disturbingly, Simon learns that the women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July. As he has a younger sister who might be in danger of succumbing to the same drowning fate, Simon needs to use his librarianly research skills to figure out what the story is before that July date rolls around again.

The narrative switches between the present and the past. In the present, Simon deals with the messiness and drama of his life and works towards solving the mysteries of his family's past. In the past, the mysterious book reveals its secrets.

Oh, and there are circus mermaids too.

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.)

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War

by William T. Vollman

Vollmann, a National Book Award Winner, brings us a stirring account of the 1877 Nez Perce War as seen through the eyes of the Civil War general leading the US Army.

One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon

by Tim Weiner

Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, presents a portrait of one of the most controversial and disastrous presidents in US history. Based on declassified documents, he shows Nixon as a brilliant but tortured man who distrusted not only his own staff and Congress but the American population at large.

A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

by Frank Wilczek

Wilczek, a quantum physics scientist, explores the universe through historical scientific discoveries starting with Plato and Pythagoras through the present. He looks for the deep logic in the forms the universe takes and describes their harmonic and balanced symmetry.

On Writing

by Charles Bukowski

From the late great poet and novelist, gathered here is a collection of his correspondence with publishers, editors, friends, and fellow writers.

How We'll Live on Mars

by Stephen Petranek

Petranek claims that humans will live on Mars by 2027, and he makes the case that living on Mars is not just plausilble but inevitable due to the environmental and human conditions on Earth.


Many years ago I had the opportunity to see the great violinist Isaac Stern in recital at what was then called the Civic Auditorium -- now the Keller Auditorium. It was of course an evening of great music making, but I only remember one piece that was played. After the intermission, I returned to my seat as Mr. Stern and his accompanist launched in to Béla Bartók’s second sonata for violin and piano. I had never heard music like this before and was mesmerized -- I think my jaw may actually have dropped! This was the beginning of my love of Bartók and my introduction to the music of the twentieth century.

Bartók was born in 1881 in the village of Nagyszentmiklós in the Hungarian Empire -- today, the town is part of Romania. He spent time in his early career traveling the countryside recording folk tunes of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- music that would inspire much of his later work.

So what continues to fascinate me about this music after 40 years? Certainly its folk-inspired nature. But more than that, I think it’s simply the raw energy in pieces like his first two piano concertos, his fourth string quartet, and Contrasts -- a piece for violin, clarinet and piano, which was commissioned by Benny Goodman.

Bartók toured the United States in 1927-28 and as part of his west coast travels he made an appearance in Portland. Here is an image of the program from that evening. This image and other images of early concerts in Portland can be viewed in Multnomah County Library's The Gallery.

Book Jacket: The City of Palaces by Michael NavaA handsome doctor, tortured by his dark past, returns home from exile in Europe to perform house calls for bored, rich housewives.

Robbed of her beauty by smallpox, a spinster countess in a crumbling palace, swallows her own pain by devoting her life to God and caring for the downtrodden in the city’s worst neighborhoods.

An upper class gentleman, shunned from the city as a “sodomite” returns as an openly gay revolutionary who refuses to apologize for his politics nor for whom he loves.

It’s the end of the 19th century and the setting is Mexico City under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Eurocentric old guard are losing their hold on the city, but who or what will replace it remains uncertain.

The book is The City of Palaces by Michael Nava; A finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. As a devout chilangophile, I’ll read anything set in Mexico City, but this particular book took my breath away. The surprising cast of characters sucked me in right from the start and Nava's talent for storytelling carried me straight to the heart of a country on the brink of revolution.

If you need a page-turner to read this Summer with amazing characters that breathe life into history, check out The City of Palaces


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