A biography is a description of a person’s life, and they come in many shapes and sizes (the biographies, that is, as well as the people. Ba-dum ching!) If you are looking for in-depth information about a person's life, you may want to find an entire book about them: do a subject search in the library catalog for the author’s name, using the format “Doe, John”.

If you do not need an entire book about someone, or if no books exist about that person, then you might want to look in a resource that lists many brief biographies for different people. The library provides several electronic resources that are good basic sources of biographical information on many kinds of people:

Biography Reference Center: Offers a comprehensive collection of more than 450,000 full text biographies, including the complete full text run of Biography Today and Biography Magazine.

Biography Resource Center in Context: Provides more than 600,000 full text biographical entries spanning history and geography.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index: Indexes current, readily available reference sources, as well as the most important retrospective works that cover individuals, both living and deceased, from every field of activity and from all areas of the world. This resource does not include full-text articles, only citations.

In addition to these library resources, there are also many great websites with biographical information on people. Here are some of the best:

General Biography and Information

Bio: Over 25,000 historical and contemporary biographical sketches that include birth and death dates, photographs as available and links to other biographies on the Internet.

Distinguished Women of Past and Present: Search by name or subject for biographies from Internet sources; international in scope.

The History Makers: Profiling African American artists, politicians, athletes, scientists, entertainers, and more, the HistoryMakers' video oral history archive comprises the "largest archival project of its kind in the world."

Voice of America Pronunciation Guide: Having difficulty pronouncing a name? This site has phonetic spellings and audio file pronunciations for hundreds of names.

National and Local

American Life Histories: First-person accounts of life during the Great Depression as collected by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer's Project. Ability to limit search to Oregon. Subjects include: folklore, occupations, agriculture, local history and genealogy, transportation, recreation and ethnic groups.

Born in Slavery: More than 2,300 first-hand accounts of slavery collected by the Works Progress Administration from 1936 to 1938, with photographs taken at the time of the interviews.

First Person Narratives of the American South: Accounts of the nineteenth-century American South from the viewpoint of Southerners: diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts and ex-slave narratives of not only prominent individuals, but also of relatively inaccessible populations: women, African Americans, enlisted men, laborers and Native Americans.

Notable Oregonians Guide: Short biographical sketches that summarize the accomplishments of notable Oregonians. Some images are included.

Oregon Biographies: Brought to you by the Oregon History Project and the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Biographies features stories and information related to some of Oregon's most significant historical figures.

Oregon Biographies Project: Pulling from sources that are no longer copyrighted, volunteers work to transcribe what is now over 2,000 Oregon biographies. Search by surname, county or keyword.

Politicians, Rulers and Leaders

World Leaders: From the CIA, frequently updated information giving the names of foreign government officials. Ambassadors to the United States and Permanent Representatives to the United Nations are included. This site does not give biographical information beyond the name.

Rulers: Lists of heads of state and heads of government of all countries and territories, from 1700 A.D. to the present time. Short political histories of each country followed by names and dates of all leaders. Names with links lead to a short biography.

Political Graveyard: A biographical website for American political history and cemeteries. Locate American politicians, judges and diplomats by name, place, election and offices held or sought. Additionally, search for names of politicians by category: gender, ethnic background, organizational affiliations, cause of death and many other subjects.

The Presidents: Official White House site for biographical information about each of the U.S. Presidents.

The First Ladies: From the White House website, this includes pictures and biographies of the U.S. First Ladies, from Martha Dandridge Custis Washington to the present.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Search by name, state or position for biographical information and photographs of past and present members of Congress. Some entries include bibliographies for finding additional information.

Congressional Directory: Up-to-date biographical information and political affiliation for current members of Congress. Includes email, address, phone and fax numbers and website address, plus the counties, cities and zip codes they represent.

Architects, Artists, Authors and Poets

Great Architects: A list of "master" architects, many with biographies and links to images and more information about their specific works.

The Union List of Artist Names: Currently incorporates approximately 100,000 individual artists (including performance artists, decorative artists, etc.) and architects from ancient times to contemporary. Many entries have biographical and bibliographical information on the artists. This union list can be difficult to use; here is a webpage with tips for searching in it.

Poets: Biographies, photographs and other information on more than 500 poets. Also search for poems, audio files and interviews.

African American Women Writers of the 19th Century: Biographies of 19th-century black women writers, produced by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Selected works by these authors may be read online.

Native American Authors: Search this site by author, title or tribe for biographical information on Native North American authors with bibliographies of their published works and links to online resources including interviews, online texts and tribal Web sites.

Scientists, Mathematicians and Astronauts

The Faces of Science, African Americans in the Sciences: African American men and women who have contributed to the advancement of science and engineering. Search by name or subject area within the realm of science for biographies with photographs.

Profiles in Science by the National Library of Medicine: Biographies of twentieth-century biomedical scientists, including electronic access to many of their published and unpublished materials.

The MacTutor History of Mathematics Biographies Index: International in scope, search for mathematicians alphabetically or chronologically by date of birth or death. Includes country maps for birthplaces of mathematicians, an index of women mathematicians, plus an historical timeline from 800 B.C. to the present.

Astronaut Biographies: Biographical information regarding those who participate or have participated in NASA's space flight programs as members of space flight crews.

… and these websites are really just the beginning of what's out there! If you ever need more help finding biographical information about a person, please ask a librarian and we will be happy to help.

It's summer - regress a little! Have a Popsicle (root beer and white licorice were the best flavors). Swing on the monkey bars. Revisit some of the books you loved as a child. The best ones will be just as good as you remembered, and offer fresh pleasures to an adult perspective.

George Bernard Shaw famously said that youth is wasted on the young; maybe some great kids' books are wasted on young readers. Two classics, The Yearling and National Velvet, were originally written for adults - but since their main characters are children, they were marketed, unimaginatively, as books for children. How many kids tossed them aside after a chapter or two? Years or even decades later, though, they're worth a second look.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Enid Bagnold both loved their home landscapes, the scrub woods of central Florida and the chalk cliffs of the English coast, which they evoke with such detailed vitality that the land itself becomes a vivid character in their books. Both stories are superficially about animals: The Yearling's title refers to an orphaned fawn adopted as a pet by a poor farming family, and National Velvet follows a horse-crazy village girl as she trains up a runaway piebald to be a steeplechaser.

While the animals and gorgeous settings are appealing, what's so moving and worthwhile in both books is their true common theme, which is how the deep, wordless bonds of community and family guide, ground, and sometimes confound us. These poignant books will reward and satisfy parents of sensitive misfit children, adults who were themselves those children, and everyone who's felt the ties which bind us so fiercely to people who don't always understand us very well.

Which children's books do you still like to read? Tell us in the comments!

It's nearing election season again and it's time to think about voting, if you're eligible. I remember being so excited about my right to vote that I registered on my 18th birthday. And then I moved two months later and had to update my registration! 

If you're registering for the first time, you can register online through the Secretary of State's office Elections Division at; print the form (PDF) and mail it; or register in person at the Multnomah County Elections office or any DMV office. If you've moved, changed your name or just want to change your party affiliation, you can use those same links to update your voter registration. 

Can I register to vote if I have a criminal record but am recently out of prison? Can I register to vote if I'm homeless? In Oregon, the answer is usually yes, and these questions and more are highlighted in the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Secretary of State's website. Multnomah County also has an FAQ for voter registration

Remember, the deadline to register for any Oregon election is 21 days before election day. November 6th is the date for this year's big election, so the deadline to register this year is October 16, 2012.

Three bookworms and a dog person took a shared place at the Oregon coast for a long weekend. Unsurprisingly it was a little damp, leaving plenty of time for books. And a vacation, however short and close to home, isn't the place for deep reading but for enjoying oneself!  So, without further ado, here are the titles that were the best of the weekend.

One person was reading Redshirts by John Scalzi. Based on their reaction this is absolutely hilarious if you've watched the first Star Trek series.  If, like me, you haven't but are familiar with the genre, it's still an amusing story riffing on the foibles of bad science fiction television - I'm pretty sure I missed many of the jokes but I liked it quite a bit anyway.

I read Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling. This is the sixth book about a pair of spies and thieves in a nicely detailed fantasy setting--think roughly halfway between medieval barbarism and the Renaissance and you should have a fairly good idea of the setting. The author has an earlier series set in a more standard medieval fantasy world called the Tamir Triad. Flewelling writes beautifully detailed settings and sympathetic, likable characters; these are the lightweight beach novels of the epic fantasy genre.

The last thing I read was Shadow Ops. Control Point by Myke Cole.  I'd noticed this debut novel had a very solidly positive set of reviews so I decided I'd give it a try. I had the oddest love/hate reaction to this book. I didn't like the plot. I didn't like many of the characters. I didn't like the setting. It was well written though, and so I'd have to say it just wasn't to my tastes, despite being quite good. A quick summary: magic has popped back into the world and America has reacted by cracking down HARD on the unfortunates who have magic. Our hero is a good soldier and a decent man who has the bad luck to turn up with a prohibited  magic power right after having a really hard time morally with the last target he was sent to take down. It's a page turner. I finished it in a single sitting and it was entertaining and deserved the good reviews. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes military science fiction/fantasy. I really liked this one in spite of myself. 

Congratulations! Your car is in a thousand parts on a blue tarp in your driveway. Now how are you going to put it all back together again? Luckily for you, we've got the resources you need to repair your vehicle and get your wheels back on the road.

Are you looking for a manual to figure out what part goes where? Auto Repair Reference Center is a comprehensive collection of repair and maintenance information on most major manufacturers of domestic and imported vehicles. 

You'll also find wiring diagrams and other useful information in Alldata, a source used by vehicle technicians around the country. This resource is available at the Central, Gresham and Midland libraries.

Can't find what you're looking for in these online resources? The library has a wide variety of automobile repair menus. Try searching with the keywords "automobile", "repair" and adding the make of your vehicle. And of course, you are always welcome to contact a librarian with your research question and we'll be happy to help you out.

If you've done a fine repair job and are now ready to sell your car, take a look at our blog post: Buying or Selling a Car? Get the information you need with these librarian-approved resources. 

Maybe you've given up on your car and are now ready to donate it to a worth cause? Take a look at This site, built by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, reports on charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries. The Alliance offers guidance to donors on making informed giving decisions through charity evaluations, various "tips" and giving information, and the quarterly Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide.


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 find lists of local jobs in a wide-variety of categories here.
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. It also includes a browser toolbar widget that can help connect you with your targeted employer.
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.

In these days of cell-phones and unlisted phone numbers, it can be difficult to find contact information for people. The first thing to realize about searches like this is that they take time: you may have to check multiple sources and try contacting multiple phone numbers or addresses. Here is a list of directories and websites that you can use to search for people; you should search in as many of them as possible and try different spellings of names.

(Note: some websites will try to give you a little bit of free information and then ask you to pay before they show you more. Keep in mind that the additional information might or might not be what you need.)

  • ReferenceUSA: A Multnomah County Library-provided resource. Use the "U.S. Standard White Pages" section to search a database of U.S. residents. The data is not always up-to-date.
  • Dex Knows: A phone and address directory for people and businesses. Can look up by name, phone number, or address.
  • Yahoo! People Search: A directory to people which can be searched by name or phone number.
  • Switchboard: A nationwide business and residential directory.
  • Canada 411: A directory to find people and businesses in Canada.
  • Pipl: A website that searches various directories and websites to try to find people. Many of the results will only give a little bit of information for free, but it can still be useful.
  • Facebook: A social networking website where users create profiles. Users can choose whether they want their profiles to be findable via this search page.

Good luck! And if you get stuck, please contact a librarian and we'll be happy to help!

Looking for work, but not sure where to start? At CareerOneStop, you'll find career resources and workforce information for job seekers, students, businesses, and workforce professionals. The site is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Within the site you'll find:

Explore career opportunities to make informed employment and education choices
Helps laid-off workers and other career changers find new occupations to explore
Employment, training, and financial assistance for laid-off workers.
Provides career information and links to work-related services that help veterans and military service members successfully transition to civilian careers.

These resources are great when you need to know more about a particular place (geography, statistics, history, politics, and more):

  • Columbia Gazetteer This resource offered by Multnomah County Library lists detailed information on geographical sites like countries, cities, lakes and mountains.
  • World Factbook: The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. Created by the Central Intelligence Agency and updated weekly.
  • Country Studies: Studies and profiles from the Library of Congress's Federal Research Division that offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Not all studies and profiles are up-to-date.
  • NationMaster: A vast compilation of statistical data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Lets you use maps and graphs to compare statistics for different nations.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg! If you want to learn more about books, statistics, maps, and anything else that might help with your question, just ask a librarian! We are happy to help.

The Web is a large and awesome source of all kinds of information about health and wellness. Sometimes it's hard to separate authoritative and accurate information from resources that offer unrealistic claims and research that has not been verified or cited. Here are some resources we think are "at the top of the list" in terms of currency, timeliness, scope (the depth of the topics they cover), authority and sponsorship,  as well as ease of use.

MedlinePlus, from the National Library of Medicine,  is one of the best starting points for any kind of health topic. Not just for seniors, it does provide age categories to help limit the scope of your search.  All the information has been thoroughly vetted, and information comes from a variety of trusted sponsors and organizations. What else does it provide? Videos of an upcoming surgery, a dictionary, multiple languages, easy to understand articles, a comprehensive set of health organizations and directories as well as information about diseases and drugs, including holistic and alternative treatments. 

NIH Senior Health is another resource we highly recommend. The information is geared specifically for people over fifty and the site has a simple design with the ability to increase text size. Find information about diseases and drugs as well as information arranged in categories such as healthy aging and memory and mental health.

The Administration on Aging is a great resource because it links a wealth of information in one place and lets you search for resources and information locally. The misson of this organization is helping boomers find resources and services. The ElderCare Locator helps you find information in your area on a specific topic, like Alzheimer's, long-term care, or transportation services.   

Locally, we recommend SHIBA, the Senior Health Insurance Benefit Assistance Program. SHIBA helps with any kind of question about Medicare and Medicare benefits. You can call for individual counseling about coverage, eligibility, comparing plans and choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan.


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