In Oregon and many other states, laws can be made directly by the popular vote of citizens. There are two kinds of ballot measures: referendums which are referred from the state legislature to the voters; and initiatives, which are put on the ballot as a result of signature petitions signed by registered voters. These websites can help you learn about the history and future of ballot measures and other methods of direct democracy.

Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

This organization advocates for ballot initiative reform from a progressive perspective, and provides information about ballot measure campaigns nationwide. Find information about current measures on the ballot across the nation, read overviews of election results, find out which states allow voter initiatives (PDF, 10KB), and learn about the rules for how to get an initiative on the ballot in each state.

Ballot Measures Database

Find information about statewide ballot measures from across the U.S., back to Oregon's first referendum authorizing the initiative process in 1902. This database, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, is part of a larger site rich with information about initiatives, referendums, and campaign finance, as well as other information about state elections in the U.S.

Direct Democracy: Initiatives and Referendums

Find answers to your questions about how ballot measures work, and their history in Oregon.

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Are you curious about ballot measures across the US? Find reports about ballot measure results and trends, quick facts about initiatives and referendums, and information about how ballot measures work in the different states.

Our guest reader is the irrepressible Dee Williams, a pioneer in the tiny house movement and author of The Big Tiny. Check out Dee's recommendations and if you'd like more good reading, try the My Librarian service and get a handcrafted list made just for you.

There are a dozen or so books that have taken up permanent residence in my little house… some are practical, reminding me how to frame up a wall or flash a window, while others simply remind me what it means to be human and alive, and dad-gum lucky to have this time on the planet.  Here are a few of my favorites:  

  1. My copy of Lloyd Kahn’s Home Work is dog-eared and stuffed with sticky notes that seem to have multiplied over the years.  It’s got thousands of photos of beach houses, rolling homes, adobe huts, stick-built houses and stone-built barns.  This book inspired me to rethink form, function and materials, and also made me want to be more like the quirky, cool people that Lloyd writes about.  Lloyd has also recently published Tiny Homes on the Move, and it is equally over-the-top awesome!

  1. Peter Menzel’s Material World (Sierra Club Books) has held me captivated for years.  It includes photos of families and all their worldly possessions sitting out in front of their house (if they have a house), so the reader gets this voyeuristic snap-shot of how a Mongolian family lives compared to that of a family in Guatemala, Serbia, the United States or dozens of other countries.  It’s a pretty humbling comparison to hold in your hands and heart.

  1. I’ve come close to peeing my pants, laughing, as I’ve read and then re-read Deek Diedricksen’s Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here.  I’ve learned something new every time I’ve thumbed through this hilarious, well-informed encyclopedia of funky-smallness.

  1. I received Tammy Strobels’ new photography book, My Morning View, in the mail a few months ago, and man-o-man it blew me away.  It chronicles Tammy’s journey of living in a tiny house on a ranch outside Mt. Shasta (effing beautiful!!!), and also of working through her grief after losing her dad to a stroke.  Her iPhone photography project is absolutely inspiring, and full of helpful advice for would-be photographers like me.  

  1. Any thing by the poet Billy Collins, Diane Ackerman, or Mary Oliver.

  1. One of the first books I purchased when studying architecture and building was Francis D.K. Ching’s, Building Construction Illustrated. This book has it all, from an introduction to passive solar concepts to the basics of platform framing.  It even provides the common dimension of kitchen counters, tables and couches… super helpful information while designing a little house.

  1. While I was building, Joseph Truini’s book, Building a Shed provided some alternative ways of framing out the overhangs and basic framing for my house.  This book also offers some good advice for preparing a site for building a “ground-bound” house.  All in all, it’s well worth the read!

Whether you get on the waiting list for these books at the library or purchase them, I think it’ll be well worth the investment.  And of course, there are many other books that I’ve totally enjoyed. Cheers!  And happy reading!

My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

applesThe apples have arrived! The apples have arrived! I don't know about you, but every year I wait patiently for autumn, my favorite season. Yes, I know, autumn means that winter is not far behind, with the cold, and the rain, and the darkness, but there is just something about the crisp, cool colorful days of fall that restores my soul, and prepares it for the winter to come.

As I wander through the stores, the farmer's markets, and the countryside, I am reminded of the many fabulous varieties of apples that we can enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest. So many colors, fragrances, and tastes to be savored. Almost nothing beats biting into a fresh, crunchy apple, except maybe a warm piece of apple pie!!

So, this is your friendly reminder to take advantage of the season's apple bounty! It doesn't last long. And why not take a bite out of the books on the list below? A mix of fiction and non-fiction, they all feature apples on the cover. Immerse yourself in the apple deliciousness!

Her bookjacketSometimes I need to read books that pierce my very soul, the more heart-wrenching the better. That’s when I turn to memoirs like Her by Christa Parravani. This is the tale of identical twins, Christa and Cara. It's the story of the connections between twins and what happens when you tragically lose that connection. And how someone can survive and grow from that tragedy. It's beautiful and powerful. For more heartbreaking stories of survival, try one of these.

And then there are times that I need snarky narrators that take me into their lives, lives so angst-filled that the only way to get through them is to revel in the What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding bookjackethumor. Kristin Newman’s, What I was Doing While You Were Breeding was just the book I needed recently. Newman is a TV comedy writer and it shows, in a good way. It’s a travel guide and memoir in one tidy package. She spent her time between writing gigs in her 20’s and 30’s, jetting off to exotic locales and meeting gorgeous men. Alright, I might have felt a little jealousy towards her; when I was that age, I was totally living paycheck-to-paycheck and the only place I jetted off to was my hometown in Ohio with a plane ticket purchased by my mom. Oh, wait a sec, that’s still pretty much the story of my life. But that aside, she’s a witty, breezy writer who reveals an awful lot about her experiences with quite a few men in a highly entertaining manner. It's a story about being free and reckless, traveling to fabulous lands, and it's hilarious.

If you’d like a few more snicker-worthy memoirs, check out my list here.

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!

Look for the Lucky Day display at each library.  Here are the latest new titles:

Adult Fiction:

Personal / Lee Child

Adultery / Paulo Coelho

Gone Girl / Gillian Flynn

The Monogram Murders / Sophie Hannah

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good / Jan Karon

The Bone Clocks / David Mitchell

The Paying Guests / Sarah Waters


Adult Nonfiction:

The Boys in the Boat / Daniel James Brown

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America / Nick Bunker

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World / Steven Johnson

The Forks over Knives Plan / Alona Pulde

Cool Layer Cakes / Ceri Olofson

Killing Patton / Bill O'Reilly



Bad Magic / Pseudonymous Bosch

Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After: Dork Diaries 8 / Rachel Renee Russell

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus / Tom Angleberger

Little Author in the Big Woods: a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder / Yona Zeldis McDonough

The Whispering Skull: Lockwood & Co., Book 2 / Jonathan Stroud

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods / Rick Riordan

Pete the Cat and the New Guy / Kimberly and James Dean 

Space Case / Stuart Gibbs

Top 10 of Everything 2015 / Paul Terry


Afterworlds / Scott Westerfeld

Falling into Place / Amy Zhang

Firebug / Lish McBride

Isla and the Happily Ever After / Stephanie Perkins

The Revenge of Seven / Pittacus Lore

Skink - No Surrender / Carl Hiaasen

The Vault of Dreamers / Caragh M. O'Brien

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.

Istanbul is my favorite city to wander through. When I think of Istanbul I think of fishermen lining the Galata Bridge, crossing the Bosporus and the Golden Horn by ferry, moving from Europe to Asia and back again. It is a city of mosques and palaces, and where shops spill out onto the sidewalks. You wake to the call to prayer and spend your day immersed in history knowing that you are never far from a pastry shop.  It is also a great place to visit by way of a story. Try these for a taste of Istanbul.

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Charles Latimer is a writer living in Istanbul between the wars. He gets a plot idea when the body of a notorious criminal washes up on the shore, but as he researches the story he starts to doubt that the body was really Dimitrios and sets out to find him.

Istanbul Passage book jacketIstanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon . It's 1945, WWII is over and the cold war is starting. Leon Bauer, an American businessman, has spent the war years in Istanbul. During the war he did odd jobs for the CIA. He is asked to help with the delivery of a Romanian the Americans want to keep from the Soviets. The delivery goes wrong, his CIA contact is dead and he has to decide what to do with the smuggledIstanbul Memories book jacket man with the Nazi past that everyone now wants.

Baksheesh by Aykol Esmahan is the story of Kati Hirschel. She runs the only mystery bookstore in Istanbul and is shopping for an apartment. A man is murdered in the apartment she wants to buy and she’s a suspect. The dead man was involved in shady business dealings and Kati starts to investigate.

On the serious side, Orhan Pamuk writes literary novels set in Istanbul.  He also wrote a memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Istanbul.


The Children Act bookjacketThe problem with reading an e-book is that you never quite know when it's going to end. You could be swiping, swiping, swiping, growing more exhausted by the characters and their machinations, as I did with Freedom (sorry, Franzen fans) and with each swipe wondering, "WHEN...WILL...IT...BE...OVER?!"

Then there are times when you're wholly immersed in a character's life and then..."WHAT? That's the end?!" That's how I felt with The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I was floating along on a cushion of imagined world, when suddenly the story fell out from under me. I paged back and forward, but sadly, there were no more words. Too bad, because I was so caught up in Fiona's life, the challenges of her work as a family court judge and her failing marriage -- I so wanted to be the voyeur in the room, finding out how it all turned out.

McEwan creates this really admirable, powerful and ethical woman, who is conflicted and flawed. He does it with such a deft hand that you are left wanting more. You just want to sit down with Fiona and have a chat. "Listen, you're so smart and thoughtful when it comes to intervening on behalf of children in your courtroom. Why are you so blind when it comes to your husband?" I'd have to say that The Children Act is an almost-perfect gem of a book. If only there were a little more...

photo of the Royal Irish Rifles ration partyWorld War I was called the Great War, not because it was so fantastic (it wasn’t - just ask any soldier who fought in the trenches), but because it was huge – bigger than any other war that had happened before.  More than forty million soldiers from over a dozen countries participated, and there were millions and millions of casualties. To find out more about the war in the trenches and on the home front, check out these websites.

From famous battles and statistics to body lice and dysentery, Spartacus Educational gives a vast amount of information on all things WWI. Take a look at the detailed chronology for a sense of what happened when and why.  Click on each event to find out more.

BBC has an excellent collection of WWI information including interactive guides, television episodes and radio shows, and images and information about present day memorials.

For an overview from PBS, take a look at The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century. You’ll find maps, quotations from people involved in the war, commentaries by historians, further reading, and links to other WWI websites.

Need the text of a treaty, personal accounts of soldiers or newspaper stories about a battle? Look no further than The World War I Document Archive.  Here you’ll find documents by year as well as diaries, a biographical dictionary, photographs and links to other WWI websites. 

Britain’s Imperial War Museum has an entire section of its website devoted to WWI.  This is an excellent place to find photographs from the war. Click here for photos from the fighting front. Find photos of the home front here. For more WWI photos, take a look at the World War I Image Archive.

Watch hundreds of films from WWI here including propaganda , films of prisoners of war, the war at sea, retrospectives and documentaries .

View of a breast cancer cell as seen through a microscopeI was a bad cancer patient. My head scarves were more Bret Michaels than Jackie O. My diagnosis failed to inspire any cancer art and I shut down any peppy banter in the chemo lounge with my heavy shroud of humorlessness.

On my final day of treatment for breast cancer, my radiation nurses gave me a diploma and broke into song. For weeks, I’d witnessed other patients pass around cupcakes and give high fives at this moment. I couldn’t muster up the energy to play along. I was relieved, but also exhausted and profoundly sad. In the end, I just stared at them wearily and cried.

Cancer patients receive loads of unsolicited advice, but when a trusted friend suggested I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s essay about her own experience with breast cancer- Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer, I sought it out immediately. Reading Ehrenreich’s essay was equivalent to releasing the greatest imaginable sigh of relief.

Though never good at feigning rosy optimism, Ehrenreich was the ally I needed to dismiss the cancer patient script of round the clock positivity and just be honest that it really sucked being a cancer patient and caring for a newborn.

Five years cancer-free, I've regained my humor and when pressed, can even come up with some positives to having survived cancer, other than the obvious surviving part. Even so, I still find comfort in other people's cancer stories that allow room for things beyond the expected bravery, juice cleanses and relentless optimism.

No two cancers and certainly, no two cancer patients are the same.  How we deal with the big C is likewise individual. Here are the stories that I’ve felt were candid and helpful to my experience. Which books have helped you come to terms with cancer?


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