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.

NOTE: This post was updated Sunday, October 12, 2014 with details about the redesigned Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).

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 which were created at the time you are studying.  Newspapers can be a great tool 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, 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 aren't arranged by publication date; they're ranked with the most "relevant" article at the top.  If you want change the ranking to see your list of articles in chronological order, click on one of the options listed next to Sort by at the top right of the results list.   You can also change the ranking before you even do your search, by choosing the sort order you want in the Sort by dropdown menu up in the search area.

But however you sort the articles, you probably don’t have time to read 1,781 of them in one sitting.  So 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, type the year 1952 into the second search box at the top of the screen (the one labelled "Date").  Click on the yellow 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.

You can start a new search by typing your new search terms into the search area at the top of the screen.  This time, you want the phrase"rose parade" (with the quotes, just like before!), and the word rain in the first box.  The Date box should be blank, but this time, change the Sort by box to say Oldest matches firstI.  Now click on the yellow Search button again to see your results.

This gets you a nice list of 55 articles, arranged in reverse chronological order. 


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 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 for parade-goers.


Here are some more tips and things to remember about using the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987):

  • When you search this resource, you are searching the words and phrases that appeared in the newspaper.  If you're looking for a topic that can be expressed in different ways, you might need to try different terms.  For example: sometimes, journalists used the phrase "rose parade" to describe the big daytime parade that's always on a Saturday in June.  But they might also have used the phrase "rose festival parade," or they might have said something like "the parade at this year's Rose Festival."  Nowadays we have several parades every year, so it might also be good to search specifically for the "grand floral parade" or the "starlight parade."  If you don't see the results you expect, try a different phrase or term.   If your search finds only a few articles, read them and see if they offer any clues as to new search terms you can use that might get better results.
  • These old newspapers are historical artifacts, and they reflect the culture, attitudes, and language of their times.  Articles and advertisements from the past may stereotype individuals and groups, or use terms that are now considered derogatory and offensive.  Historical newspapers may also use other out-of-date or unfamiliar terms, for example: filling station instead of the modern gas station, or automobile instead of car.
  • Librarians are here to help!  Ask whenever you have questions, or any time you'd like more searching tips.  You can contact a librarian by email, chat, text or telephone, or of course ask the librarian on duty any time you're at the library in person.

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:

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.

Ahhh riot grrrl , be still my heart. I have fond memories of you.  When I was fresh out of college with my women's studies certificate I got to witness and participate in the rise and fall of your movement.  

One of the most memorable days of my life (besides my wedding day) was when I did a poetry reading for 150 Canadian teens at a Vancouver Riot Grrrl concert in 1992.  I was the only poet on the bill. I was told by an organizer at the event that most of the audience probably hadn’t heard a poet before.  

I was shaking in my shoes when I started with these words:

Spoon Fed Our Daily Dose of Violence

You may wonder but may not care about my primal deep weep.

Or my cautious unspeaking nature.

Sure the words can be spelled or spilled upon the page but when real things are said I stutter.

I feel people shy and not so afraid of death.

They responded with screams and applause after this first poem.  As a poet I felt like a punk rock star for a moment.

Riot Grrrl was a grassroots feminist movement in the punk scene.  Riot grrrls were fighting against mainstream misogyny and subcultural sexism evident in punk rock shows and culture.  They fought the good fight and their efforts still echo in our contemporary culture.  Publishers and record labels have been collecting, reprinting and producing books, videos and music from this prolific movement.  I created this list in honor of these cultural “sheroes.”


cover image for ballisticsI avoided his poetry for years, the way one avoids eye contact in a lift. Imagining it to be all about horses, I ignored the ravings—sane as they turned out to be. Perhaps it was his Poet Laureate status, or maybe just his popularity in general. I don’t remember now what compelled me to pick up that first book of his poetry. It was on display  (oh those evil displays) and it was his newest publication at the time. I really wanted to hate him, but then I read the poems and I didn’t. The language he uses elevates the ordinary everyday and mundane into an appreciative art.  It was accessible and relational. It made me rethink the small moments in life and wonder if they could ever be captured in just such a simple manner.

I started with Ballistics, but I don’t believe it matters which one you pick up to begin. Just begin.

The Portland area is rich with beautiful parks and wild spaces. The cities of Gresham, Fairview, Portland, Troutdale and Wood Village all manage local parks, as does our regional government, Metro.

From formal Victorian rose gardens to old growth forests and everything in between, this is a great place to enjoy parks. But where should you start? These books will help you choose the right park for you!

Wild in the City is the classic guide to parks, trails and natural areas around our region. This fine natural history of the cities on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers contains short chapters describing specific birds, mammals, trees, hikes, parks, paddles, a wealth of facts and memories of natural places and experiences, and discussion of initiatives and policies for increasing and protecting the urban watersheds and natural areas.

In Nature Walks In & Around Portland, long-time local park explorers Karen and Terry Whitehill present 37 of their favorite nature walks, ranging from one-half to six miles in length. From well-known parks and natural areas like Sauvie's Island to hidden gems like SW Portland's Marshall Park, a glittering tree-covered treasure hidden between busy urban thoroughfares, this book is a great guide for walk and park lovers!

Portland Hill Walks features twenty-four miniature adventures stocked with stunning views, hidden stairways, leafy byways, urban forests, and places to sit, eat, and soak in the local scene. Whether you feel like meandering through old streetcar neighborhoods or climbing a lava dome, there is a hill walk for every mood. And of course, author Laura O. Foster features many walks in or through parks.

Do you want more options?  Take a look at the great list of books to help you get outdoors, below!


  Questions? Ask the Librarian.


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