People love talking about the weather and this has certainly been the winter to do it. Epic storms in the East and droughts all over the West have been top stories nearly every day of the New Year. A lot of us had fun frolicking in our own mini-snowstorm earlier this month.

Usually, talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, a nice respite from politics and religion, or celebrity gossip.  Of course, this isn’t always the case. As the drought seems to be subsiding (fingers-crossed) for us in the Pacific Northwest, California has little hope in sight and the gloves have come off.

Cadillac Desert book jacketThe President has done his photo-ops, hundreds of millions are pledged for relief, and the fingers are pointing at the Republicans, the Democrats, the farmers, the cities, the Delta Smelt (ooh, what’s that?)… The news stories seem to be devoid of solutions for water scarcity, though many have been offered up over the years. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all detailed in Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner.

California is the main character in this sweeping epic, often the villain tormenting its neighbors. Other times, it is the victim of graft, its fragile ecosystems exploited by schemers and boosters. In riveting detail, the book recounts the long-held rivalry between the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of Interior) and the Army Corps of Engineers, the true story behind the movie Chinatown (Reisner’s recounting wins), Los Angeles’ plan to redirect the Columbia River, and many more fascinating and eye-opening chapters in the water wars of the west.

But wait! Here’s a plethora of books you could read in tandem, each one an exciting foray into water, the west, and/or land use planning (it’s all the rage with the kids these days).


Sometimes kids get all the breaks. I ask you, when was the last time that you sat at the knees of someone who was willing to read to you, AND was able to read upside down so you could study the pictures? It happens for kids everyday in schools and libraries. 'All well and good', you might say, 'but who writes picture books for adults?' Maira Kalman, that's who.

I've been a fan of Kalman's work ever since I came across Ooh-la-la (Max in Love). The book, admittedly written for kids, tells the story of the poet dog Max, who goes to Paris, gains enlightenment and falls in love. At one point he is awakened by "a k-k-k-k-knocking" and into his hotel room enters "a long mustache followed by a man". The words 'long mustache' form the thing itself curled under the Parisian waiter's nose.

Kalman is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, and has since illustrated The Elements of Style. Yes! How? You'll just have to take a look at it - it's hard to describe.

But my favorite of her recent offerings is The Principles of Uncertainty. The book is a mix of memoir, philosophical musing and photographic record - but the photographs are actually paintings. Paintings of people caught in different aspects: of the museum guard who sits in Proust's room; of elderly New Yorkers walking the streets; of Kalman's sister sitting at a kitchen table eating honey cake and telling stories. And all of it accompanied by prose that is matter-of-fact and poignant at the same time:

MY sister and I go to Israel during the short, furious, the world-is-doomed war. For a wedding. Because you CANNOT postpone weddings in DARK TIMES - especially in dark times. Who knows when the light will come on again. Are things normal? I don't know. Does life go on? YES.

Through her pictures and words, Kalman captures what is essential about life. So think about it next time you feel like a little storytime.

Find more of Maira Kalman's art here.

March is Women’s History month and what better way to celebrate than learning more about the pioneering women from this great state? Three women you cannot ignore when doing any research are Lola Green Baldwin, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, and Abigail Scott Duniway. 

On April 1, 1908, forty-eighty-year-old Lola Greene Baldwin became the first woman sworn in to perform public service for Portland, becoming a full time paid policewoman. She was put in charge of the new Women’s Protective Division and crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Visit OPB to view a video about her. Oregon State University Press has an introduction online to the book Municipal Mother about Baldwin. 

Lola Baldwin, Oregon Historical Society

Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a renowned civil rights activist in early twentieth-century Oregon.  She was editor of the Advocate, the state's largest, and at times the only, African American newspaper.  View the OPB special to learn more about the numerous efforts Cannady launched to defend the civil rights of the African Americans in the state. Black Past, an online reference to Black History, features an excerpt from a book about Cannady.

 Beatrice Morrow Cannady, Oregon Historical Society

Abigail Scott Duniway was Oregon's strongest voice for the cause of Women's suffrage. OPB has a film about her, as well as a piece on the Oregon Suffragist movement.  Duniway was a true pioneer, known for her tireless efforts for women’s suffrage and women’s rights and as one of relatively few female newspaper editors and publishers of her time. The library resource Biography in Context has a biography of Duniway and a helpful resource list for more in depth research. 

The Oregon Encyclopedia has detailed information and photos about these women and many more female pioneers in Oregon's history. The Oregon History Project, created by the Oregon Historical Society, is a great online resource for learning about Oregon's past and the people who shaped the state.

If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have questions, simply Ask a Librarian! We’re happy to help. 

Sunshine, popcorn, the smell of sunscreen, the crack of the bat, and maybe a beer (or two).  Another rainy day?  Take heart, spring training is in full swing!spring training book cover 

Football is my fave, but the start of spring training hearkens the eventual arrival of flowers, leaves on the trees, and blue (well, here in Portland, occasionally blue) skies.  One of my most loved summer activities is taking in an MLB game or several, even though this east coast girl now has to travel outside of Portland to do so.  Why do I love a baseball game?  The pace is relaxed, the people watching is spectacular, and hopefully the play is on par.  I mean, what could be better?  Summer in all its glory captured in one evening. 

baseball stadium

Recreating this baseball mindset can be tough during the dark days of winter, but it is oh-so-rewarding when I can conjure up a June double header in December.  How do I do it?  You can find me hosting a tailgate party right after the new year, no matter if it's raining (or in this year's case, snowing!) on the grill and grill master.  My reading selections also tend to skew towards all things baseball.  I dig out my Pittsburgh Pirates jersey, and the Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is sent to the basement until fall.  Pour myself a cold one, settle in for a few night's baseball reading, a few hours viewing of Ken Burn's Baseball, and I am ready for opening day!  Say hi if you see me in Seattle this summer, I'll be the girl in the black and gold among the sea of blue Mariners fans.

Pardon my polite silence.  I am not a plane talker.State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

On a recent trip to the midwest, the airport newstand held little interest and other entertainment options were exhausted.  

Luckily, I remembered to look at Overdrive via my smartphone available through Multnomah County Library.  Ten minutes later I’d downloaded David Rakoff’s Glass Half Empty

Boarding the plane with earbuds in place, I smiled politely at my neighbor and escaped into Mr. Rakoff's soothing voice.

If you’re interested in learning more about e-books look here or ask us in person.  We're happy to help.

Maybe I'd even tell you about it when we're 30,000 ft in the air...  Then again, let's wait till we've landed.

Data Guru

by Donna Childs

Picture of Peter Reader

Peter Reader has made a career of helping people find and use information. Information is only useful if it can be accessed and organized—and that’s where Peter comes in. Renaissance man, Peter grew up in Nome, Alaska, and majored in music in college. Music has been a lifelong love—he plays the accordion and sings with the Bach Cantata Choir. Peter lived in an Eskimo village and worked as a realtor. He started his 30-year career in Alaska and the continental US with the Bureau of Land Management and later moved into administration. He became fascinated with computers in the 60’s, long before the personal computer, and discovered that he loved programming. Among other things, he helped build a payroll system for Bonneville Power Administration. After retiring in 1994, he volunteered at his local NE Portland police precinct, building a database since they had none. This led to a dozen years of running his own consulting business. 

When he retired a second time, he approached the Multnomah County Library to offer his skills. June Bass, Program Manager in Volunteer Services, put him to work on the volunteer database containing hundreds of volunteers from all 19 library branches. For the past 7 years, Peter has worked two days a week on the volunteer database, transferring and tweaking information, creating reports, entering volunteer information, and deleting anything redundant or outdated. The library has substantially overhauled its database twice during these years, keeping Peter especially busy. In 2009 he received a county-wide volunteer award for his work with the new database. June Bass says, “I cannot imagine any volunteer program implementing a new database without a person like Peter...” Aptly named, Peter Reader is also an enthusiastic reader, especially of science fiction. He and his wife have a library of more than 2000 books, in addition to an extensive collection of classical music CDs.

A Few Facts About Peter

Home library: Albina Library

Currently reading: I just finished Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on World War II.

Most influential book: No one book, but Tolkien blew me away in the 60’s.

Favorite book from childhood: A Treasury of American Folklore, ed. by B.A. Botkin (I have used up four copies.)

A book that made you laugh or cry: H. Allen Smith—anything by him.

Favorite section of the library: Science fiction

E-reader or paper book? Paper 

Favorite place to read: In my room

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Betsy a Library Assistant at the Hillsdale Library is reading Wild Tales: A Rock n' Roll Life by Graham Nash: "I like that he is narrating his own book and the stories behind the songs."


Pigsqueak plant (Bergenia cordifolia)Do you need to learn the parts of a flower?  For a start, look at this clear diagram provided by the American Museum of Natural History.  For more descriptions of the flower parts and what they do, investigate "The Great Plant Escape".





This interactive flower dissection activity will give you even more practice in sorting and labelling, then will test your knowledge of flower parts.  Once you're on this site, you can start the activity by clicking on OK in the "try this" box (it's not necessary to download).  To reach the quiz, click on "Label" after you've dissected the flower.  This activity includes clear, printable pictures with descriptions of what each flower part does.

Parts of a flower diagram

If you learn well under pressure, you should look at this timed quiz.  You'll notice that some diagrams, such as the one at this site, may include more terms than you'll see on other diagrams.  You can play this game by clicking on "start" (there's no need to download), then begin pointing and clicking to label the parts.  Try it out, and challenge yourself to keep shortening your time!

If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library. 

PDX pop now coverOnce upon a time, I went out to see bands play several times a week, I read Spin (remember Spin?) and I was on top of the local and national music scene. I had friends with encyclopedic music knowledge, and they lavished it on me. Now I’m old and I’m busy, and so are my friends who used to give me the heads up on music they thought I’d like. Babysitters are expensive, and I find that I like to be in my bed by midnight, book in hand. But although I’m not so interested in standing up in a club or music venue for hours and hours, I still love music. I’m especially always looking for new music to energize me as I take long walks around this city. There’s nothing like a new song I’m really into to get me up to the top of MountPDX pop now cover Tabor faster.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a CD in the library called PDX Pop Now! 2008, and I found that it was just one of a great annual series. PDX Pop Now is a local nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate local music. In 2004, they started having a music festival every year and releasing a CD of recorded music by the artists chosen for the festival. The music is wildly varied and the CDs don't really hang together as albums, but as a tool for finding something new to love right here in your own city, they are unbeatable. I found a band I’ll call Starf***er, who have three whole CDs of music to get me moving. I found Ioa’s song, called “The Boxcar Children”, which unites my love of kid’s literature and pop music ("Henry and Jesse lived under no rules at all in the little red boxcar..."). And there’s a rolicking song called “Let’s Ride” by Andy Combs and the Moth that always gets me up to the top of Mount Tabor really fast. This CD series might just add some excitement to your life as well.

It’s widely known that smoking tobacco is dangerous:  a major cause of lung cancer, chronic lung disease and premature death.  Not to mention bad breath. 

But what about e-cigarettes?  Since you are inhaling only nicotine vapor, they must be safer than tobacco cigarettes.  Right?

It’s actually unknown if e-cigarettes are safe.    Discovery Health has put together ten facts about e-cigarettes that question the safety of the devices.  For instance,  they go unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have not been studied.  Despite the unknowns, double the number of teens tried e-cigarettes in 2013 than in 2012, according to the National Youth Tobacco study, summarized by the American Cancer Society.

What about hookahs?  Since hookahs are legal, social, infrequent, and the smoke passes through water, are they healthier than smoking regular tobacco or marijuana?  No, says the Centers for Disease Control.  But, like e-cigarettes, youth are using hookahs at increasing rates, alarming doctors.

This is a topic where I really needed to pay attention to reliable sources.  Though I found many videos extolling the benefits of hookahs and the safety of water pipe smoke, the source of this information was usually a guy filming a video in his garage.  Whenever you look for health or medical information, especially about drugs, think about the reliability of the source and the potential biases of the writer, video host, or organization.  For more on evaluating health information on the web, take a look at librarian Mary B.’s blog entry


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