I love the fall. The weather stops being ridiculously hot, the rain comes back, and the school year is still full of potential (granted, I like school better now that I’m not the one in class). There’s also the possibility of something new worth watching on TV and then of course all those fantastic campaign ads:

  Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy LewinBad Kitty by Nick Bruel

 

Ok, even I don’t believe that last one. But hooray for democracy!

So where do you go when you want to know more about that candidate or that ballot measure? I suppose you could just trust the ads, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, take a look at Ballotpedia and Govtrack.us.

Ballotpedia is one of those websites that you think you’ve found everything- and then you find more. Their goal is to provide “accurate and objective information about politics at the local, state, and federal level.”  They have information on everything from presidential elections to school board elections and from major national issues to a profile of Louisville City Councilor Madonna Flood.  

Red and blue U.S. Mail letter drop box.

If you need to know about the Federal government, Govtrack has it covered!  Want to meet the Congressman from Arkansas? They can do that. The site is excellent for seeing what elected officials have done in their time in office; i.e. what bills they voted for and which ones they wrote as well as who is on the Ethics Committee.

Both Govtrack and Ballotpedia are great at providing context. Say you want to know how well different senators work together- you can check their report cards. Or you can see what happens to a bill. I especially appreciate Ballotpedia for their detailed look at different ballot measures- I used it when I was trying to find out more about Oregon’s measure 92 and found more than I had even thought to wonder about.

Whether you are casting your vote, writing a school report or just curious (maybe all three!) I hope that these sites can help you see things in a new way. And of course, if you want to know more you can also ask a librarian!

*Bad Kitty is by Nick Bruel and Duck is by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Two of my favorite things to do around town when I can’t be at the Maker Faire PDX are going out to listen to music and watching movies. While I’m not bad at making music (yay cellos!) and I can take cute videos of my dogs, I can’t really claim to be great at making either. But not to fear! We do live in a great town for making things, from chairs to computers to art and we can all learn together.

Yellow record player

Are you feeling musical? Explore the science of music with your own musical creations, and learn to make your own instruments from maracas to didgeridoos. (This website is set up as lessons for teachers, but there’s no reason for teachers to have all the fun.) Once you have made (or chosen) your instrument it’s time to make some music: Indulge your inner rocker girl or you can check out the Community Music Center for lessons, concerts, workshops and practice space. Or just find some friends and start playing--it’s how all the greats got started.

 

 

strip of film cels

Visual arts more your thing? You can play with your films at the Hollywood Theater with B Movie Bingo and Hecklevison and other series.  The Portland Art Museum’s nwFilm Center has films you won’t find at the mall and classes on how to make your own. If you prefer things to be more non-fiction, head over to Northwest Documentary. They come complete with classes, lab time, opportunities to work with other filmmakers and a great library, all at your creating and making disposal. And if the slow and methodical isn’t your way, maybe The 48 Hour Film Project will be more to your liking.

 

 

Do want to make and learn more? Contact a Librarian!

Hey, We're going to be at the Maker Faire on September 13 and 14 at OMSI. Come see us!

It’s a jungle out there. And if you have pets, it might be a jungle in here too… So with so many animals- millions and millions of species- where do you start looking for the ones that you want?

Turtle from USGS

The Encyclopedia of Life probably has what you are looking for. It is easy to search, has a really cool map system and tells you where to find a lot more info. The catch is that it is all pretty high level reading and information. Don’t get me wrong- it’s great stuff and there aren’t that many other places to go looking online for sloth genetic code. Some of these other places might ease you into the Encyclopedia of Life. Try one or try them all, it’s up to you!

If you are looking for smaller bites of animal information Animal Planet can keep you up to date on Wild Animals and Pets in fun and handy top 10 lists. My favorites: Top Animal Thieves and the Top Cats of the internetWolf photo from US Fish and Wildlife

A classic place that people learned about animals is the tv show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. At their site you can watch new videos and check out some of the old videos all the way back to the 1960s. And from there you can head over to the Colorado State library’s collection of photos that one of the Wild Kingdom’s photographers gave to them. The Garst Photographic Collection has thousands of photos and information about the animals in them. They do warn that there are “only” 600 or so species listed, but they are fun and different species like the Egyptian Goose and the Yellow Mongoose. (Hint: only one of those is a bird.)

You can check out the animals at the Oregon Zoo or at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago online and visit them in person if you like. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has things covered here in the states and oversees the Endangered Species Act.  They also have a huge collection of pictures, videos, sounds and maps that are almost all in the public domain. (Meaning you can use them!)  If you want more about people working to help animals, World Animal Net is network of animal protection and conservation groups working all around the globe.

Male Ocelot from US Fish and WildlifeThe Natural History Notebooks covers animal species both extant (living) and extinct (died out) from dinosaurs to komodo dragons to squirrels. (And if you scroll to the bottom of the page, they give you the citation for your paper too!)  The National Geographic Creature Feature is arranged a lot like the Natural History Notebooks and if you can’t find the animal you want in one it might be in the other.

Still need more animals? Ask a 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!

Bowtie Venn Diagram by H. Caldwell Tanner

 

If you’ve ever had to do a report you know that there are many ways to present what you want people to know. You can give a speech, write a 5 page paper, create a graph, make a movie or sing a song. A classic way is to make a poster.

 

A new spin on the poster approach are infographics. Basically, they put information in an organized and visual way that can make it easier to pull everything together and get the big picture. They can be complex like this chapter by chapter guide to The Great Gatsby or simple like the bowtie Venn diagram. They can be interactive like this wind map of the Earth or answer questions you may have never thought to ask like, 'how many teaspoons are in a cup?' (48, yeah I didn't know either.)

 

Here at the library we have made a set infographics about how to find good information online. Like this one:

 

How to Evaluate Websites

Why did we make infographics? So that you can look at research in a whole different way.

Want more information about research and infographics? Ask a librarian!

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