mom and son watching movies
The library is here for you — from entertainment to growth opportunities to family activities. Here are a few things you can do with your library card that might make things easier.

Man standing and reading from a book
February is Black History Month. Join us to celebrate.

 

A Place Called Home: From Vanport to Albina
February 3
St. Johns Library
February 4
Albina Library

Black history traveling museums
At Albina, Belmont, Kenton, Midland, North Portland and Troutdale libraries throughout February.

Celebrate Black History with Gospel Music Timeline
February 6
Midland Library

Black History Month Film Fest
Saturdays in February 
St. Johns Library

African American Read-In
February 10
North Portland Library

Sista in the Brotherhood film screening 
February 11
Kenton Library

Portland’s Rhymes and Hip-Hop Life 
February 11
Rockwood Library

A Midsummer Night at the Savoy
February 17
North Portland Library

Where the Heart Is film screening 
February 24
North Portland Library

Black Feminism in the Hashtag Era
February 26
North Portland Library


 

Two women holding stacks of library books
Patrons have checked out these items the most in 2018.

 

Adult nonfiction book: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff: 1,294

Adult fiction book: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: 1,371

Adult DVD: The Shape of Water: 2,779

Adult music CD: Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording by Lin-Manuel Miranda: 318

Children’s book: Drama by Raina Telgemeier: 1,226

Teen book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: 852

OverDrive e-book: Exit West by Mosin Hamid: 2,749

OverDrive audiobook: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson: 3,994

Hoopla movie: Hamilton: 366

Hoopla music: Hamilton: 1,066

RB Digital magazine: The New Yorker: 6,524

Kanopy movie: Hearts Beat Loud: 393 (note: the library just began offering Kanopy in October)

LeFoster reading to children during a storytime
A diverse group of rapt toddlers focus their attention on LeFoster Williams. It’s storytime at North Portland Library during a crisp fall morning. With each turn of the page, one child runs up to him to see close-up which creature’s identity will be revealed beyond its ears. They sing with him. They stretch and exclaim as their excitement builds. For the toddlers, it’s a typical storytime. For the library, it affirms an organizational priority.

As a library assistant at North Portland Library and a member of the Black Cultural Library Advocates (BCLA) staff group at Multnomah County Library, LeFoster is helping the library champion equity and inclusion. The BCLA group, from LeFoster’s perspective, is a positive and safe space for him to collaborate with his colleagues. The team members coordinate work on programming and outreach and share experiences, including microaggressions in the workplace or leveraging contacts and resources from their personal networks. To him, the library’s executive-level support of this group helps amplify their work to make positive changes in how the library serves Multnomah County’s Black community.

And there is much work yet to be done. Oregon has a well-documented past and a systemic foundation of exclusion and racism. Public libraries, too, have a troubling legacy of excluding Black communities and focusing services and resources on white, more affluent communities. For most of its history, Multnomah County Library’s workforce was not diverse or representative of the community it serves. That began to change in 1998, when the library started offering materials and service in Spanish. Since then, the library has added materials and service in Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Somali. That focus has come through placing “Knowledge, Skills and Abilities” (KSA) competency designations on certain positions. In 2007, the library established the Black Cultural Competency KSA, which is now a feature of 24 staff positions at the library, including all members of the BCLA.

A Portland native, LeFoster has seen dramatic changes to Northeast Portland and Multnomah County affecting the Black community. In spite of many Black families’ eastward migration to “the numbers” in East County, he says “North Portland Library is still the Black branch.” He points to that branch’s unique collection, which includes the Black Resources Collection, the Black Pacific Northwest Collection and a robust selection of urban fiction, which he has been devouring as of late.

When he’s connecting with people outside the library, the first reaction LeFoster often observes is surprise. “They hire people like you?” younger people often ask. A Black man with dreads working at the library isn't what they expect. Then, the next question: “Do you get paid or volunteer?” He assures them it’s a real job and says “they hire people like you, too!”

When he’s off work, LeFoster is a champion for the library with friends and family. He says that there’s a lack of awareness about the library as a Black resource. “A lot of people are worried about fees,” he says. “They don’t know that library cards are free. I want to show them that the library is welcoming for all people.”

LeFoster is deeply involved with his community. Outside of work, he is active with this brother, Christopher, in connecting with young people. Together, they make music, which he says is his main passion in life. The brothers also travel to high schools to work with Black student union groups. They discuss issues like personal development, Black pride and figures who changed the world, like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X.

“When I was young, I had people who looked out for me. Some young people today don’t have that,” LeFoster says. “I want to give back. I want society to look at Black youth differently. I want youth to know that they have to let people know they are somebody, through the way they carry themselves — through their character and personality.”

Author Nova Ren Suma
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Walls Around Us, which was an Edgar Award finalist. She also wrote Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. Her most recent book is A Room Away From the Wolves. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from the Hudson Valley, she spent most of her adult life in New York City and now lives in Philadelphia. She'll be at the Portland Book Festival on November 10. We asked her a few questions in anticipation of the festival.

 

Where do you look for inspiration for the supernatural and paranormal elements in your books?

I’m not sure I go looking for ghostly and strange inspiration for my stories — it just keeps on finding me. I honestly don’t like to be scared in my usual everyday life and would prefer to keep the creeping otherworldly fears and scares on the page only, but if you have an eye open to it, you’ll find supernatural inspiration everywhere. Almost as if it follows some of us. For example, while away for a reading last week I discovered that I was booked into the most haunted hotel in the city I was visiting — and I hadn’t even asked for it! With trepidation, and also because I couldn’t help myself, I Googled to find out the history of the hotel and discovered that a haunting disturbance happened on the 14th floor … which, you guessed it, was the floor my room was on. I had trouble falling asleep, so anxious I’d experience something. But when I woke up in the morning, completely unscathed and having seen nothing, I was kind of disappointed, too. Now a little idea from that hotel has entered my mind, and I can’t seem to shake it. See how I didn’t go looking for it and it found me anyway?

 

How do you stay connected with your teen audience when teen culture constantly evolves?

My last year in high school, I was voted “Most Individualistic” for the yearbook… which is just another way of saying I was weird. I think these are the teen readers my books connect to most of all: the teen readers who know they’re different, who don’t fit in, and who want stories that don’t fit so easily into a box either. The wonderfully weird and unique teen readers—my books are meant for them. And that crosses all generations.

 

What books are on your nightstand?  

There is a teetering tower of books beside my blue reading chair, some of which I’ve started, and some of which I long to start. They include: Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Hunger by Roxane Gay, Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore, Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin, and a YA short story anthology edited by Lamar Giles called Fresh Ink. But very top on the pile is the latest issue of Tin House magazine, on the theme of “Poison,” which landed in my mailbox yesterday.

 

What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?  

I started off writing stories only for myself — I never imagined so many people would read them. When I sit down and think about that, really think about that, it terrifies me the way it would have if I’d actually seen a ghost in that hotel room on the 14th floor last week. But it also thrills me at the same time. Late last night I got a personal, heartfelt email from someone who loved one of my books, and has read it over and over. They said it saved them at a difficult point in the past. I haven’t been able to reply yet because it moved me so much. The most exciting thing in the world is writing a book that could mean that much to someone else.

 

What are you looking forward to at the Portland Book Festival?

I’ve been wanting to attend the Portland Book Festival since I became a published author, back when it was still called Wordstock, so this feels like a long-held dream finally come true. I’m excited for my own panel with Elizabeth Acevedo and Brendan Kiely, because I think it will be such a great conversation, but also top on my list is to just be in the audience soaking in the wisdom of some of my favorite writers, including Alexander Chee, Eileen Myles, and Lidia Yuknavitch.

 

 

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