Blogs

Ana Ruiz Morillo

For Spanish Outreach Coordinator Ana Ruiz Morillo, growing up in the Dominican Republic amidst pronounced wealth disparity led her to pursue a career in education and community outreach — she wanted to help others find opportunity and paths to success. 

Growing up between her parents’ two different Dominican neighborhoods, Ana experienced both the lessons of responsibility and hard work, and the privilege of having opportunity and established social circles. 

"These contrasting experiences made me think about equity before I even knew how to describe it. All communities deserve access to quality healthcare, a good education, and opportunities to succeed. I knew I wanted to do something about it," said Ana.

Ana started in her own community in Santo Domingo, meeting with leaders, organizing events and coaching youth on important leadership skills like public speaking.

Eventually, Ana earned her degree and became a teacher in the Dominican Republic before moving to the United States in 1995. In Oregon, she found a job with the Multnomah County Health Department — a place where she felt fulfilled using her bilingual skills while working with community members at neighborhood health clinics. She had planned to work while earning her Master’s Degree in Education so she could return to teaching. But then a job opened up with the library that seemed a perfect match. 

"When I came to work at the library, my supervisor told me, ‘you will always make a difference to students in the classroom, but through the library, you will broaden your impact. It’s a door to the whole community.'" 

"That was 12 years ago, and I haven’t looked back," says Ana. 

Now, Ana coordinates Spanish outreach services for the library. Working with bilingual library staff from across the county, volunteers and interns, Ana helps foster connections and build programs, services and networks between the library and Multnomah County’s Latinx communities. 

One of the most successful library programs Ana leads is El Día de los Niños y El Día de los Libros (Day of the children and Day of the books). The annual celebration of childhood and bilingual literacy is one of the library’s largest programs. Every April, several library locations offer fun and free literacy programming for kids, along with information for parents about how to support their children’s educational development. In 2018, Día events and programs drew nearly 10,000 attendees. 

Ana now utilizes her networking and leadership skills to mentor other library staff, volunteers and interns on conducting bilingual outreach in the community. 

"I continue to fall in love with my job. The library isn’t just flyers and books; the library is meeting people where they are. We are facilitating connections, broadening cultural understanding, and helping other people find their purpose and make an investment in their communities."

Beginning May 13, 2019, we are upgrading the software that helps run the library. This update will make using the library even better for you and more reliable for us. The library is making this update to continue to provide the best possible service to our patrons.

We look forward to bringing you:

  • Modernized software that enhances library services
  • Improved email, text message and phone notifications
  • Improved online searching for periodicals and magazines
  • Better self-checkout stations

During this transition, there will be an impact on some library services. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Classic Catalog

We are replacing the system that currently provides the Classic Catalog. If you use the Classic Catalog, you will need to sign up for My MCL by May 13. This will let you continue to access your account and the library catalog. Here’s how:

  • Create a My MCL account. Here’s a helpful guide.
  • If you were using Classic Catalog, your borrowing history will also be visible in My MCL once you create an account.
  • You can also import your reading lists from Classic Catalog. This will most likely only affect those patrons have not previously set up an account in My MCL.
  • Patrons who have been using My MCL should not be affected.

Other limited impacts

  • Beginning March 1, patrons will not be able to suggest new purchases for the library.
  • Phone renewal will not be available May 13 -16.
  • Temporary reduction in some library programming and availability of meeting rooms.
  • Online renewals will not be available May 13- 16. Fines will not accrue during that time.

Need help? Contact us.

Ben Nguyen, library volunteer
“It was a place I could call home.” 

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

When Ben Nguyen and his family emigrated from Vietnam to Portland, one of the first places they visited was their local library. “We always came to the library because it was where my parents had access to computers. I probably rolled around in the corner and picked up picture books,” he laughs. After moving into one house with two other families, the library became “a place of refuge from the noise and crowdedness,” he says.

Since then, Ben has volunteered with the Gregory Heights Library in many different positions. For nearly five years, he has been a search assistant, gathering books on hold and sending them to other library branches. He’s always been a reader and doesn’t volunteer to gain credit: “I do it because it’s fun every week, and I love getting to see the staff.”

As a senior at Reynolds High School, Ben doesn’t have much free time, but he plays tennis on the Reynolds High School team during the year and enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. He’s also passionate about social justice and has volunteered with the Multnomah Youth Commission for the past three years. “I work with officials on the city side and figure out equity issues, like working to make public transit affordable and accessible”, he says. Through the efforts of Ben and his fellow youth commissioners, TriMet access to East County schools has increased, including a program providing free or partially-funded bus passes to students who receive free or reduced lunch at Parkrose and David Douglas high schools.

“I don’t think of social justice as a career,” he says, “but it is a passion I want to pursue later in life.” Ben also wants to support immigrant and refugee communities, since “I know how hard it is to access resources.” Even more impressively, Ben has been accepted to Stanford University and likely will start there in the fall. “I actually wrote about the library for one of my college essays,” he explains. “I talked about it as a place where my sister and I felt protected. It’s where I was able to learn English and read my first chapter book. It was a place I could call home.”


A few facts about Ben

Home library: Gregory Heights

Currently reading: Multnomah County Library’s selection for Everybody Reads for 2019, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Most influential book: 1984 by George Orwell. “It made me start engaging in current events and politics.”

Favorite section of the library: Nonfiction, especially narrative nonfiction, where he found books like Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Favorite book from childhood: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Book that made you laugh or cry: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Favorite place to read: “Definitely in bed!”

E-reader or paper: “Paper because of the feeling of getting to flip the pages and remembering how much effort the authors put into their work.”

 

Importing your lists from the Classic Catalog to My MCL is easy and only takes a few seconds.

To get started, log into your My MCL account. If you don’t have My MCL account yet, here’s how to create one. You’ll need your barcode and password.

Once you log in to My MCL, you should land at the library dashboard. Scroll down to My Collections then click on For Later.

 

Screen shot of My MCL dashboard screen

 

At this point, you should see a box at the top of your screen with a button that says "Import List Items" - click that button. The titles on your lists in Classic Catalog will be imported to your For Later shelf. If you do not see this button, there's a good chance you've imported your reading lists from Classic Catalog already.

Screen shot of Import List Items button and text

Questions? Drop us a line!

We know that snow day closures can throw things off-kilter. Don't worry, we've got you covered. For snow day closures:

  • Don't worry about returning your books when the library is closed for snow days.
  • Late fines won't be charged for the days the library is closed.
  • No holds will expire while the library is closed.

If you can't get into a library once we're open, contact us. We can extend due dates and holds, and fix any problems with late fines. Thanks again for your support of the library.

St Johns Library in the snow

Northwest Library
Beginning Monday, February 25, Northwest Library will be closed for maintenance that includes fresh carpet, new paint and other minor renovations. The library will reopen on Saturday, March 9.

During the closure, books from Northwest Library will not be due. Patrons will not accrue any late fines or fees because of the closure. The book drop will not be available for returns. The nearest libraries are Central Library, Albina Library, St. Johns Library and North Portland Library.

If you have questions, please ask a staff member or contact the library at 503.988.5123. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you will enjoy the updates.

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, 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


 

Dedicated Booktalker and Treasure for Third-Graders

by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer

As a Books 2 U volunteer, Ethelyn Pankratz talks to third-graders at two Portland schools about books. And she is a natural at it: even during our interview, she went through the seven books she had brought, pointing out especially good illustrations or photographs, showing what she liked about each, and how they might appeal to children—demonstrating a “booktalk” without my realizing it.

The Books 2 U program trains volunteers and provides books for students in third, fourth, and fifth grades; volunteers then choose titles from the many possibilities in the Books 2 U office. On this day, Ethelyn’s choices ranged from wordless books to those with mostly words, beautifully illustrated works, easy readers, adventure tales, and science. Since each classroom session is limited to 20 minutes, she goes through them rapidly, but without seeming to hurry.

The booktalker training includes learning to catch students’ attention, and in her 18 years of volunteering, Ethelyn has become adept at “reading” the students and choosing books that will interest them. She admitted that working with third graders may make her task easier because they are intrigued by everything and eager to learn. To do this well, she said, a volunteer must love reading, be aware of the kids’ varied reading levels, and have a good sense of what elements of a book to emphasize.

An ideal Books 2 U volunteer, Ethelyn spent most of her career in education: as a preschool teacher, an art instructor for Portland Public Schools, as executive director of what was then called the Association for Retarded Citizens, administering a program for people with developmental disabilities, and even working with an organization that brought young people from Myanmar to be educated in the U.S., hoping that they would return home and teach others.

When she retired, Ethelyn wanted to do something useful that she would enjoy. When I asked what she likes best about volunteering with Books 2 U, she replied, “watching their eyes light up—seeing them become engaged with a book. Since some schools no longer have libraries, we are a way to reach kids who might not be introduced to the world through reading.”


A few facts about Ethelyn

Home library: Capitol Hill

Currently reading: a science-fiction trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Favorite book from childhood: Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

A book that made you laugh or cry: The Little Colonel by Annie Fellows Johnston

Favorite section of the library: young adult books

E-reader or paper book? Both. I like the ability to adjust fonts on e-readers, but I prefer the feel of paper books, especially if I want to keep a book.

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: reading in the daytime

Favorite place to read: on the couch or in bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Logo for Summer Reading 2019
HEY TEENS: Want to win $100 to spend at collage: curated art and craft supplies? Want thousands of people to see your artwork? 

Are you an artist in grades 6–12? Would you like a chance to win one of two $100 gift certificates to collage: curated art and craft supplies? Enter cover art for the 2019 Multnomah County Library Summer Reading teen gameboards! The theme is “Space: A Universe of Stories.” We will select a middle school and high school winner from the entries. If your artwork is selected, people across Multnomah County will see your artwork all summer long. The library will also share winners and honorable mentions on the library’s social media channels.

PRINTABLE FLIER with entry size and all these details (or you can pick one up at your library).

ART SPECIFICATIONS 1) Black & white image only. 2) If hand drawn, use black ink, marker, pen or hard pencil. 3) If computer drawn, submit as black & white EPS or high resolution (300 dpi) PNG, JPG or TIF. NOTE: Final artwork will be printed at a maximum of 7” x 4.75” [measurements may change if art is scaled down].

SUBMISSION DETAILS Please include your name, grade, school (if applicable) and a phone number or email address so we can reach you if you win. Submit your artwork electronically to summerreading@multcolib.org, bring it to your local library, or send a paper version to:

Summer Reading | Multnomah County Library Isom Building, 205 NE Russell Street, Portland, OR 97212

Entries must be received by FRIDAY, MARCH 1.

Summer Reading is made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation.

Welcome to Computers

Twenty-two adults in East Portland and Gresham learned new technology skills and earned themselves a free laptop thanks to a library partnership with technology non-profit FreeGeek and the Rockwood community organization, Rosewood Initiative

The five-week “Welcome to Computers” program took place in November and December at the Rosewood Initiative in East Portland. The program was taught in Spanish by the library’s Bilingual Technology Coordinator Carlos Galeana. He offered lessons on sending email, navigating the internet, downloading apps, and using the library. After completing the full program of weekly, two-hour classes, participants received a free laptop from Free Geek and one year of technical support. 

“I love teaching the important technology skills that will help them both in the library and in everyday life,” said Carlos, who has taught the program twice. 

For some of the students, the classes are the next step in helping them earn their GED; for others, a boost in navigating complex online job applications.  

“The computer is a nice extra,” adds Carlos. 

The library and Free Geek teach the Welcome to Computers program with various community partners throughout the year. A new session will begin in February 2019 with Central City Concern.

Liza Dyer

For those interested in volunteering their time and expertise at the library, Volunteer Coordinator Liza Dyer works diligently as a “matchmaker,” pairing people with the volunteer position and library location that best aligns with their interests and skills. 

“Volunteer services is all about the people,” says Liza. “We recruit, onboard and orient people to what we do at the library, a human resources department for library volunteers.”

In her role, Liza supports the library’s 2000 annual volunteers, along with more than 100 library staff across Multnomah County who work directly with volunteers.  

With her colleagues, Liza interviews incoming volunteers to learn about what they like to do, their work styles, and their goals for volunteering. She works hard to ensure that each volunteer is matched with a role that will be meaningful for them. 
“We want to make sure the experience is amazing for both our staff and volunteers. When we have everyone working together towards our shared goals it makes us a stronger library system.”

Library volunteers help with everything from shelving books and fulfilling holds to teaching computer literacy classes and delivering books to homebound patrons. As library services evolve, so does volunteer services. 

“We all are in this together. Whether it’s a staff person who is in every day and getting paid or a volunteer coming in two hours once per week, we’re extending the impact for the greater community,” Liza adds. 

Staying true to her passion for volunteering, Liza also gives of her time to local and national organizations, including the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration, the Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association, and the Nonprofit Technology Network. 

Learn more about volunteering with Multnomah County 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)

For those of us who love classic literature, Multnomah County Library is a great resource. There are ongoing Classics Pageturners book discussion groups at Hillsdale Library and Hollywood Library, plus a Quarterly Classics group at Capitol Hill Library.  Copies of the books will be available two months in advance of the discussions.  Please call the branch to confirm.  Following that are lists of Western and non-Western literature from every era.

Here are the Classics book group schedules:

Hillsdale Library Classics Pageturners,

Second Saturdays, 3-5 pm

 

March 9, 2019, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo. (Different edition than we will be reading)

 

April 13, 2019, The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. (Different edition than we will be reading)

 

May 11, 2019, Adam Bede, George Eliot. (Different edition than we will be reading)

 

June 8, 2019, Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud

 

 

Hollywood Library Classics Pageturners,

Third Sundays, 2-4 pm

 

February 17, 2019Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel García Márquez

 

March 17, 2019,  Lelia, by George Sand

 

April 21, 2019, The Red and the Black, by Stendhal

 

May 19, 2019,  Go Tell It On the Mountain, by James Baldwin

 

June 16, 2019The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing

 

Capitol Hill Library Quarterly Classics

Second Wednesdays, 1:30 pm, October 2018, January, April & July 2019

 

April 10, 2019, The Warden, by Anthony Trollope

 

July 10, 2019, My Ántonia, by Willa Cather

Embracing a Spanish language identity
Volunteer Fernando Rojas-Galvan

by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer

The passions of Fernando Rojas-Galvan center around something many of us in the library community appreciate: language. What sets Fernando apart is his embrace of two languages—English and Spanish—in almost every aspect of his life. As the facilitator for Kenton Library's Intercambio program, Ferrnando leads the weekly bilingual discussion group with patrons. He also helms Kenton Library’s Spanish-language book club, which meets four times a year.

“I’ve been a patron of Kenton since they opened,” Fernando says. He took over the book club a year ago and then started leading Intercambio. “I find it enjoyable and rewarding,” Fernando says. “It’s my opportunity to contribute to my local community; I think giving back is a key aspect of living in that community.”

Fernando also uses his Spanish as an instructor at Clatsop Community College (CCC) in Astoria. At CCC he develops his own curriculum: “I am the Spanish department at the college,” he says. He teaches everything from English as a second language to developmental English to a Latin American short story course. “To have the freedom to set up my curriculum and choose the books; it makes my job that much easier,” he says.

Along with teaching, reading inspires hope in Fernando: “Gosh, I read every day,” he says with a bit of wonder. “I find it as important as breathing, eating.” He became a reader in third grade, when he realized “I could do things my parents couldn’t do [because of the English language].”

Fernando was born in western Mexico and moved with his parents to Oregon as a toddler. Growing up, Fernando realized “Spanish language was part of my identity” and maintained his use of Spanish even while learning English. “I mention it because within three generations of immigrants you can lose the native language.” As a result, Fernando and his wife raise their two daughters and a son bilingually. “We do the best we can,” he says, “but we’re against society. The current political turmoil doesn’t foster [speaking Spanish]. It’s almost an act of resistance to speak another language in this country.” In the academic and library communities all languages should be encouraged and flourish; it’s heartening and hopeful to see how Fernando’s passion for Spanish can extend to the next generation and beyond.  


A few facts about Fernando

Home library: Kenton Library

Currently reading: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I am also reading Patria by Paco Ignacio Taibo. I have a habit of reading up to six books at any given time. Once in a while I encounter a book that I read in a day or two.

Most influential book: El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato

Favorite section to browse: Nonfiction or magazine section

Favorite book from childhood: Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Book that made you laugh or cry: Where The Red Fern Grows

Guilty pleasure: As a student of the Mexican-American Border for the last 25 years, I am watching the Netflix series Narcos.

Favorite place to read: You name it… I'll read anywhere.

E-reader or paper: I prefer paper, but as long as I can access reading material, my phone will serve the purpose in a pinch.

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Stephanie White

As the "person in charge" (PIC) coordinator at Central Library, Stephanie White works to achieve a delicate balance. "Every day, our goal is to ensure access," she says. "But ‘welcome’ looks different to every population, so I work closely with our patrons to see how the library can be welcoming for everyone." 

To help achieve this goal, Stephanie aligns the work of 17 Central Library PIC staff members with the individual needs and circumstances of the nearly 13,000 people who visit the historic downtown building every week. All libraries have a person in charge on duty during every open hour. Those staff members interpret and apply library rules, address building maintenance needs, respond to medical emergencies and make numerous other decisions to keep the library safe and welcoming. Stephanie also serves as a scheduler, an advisor, a problem solver and one of the primary trainers for the library’s safety and security program. 

Stephanie joined the library in 2016 after an 18-year career at Powell’s City of Books. As a manager there, she had similar duties, but she points to a fundamental difference regarding the library’s end goal: access.

Like all library staff, PICs look for every way to help deliver patrons what they need— a "think yes" model to customer service. "While my role requires addressing security concerns and applying the library rules, I focus on ways to help people use the library successfully. Interactions shouldn’t be punitive. They should feel like a collaboration between patrons and staff to help the library be welcoming and safe. It requires being part of the fabric of daily library life and doing many other things beyond applying rules— it means relationship building," she says.

In the past two years, the library has expanded safety and security efforts, including adding a new category of library safety officers; creating new training curricula for staff; adopting a new model of PIC staffing, and revising library rules significantly for the first time in decades. To Stephanie, those rules are much more than a list of "don’ts." 

"It’s not just about the content of the rules to ensure a welcoming environment; the rules were reworked to make them easier to apply equitably. That's our goal — apply library rules as consistently as possible to ensure fairness and equity. We all need to be on the same page to get there."

For some library patrons, the library is a place of safety and refuge from the pressures and danger of living outside. Stephanie says she came to understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness differently than before she worked in the library. She talks about learning of the idea of “prosocial” behavior (as opposed to its antonym, antisocial, which is more common and familiar). In Stephanie’s role, she sees opportunity to help people whose situations compromise their ability to be prosocial. 

"While I considered myself compassionate and empathetic, I just didn’t have the tools to understand the minute-to-minute struggles people experiencing homelessness encounter every day,” Stephanie says. “If I had to think constantly about where I was going to use a bathroom, charge my phone, get something to eat, or avoid people stealing my things or assaulting me, I don’t know how long my own prosocial skills would last."

It doesn’t take long to discover Stephanie’s ability to make positive and lasting connections with people. Colleagues are quick to praise her abilities and approach. She reciprocates those sentiments. "The well of thoughtfulness here is infinite," she says. "The library system is so large, yet people at every level are so thoughtful about how we meet the needs of various communities, though our perspectives are all different. We all have very job-focused goals in addition to creating a welcoming environment. The intersection of all that is the most fascinating and challenging part of this job for me."

When she’s not at work, Stephanie enjoys the solitude of being outdoors and the company of her rottweiler/shepherd/pitbull mix, Jackson (he's a good boy). She also loves to spend time in a warm kitchen, refining her techniques for the perfect pie crust or souffle. Like her work, those efforts are an intricate exercise in achieving just the right balance.

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.”

Multnomah County Library now offers caregiver kits for those caring for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. Anyone can get a kit by placing a hold online

Caregiver kits contents - cooking tools
In the kits:

Every themed kit contains multisensory items. For example, the gardening kit has seeds, tools and books. The cooking kit has kitchen items and cookbooks from the 1950s. The themes are designed to stimulate conversations and bring back happy memories.

A caregiving resource kit contains books about dementia and self-care resources. It’s available in English and Spanish.

Why caregiver kits for dementia?

  • The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease is growing fast. Because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States, the number of new cases of Alzheimer's dementia and other dementias is projected to soar. 
  • One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's dementia.
  • African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older whites.
  • Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older whites.

Alzheimer's takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Compared with caregivers of people without dementia, twice as many caregivers of people with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial and physical difficulties. Additionally, a recent community survey by Multnomah County Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division revealed high needs for caregiver resources.

Community partners

The library received input on the kits from many community partners including Multnomah County Aging, Disability and Veterans Services, Alzheimer’s Association support groups, PSU Institute on Aging, OHSU Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center, SAGE Metro Portland (LGBT Elders), Q Center, Friendly House, and the Multicultural Senior Center. 

Caregivers kit bag - exterior shot
For more information

Contact Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404.

Providing Hope
Tutors from left: Zarina Jackson, Lynn Alderman, Melissa Madenski and Katie Booker

by Donna Childs

Imagine being an adult and unable to read—how frustrated, embarrassed, even fearful you might feel.  While it could seem overwhelming to enroll in school, a drop-in session with a non-judgmental adult, one-on-one, at whatever level you need might be the perfect solution.  At five Multnomah County neighborhood libraries, about eighty dedicated, intelligent, good-humored, and joyful volunteer tutors help with reading, English language learning,  GED preparation, and other skills. The Adult Literacy Program, begun ten years ago through Library Outreach Services, provides walk-in tutoring two hours a week at Gresham, St. Johns, North Portland, Central and Midland.

I met with four of the twenty Midland volunteer tutors:  Lynn Alderman, Katie Booker, Melissa Madenski, and Zarina Jackson.  While tutors come with different backgrounds and skills, they are flexible, and their approach is completely learner-centered.  As Melissa said, it isn’t teaching first grade; it is finding out what each person knows and building on that. Katie agreed, pointing out that the learners often know more than they think they do.  After all, they may have navigated a lifetime without reading. The key is to discover their interests and what they are good at, to make them comfortable, and to increase their confidence.

Coordinator Lisa Regimbal, the only paid staff member, runs the program, and matches available tutors and learners at each session.  The tutors like the variety, and not knowing what to expect each week. According to Lynn, that variety keeps her on her toes and allows her to learn too.  A former accountant, who has “wanted to do this all my life,” Lynn found this program online. Katie, too, long wanted to do this; she had considered special education before studying art history and working in insurance.  She loves seeing the excitement at the moment someone starts to understand. For example, a sixty-five-year-old man came in wanting to write a letter. After being shown the format, writing the words, folding the paper, addressing and stamping the envelope, he “was so happy” with his new knowledge.

A former adult literacy coordinator, Melissa ran the program for its first five years.  The library got a grant, surveyed the needs in the community, reached out to non-profits, and recruited forty volunteers.  When she retired, Melissa continued as a volunteer tutor. “I love volunteering; I love this work and the excitement of being ready for anything.”  Although she can do any kind of tutoring, she, like Katie, most enjoys helping beginning readers.

Zarina, on the other hand, loves English language tutoring.  She can take on speakers of any language. Having approached a vocational counselor to find a volunteer career, and exploring several possibilities, the counselor asked what Zarina wanted to be when she grew up.  Her instant reply: “an English teacher!” She now happily helps non-English speaking patrons, finding it “an honor to be able to help people.”

The tutors not only form relationships with patrons, with whom they work closely, but they also have a warm camaraderie among themselves.  They keep folders on their work so any tutor can help if one of them is absent. They laugh a lot and all agree that although they are there to help others, “we are the ones who benefit most.”

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

This guide is a tool to enhance your group’s conversation about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Acichie’s insightful story of a young love, migration, exile, and homecoming.

Questions:

1. Adichie is herself somewhat of an outsider in America, as is her character, Ifemelu. Is there an advantage to telling this story from an outsider’s perspective?

2. In an interview with the New York Times, Adichie said she thinks there is “a tendency in American fiction to celebrate work that fundamentally keeps people comfortable.” How does Adichie reject or embrace keeping the reader comfortable in Americanah?

3. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Adichie commented on likable characters in fiction, saying, "women writers are expected to make their female characters likeable, as though the full humanity of a female person must in the end meet the careful limitations of likability.” Did you find the characters in Americanah likeable? Why or why not? Are there some characters you liked more than others? If we demand likeable characters, what does this need say about us as readers?

4. The first part of Ifemelu’s story is told in flashback as she's having her hair braided at a salon before returning to Nigeria. Ifemelu interacts with the women in the salon, and makes judgments about them. How does her identity and her long stay in America affect her perception of the women around her?

5. In Americanah, hair is often a focal point for discussing race and culture. Re-read Ifemelu’s blog post “A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor (p. 299.)”  How does the attention and judgment paid to a woman's hair reflect American society’s greater issues with race and feminism?

6. Ifemelu says, “I discovered race in America, and it fascinated me (p. 406).” She wonders, “How many other people had become black in America?” (p. 209) What does she mean by these statements?

7. Obinze’s has a complicated relationship with Ojiugo, his now-wealthy friend who has married an EU citizen. How does Obinze balance the need for support from his friend with the sense that Ojiugo represents someone who has given up his cultural identity?  Are all of the characters who leave Nigeria (such as Emenike, Aunty Uju, Bartholomew, and Ginika) similarly compromised?

8. When Ifemelu is hired to speak on race relations in America, she gets a hostile reaction at first. She changes her presentation to say, “America has made great progress for which we should be very proud”, and gets a better reaction; however in her blog, she writes “racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it’.” (p. 378). How do these two approaches reflect how Americans navigate questions of race and bias? Within your own circles, are you able to have frank conversations about race?

9. Kimberly, the white woman who employs Ifemelu as a nanny, seems to exemplify the white liberal guilt many Americans feel in relation to Africa and Africans. How did you respond to this character and her relationship with Ifemelu?

10. Ifemelu’s experience with the tennis coach is a low point in her life. Why does she avoid being in touch with Obinze afterward (157–58)? Why doesn’t she read his letters? How do you interpret her behavior?

11. How would you describe the qualities that Ifemelu and Obinze admire in each other? How does Adichie sustain the suspense about whether Ifemelu and Obinze will be together until the very last page? What, other than narrative suspense, might be the reason for Adichie’s choice in doing so? Would you consider their union the true homecoming, for both of them?

*Some questions suggested by or adapted from the Penguin Random House Reader’s Guide for Americanah

Themes and topics:

Nigeria, Lagos, young women, coming-of-age, feminism, racism, race and class, identity, romantic love, belonging, separation vs. connection, cultural critique, microaggression, power, Black American/African cultures, cross-cultural relationships, bloggers, corruption, immigration, fear of immigrants, the concept of assimilation.

Learn more about Nigeria, from Portland State University's International Cultures site.

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