- Get free tickets to local spots, like the Northwest Film Center or Rose City Rollers.
- Attend a library event for adults, or take kids or teens to one geared for them. This weekend, learn how to start a personal meditation practice, explore the history of African storytelling or screen Half of a Yellow Sun.
- Browse the latest magazines. (If you want, you can keep them.)
- Stream movies on Hoopla or Kanopy. Kanopy focuses on documentary, classic and independent film.
- Our Everybody Reads community reading project is in full swing. Grab a copy of Americanah (if you like audiobooks, we have unlimited copies this year) and join us to talk and learn about things that matter.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
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)
Embracing a Spanish language identity
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information
Contact Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404.
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.
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.
In We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the 21st century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often-masked realities of sexual politics, she explores what it means to be a woman. This essay was based on the author's TED talk of the same name.
Here are some questions to consider when discussing We Should All Be Feminists:
1. Do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
2. What is a feminist? Adichie says, “My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” Do you agree with this definition?
3. Adichie says her brother is her favorite feminist. Do you have a favorite feminist?
4. Does the culture you grew up in have different expectations for boys and girls? At what age do distinctions between the genders start? Do you believe these expectations arise out of biological difference, or socialization?
5. There are many negative views of feminism. How do you think these evolved? How might co-opting a term work to the advantage of those who want to discredit a movement?
6. Do you know any boys or men who describe themselves as feminists? If you're male, and don't use the term, what would it feel like to do so?
7. Adichie describes how disadvantaged women negotiate for power in Nigeria; how might it be easier for women living in privilege to embrace feminism?
8. Feminism is interpreted differently by different people. Intersectionality is defined as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage." (Oxford Dictionary) How does your personal identity shape your values? You might use the University of Michigan's Social Identity Wheel to further this conversation.
9. Feminists are often described as “angry.” What is the place of anger in advancing or hindering a cause? Can you think of examples, in your own life or in popular culture, where male and female anger is treated differently?
10. Adichie thinks American women do not want to seem aggressive, that they are more invested in being “liked.” Is it possible to be “liked” and still insist on equal treatment?
11. Adichie points out that boys also struggle under strict beliefs about what it means to be masculine. Do you believe that boys and men pay a price in a world that devalues feminism or insists on hyper-masculinity? How?
Feminism, power, gender, gender expectations, coming-of-age, money, injustice, equality, masculinity, femininity, boys and girls, society, culture, tradition, society, socialization, roles, ambition, shame.
“The library is like a second home."
by Sarah Binns
Chloe McCann, search assistant at Fairview Library, has been volunteering at that location for almost as long as that neighborhood library has been in existence. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but in reality Chloe has “been going [to Fairview] as a patron since I was a toddler, since Fairview opened three months after I was born.” Once she got a bit older, Chloe’s mother suggested she volunteer for the Summer Reading program, and she’s been active with Fairview ever since. As a paging assistant three days a week, Chloe fulfills holds for patrons from other libraries and does other tasks like reading shelves. “I make sure everything is in its right place,” she says. “I love the paging list,” she adds with a laugh, “It’s satisfying to be able to pick stuff out and find things!”
When not volunteering, Chloe is a full-time student at Mt. Hood Community College, working toward her diploma even though she is only eighteen. Chloe says she’s surprised that her volunteer work hasn’t steered her toward a library science degree, but she is interested in pursuing psychology and neuroscience, subjects she’s loved since she was little.
Music and books fill the small amount of free time Chloe has. “I love music and over the course of my life I’ve learned to play about fifteen instruments. I’ve played piano on and off for eleven years.” Her reading interests veer toward psychology and nonfiction, but she also enjoys “horror, mysteries, thrillers, and graphic novels.” She also admits to judging a book by its cover, in a sense: “If a book has a cool cover, I’ll check it out,” she laughs.
Over time, Chloe has become close to her Fairview co-workers, whom she justifiably calls “family.” “I’ve known [staff member] Angie since I was a little kid,” she says. During her summers Chloe also interns at Fairview, which means, “I get paid to be around family!” Fairview is lucky to have such a long-time volunteer on its hands, especially one who’s been among its books since childhood. “I’ve always loved libraries,” Chloe says, “and being at Fairview is not like going to a public place, it’s like a second home.”
A few facts about Chloe
Home library: Fairview
Currently reading: I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid and Colour by Rudolf Steiner.
Most influential book: Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter.
Favorite book from childhood: Any of the Dork Diaries books
Favorite section of the library: Non-fiction or graphic novels!
Guilty pleasure: Reality shows, even if they're fake.
E-reader or paper? Paper! E-readers are really convenient but I personally like to have an actual book.
Favorite place to read: Outside
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.
As summer kicked off in June, Multnomah County Library welcomed Corey Pursel in a new type of job. As Rockwood Library’s youth engagement specialist, Corey is bringing a new perspective and a unique toolkit to working with young people at Rockwood Library.
Rockwood is one of Oregon’s most diverse and economically challenged communities. Many of its residents work hard to make ends meet or adjust to a new life in the United States. For young people, that can mean grappling with the effects of trauma, systemic barriers and generational poverty.
In creating the position of youth engagement specialist, the library sought to provide young people more options -- ways to reinforce positive behavior and address other behavior in a more proactive way than the singular punitive consequence of exclusion. In addition, the library can better utilize trauma-informed practices that address deeper underlying issues that affect children’s lives. Together, these approaches help young people keep using the library when they might need it most in their lives.
An East County native, Corey came to Rockwood Library with a depth of experience in serving youth, as a caseworker, a counselor and as a crisis team member for local and state government. “When I saw this position, it captured the positive direction of social services. As libraries collaborate more with other public services, I saw the chance to develop something new that fits both of those roles,” he said.
In his time at the library, Corey has developed community partnerships and helped young people and their families understand which resources are available, how they differ and where to find culturally specific services. He’s also working to help youth understand the library rules, which have numerous legal provisions and can be tough to decipher in a youth oriented context. By looking at those rules though a frame of positive behavioral intervention support, Corey says he can develop ways to engage youth without saying, “Don't do this. Instead, we’ll try to do it this way.”
Corey brings knowledge of the safety net services and systems that families in Rockwood are often engaged with. “A lot of families experience day-to-day instability with finances, food and housing,” he says. “When parents are having a hard time, we can supplement those families’ needs. If a young person is involved with DHS, that factor might have caused library staff to get stuck right there before this role existed. Now we can reach out to parents and get a bigger picture, understand the family’s concerns and create a plan to help that young person.”
“Corey can help us understand these situations better, what young people are experiencing,” said Rockwood Library Administrator David Lee. “He understands the systems that young people and their families are part of and, because of that, he can support us in helping them use the library successfully.”
The youth engagement specialist job was created as a two-year pilot effort. As Corey puts his expertise to work, he’s also imagining more ways for the library to serve youth. He dreams of more dedicated teen space and more ways for people to understand each other better, despite their differences. Perhaps an entire team of youth engagement specialists. When asked if any youth are familiar with that title, he responds, “They just know me as Corey.”
Your book Fruit of the Drunken Tree is about the experiences of two sisters growing up in a gated community in Bogotá, contrasted with the experiences of their live-in maid, a child who grew up in the slums. Why tell the story from the perspective of children?
Children have a naked way of understanding the world. When thinking of the universe of devastating things Colombians have to contend with—war, abuse, betrayal—I was interested in knowing what a naked understanding of those things could be. Is it possible for some Colombians to be mostly unaffected by the civil conflict because they are protected by their class, while others will experience the full brunt of violence also because of their class? That was the reality of Colombia in the 90s, and I wanted to write about what this reality was like for girls.
One of the perks of being a librarian is recommending books, but sometimes we'd like to be on the receiving end. What's the one book you'd like to suggest for us and why?
How about three? Rita Bullwinkel's Belly Up because it gave me so much joy, Samantha Hunt's The Dark Dark because it reminded me that at any moment we may meet the delicious surreality riding beneath the surface of our lives, and If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim because it's an immigrant saga that packs a lot of heart.
What books are on your nightstand?
I am reading Freeman's Power issue, and Elaine Castillo's America is Not the Heart. Both are indelible companions to me right now.
What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?
The most exciting part is an empty room, an endless supply of matcha, my blue bathrobe, my fingers on the keyboard, the blank page.
What are you most looking forward to at the Portland Book Festival?
I am really looking forward to This is America: Race and Family. It has a knockout line up with Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Nicole Chung and Luis Alberto Urrea. I am very excited to hear them speak. Also Lidia Yuknavitch (!) who is speaking with Aminder Dhaliwal, Ling Ma and Leni Zumas on the subject of women at the end of the world.
The popular on-demand film streaming service Kanopy is now available for free to Multnomah County library cardholders. MCL cardholders can access Kanopy and sign up to start streaming films on demand instantly by visiting multcolib.kanopy.com
Kanopy showcases more than 30,000 of the world’s best films, including award-winning documentaries, rare and hard-to-find titles, film festival favorites, indie and classic films, and world cinema with collections from the Criterion Collection, Music Box Films, Samuel Goldwyn, The Orchard, PBS and thousands of independent filmmakers.
The Kanopy collection includes indie hits like Hunt For the Wilderpeople and 2 Days in Paris, classic masterpieces like Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Seven Samurai, and award-winning documentaries like the 2017 Oscar®-nominated I Am Not Your Negro and Sundance Film Festival winner Mother of George.
Films can be streamed through a variety of devices and platforms including iOS, Android, AppleTV, Chromecast, and Roku. All Kanopy films feature closed captions and transcripts for the hearing-impaired.
MCL cardholders can access up to 6 Kanopy films per month, with the count resetting on the 1st of the month.
Using Her Experience to Help Others
by Donna Childs
Mekdes Hilete came to Portland from Ethiopia two years ago, at age 14. Despite all the complexities of a new country, with a new language, culture, habits, assumptions, expectations, Mekdes has handled the difficult transition with grace, making it appear deceptively easy.
Almost as soon as she arrived here, Mekdes became involved with Multnomah County Library. After volunteering in the Summer Reading and summer lunch programs at the Belmont and Midland libraries, she began taking on multiple roles at her home library, North Portland. She began as a computer lab assistant, helping patrons with such tasks as accessing the internet and setting up email and Facebook accounts. Recently, she also became a branch assistant, and has applied to join the new Teen Council at North Portland.
When Mekdes enrolled at Jefferson High School, as a freshman, she discovered the school’s relationship with Portland Community College allowing juniors and seniors, and even qualified sophomores, to take courses at PCC for dual high school/college credit. Despite being here only a year, Mekdes applied, was accepted, and began earning genuine college credit as a high school sophomore. She also participated in Jefferson’s Mock Trial team, which made it to the state competition last year. She has joined Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, where she helps plan events and raise funds to empower girls to be leaders. Her participation in college classes, and in such challenging extracurricular activities, only months after leaving Ethiopia underscores Mekdes’ courage and her nimble brain, as well as her strong facility with English.
Although she jokes that most of her days revolve within the triangle of the library, Jefferson, and PCC, she ventures out to volunteer as a guide at OHSU, helping patients and visitors find their destinations. She credits an interest in pursuing a medical career, perhaps in family medicine, as a reason for choosing OHSU. But it also fits with a clear pattern of helping others navigate strange situations, which is evident in Mekdes’ choices. Rather than being overwhelmed by the newness of everything here, she has jumped in, using her experience of dealing with unknown environments to help others in new situations.
A few facts about Mekdes
Home library: North Portland
Currently reading: Perfect Is Boring by Tyra and her Mama
Most influential book: The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Book that made you cry: Reading Paper Towns made me want to cry. The Diary of Anne Frank made me want to cry. I Am Malala made me cry.
Favorite section of the library: the window seat at the North Portland Library
E-reader or paper? paper books
Favorite place to read: in my room, on my bed
We knew it was important for the scope to be of local interest but wanted to broaden it beyond the Portland experience, so this collection includes authors and subjects throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and northern California. You’ll find works by the University of Washington’s emeritus Charles Johnson and works about the late Seattle-based playwright August Wilson. Check out this new collection by visiting the North Portland Library or by searching “Black Pacific Northwest Collection” from the home page.
Help grow the Black Pacific Northwest Collection
(Photos are by Cheyenne Thorpe.)
During the month of October, the following book groups are discussing books by Ursula K. Le Guin to celebrate what would have been her 89th birthday on October 21.
Read the book and join the discussion:
Thursday, October 4, 2-3 pm
St. Johns Library
Tuesday, October 9, 1-2:30 pm
Tuesday, October 16, 6:30-7:30 pm
Tuesday, October 16, 6:30-7:45 pm
Thursday, October 4, 2:30-4 pm
Tuesday, October 9, 6:30-7:30 pm
Gregory Heights Library
Monday, October 15, 6:30-7:30 pm
Friday, October 19, 10-11:30 am
Tuesday, October 23, 6:30-7:45 pm
Wednesday, October 17, 1-2:15 pm
Thursday, October 18, 6:30-7:45 pm
Saturday, October 20, 10:30 am-12 pm
Thursday, October 25, 6:30-7:30 pm
Check at your library to see whether a book group copy of the book is available during the month before each meeting.
Ursula K. Le Guin was a member of the Friends of the Library and Pageturners is supported by a generous grant from the Friends of the Library.