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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.”

 

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

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@multco.us, 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)

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.

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