Belmont Library is a cornerstone of inner southeast Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood. The small building at the corner of SE César E. Chávez Blvd and SE Taylor St. opened in 1924 as the first neighborhood library to be built on its own by a community. 

With only 4,259 square feet of public space, Belmont Library is not much larger than a neighborhood convenience store. Despite its small footprint, it is a beloved and heavily used community space. Over the past year, Belmont Library had more than 230,000 visits, hosted 862 programs and filled more holds than any other library in the county!

Belmont Library is one of the busiest libraries in Multnomah County; however, the community is missing out on enjoying library activities and resources because it lacks adequate seating and has only one small meeting room. The free meeting room is in such high demand that library staff had to deny more than 70% of meeting room requests over a three-month period in 2018. In addition, popular children’s programs like storytime often fill to capacity. We’ve heard from you about Belmont’s lack of space: 

Belmont Library
“I loved to hang out before Belmont was stuffed to the gills with computers. I do feel offering computer access to people who don’t have it is a really important service. But there really is no room for much of anything else.” — community survey respondent

“We have tried to come to children’s storytime 3 times. Each time we arrive 10 minutes early and storytime is full and we have never been able to attend. . .” — Belmont patron

Multnomah County Library wants to fix this problem at Belmont and other undersized libraries so that all people have access to modern, relevant library spaces. Learn more at multcolib.org/planning/.

Library Clerk Sandi
When Bilingual Clerk Sandi Plesha first observed groups of Latina women coming to the library and quietly observing while their children read books in English, she thought of her own experience. 

“I know how isolating it can be when you’re in a new place and can’t speak the language,“ says Sandi. “I am an immigrant and have empathy for that experience. Like many of the patrons that I serve, I’ve had to jump many hurdles.”

A native Ecuadorian, Sandi worked as a teacher before moving to the United States after meeting her husband. 

“When I first moved here, I didn’t understand English. I was afraid to ask questions. When you feel like you can’t talk to others to get the information you need, it’s hard to connect. You become isolated.” 

Wanting to help the Latina women feel at home in the library, Sandi asked if they wanted to converse in Spanish; when they smiled, she began talking about what brought them to the library. Sandi asked if they wanted to come back to the library and meet as a group while their children read and play and was encouraged by their enthusiastic reaction. 

Sandi created a program at Gresham Library called La Placita (“the little plaza”). The group is held in Spanish and is aimed at helping Latina women come together, discuss their interests, learn new skills and build community. 

“Having the program in Spanish was critical not only to removing the feeling of isolation, but was also a way to help participants feel part of the community and welcome to use community resources,” she says.

Sandi, whose love of reading was cultivated by her father from an early age, creates lesson plans and selects books in Spanish to help spark discussion. She designed the program to accommodate multiple interests. 

“The women are really driving this program! When I meet with them, and we pick the books, we study. It’s not just a book club. The readings are a point to start a discussion, a window to connecting with each other.” 

The class is structured so participants can also bring their kids and a section of the room, along with another staff member, is focused on the children’s learning and play. 

“For some, La Placita is like dipping their toes into the ocean of the library and then once they get comfortable, they keep coming back, exploring and finding more,” says Sandi.

During one program, they used a Gabriel García Márquez book to discuss what it means to be a beautiful woman; during others, they’ve exchanged recipes and brought in guest teachers to learn about online privacy. After several classes, participants are feeling more at home at the library, and many are now checking out their own books.

After receiving participant requests, Gresham Library is updating the youth and adult Spanish collections, re-organizing materials and adding new signage to improve access.

“It’s the little things we do that can make a big difference. When you give to the community, the community gives back to you.”

In addition to running La Placita and helping library patrons with various information and account needs, Sandi enjoys improving the Spanish collection and utilizing her creativity to create engaging library displays. A lifelong learner, she is also teaching herself to speak Russian! 

La Placita is on a temporary break. To see other programming at Gresham Library, please visit multcolib.org/events.

Elleona Budd, Library Assistant
“The library is a place where anyone can foster creative ideas,” says Elleona Budd, a Black Cultural Library Advocate and Library Assistant at Central Library.

Elleona, who identifies as non-binary, has been learning various parts of library work — everything from helping regular patrons at the St. Johns Library find titles, to leading outreach work in the Black community — for the past three years.

Elleona joined the library as an access services assistant after graduating from Lincoln High School in downtown Portland. As a student, they gravitated toward history and language courses, including learning Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Arabic. Elleona’s rigorous academic curriculum continues, as they pursue a degree at Portland State University in International Relations and Conflict Resolution, with a minor in Chinese.

“When I first started my job at the library, I hadn’t been back in eight years! I had so many fines from my youth and had been worried I wouldn’t be able to use anything so I avoided it. I happily learned that the library had waived all youth fines and started a new policy so that no youth would accrue fines going forward.”

Today, Elleona, who says they originally loved the idea of working at a library because of a love for books and working with people, now appreciates it because they have an opportunity to help people feel welcome and to connect patrons with library services and resources

“One experience that was very meaningful for me was connecting with a patron who had recently been incarcerated,” said Elleona. “The library was one of her first stops. She wanted help finding career resources, and I was able to listen and talk with her, but also recommend materials in addition to other services the library offers. She told me the experience was so positive and had helped her feel welcome to come back.”

Now, as a Black Cultural Library Advocate, Elleona is joining other staff from around the library to identify ways to improve collections and services for the Black community. Sometimes, that means creating library displays featuring poetry by queer and trans people of color. Other times, it means organizing large-scale events to provide opportunities for discussion about topics such as the African diaspora.

“I want to help start conversations. I want everyone to walk into a library and think ‘this is a place for me.’” says Elleona.

Elleona’s recommended reading:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Clean Room by Gail Simone

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Rod Madison in a truck
With a few online clicks, a library patron can go from deciding what they want to read to placing that book on hold at their neighborhood library; thanks to a team of library staff led by Logistics Supervisor Rod Madison, that book, along with thousands of other books and other library materials, are moved around the county each day— taken off library shelves, sorted, routed to new locations, and put back on the shelves and ready for checkout.

Along with his team, Rod helps facilitate the movement of nearly 175,000 library materials around Multnomah County each week — more than the entire collection held at Midland Library!

"I always want to help our patrons get the materials they want, where they want them and in the fastest way possible," said Rod. 

Brought to the library by a love of books and a background in academics — he holds a Master’s Degree in History and taught classes at Oregon State University for more than a decade — Rod initially began working at the library’s “sort center,” the operation he now manages. This is where all materials moving from one library location get manually sorted for drivers to take to their destination. 

After transitioning into a position as a library assistant and spending time at two of the library’s largest locations — Central and Midland libraries — Rod pursued positions in library management, finding his experience in operations, public service, and as a library delivery driver, a perfect match for the logistics role. 

Outside of the library, Rod has a fascination with aviation history and enjoys striking up conversations about classic aircraft and visiting local aviation museums, interests that stem from his father who was a naval aviator during WWII.

"My deep interest in aviation is just part of a broader fascination with transportation in general. I guess it's only fitting that I'm working in a job that involves trucks!"

Denise Auld
For Denise Auld, pursuing a career as a librarian has always been about more than finding books and information, it’s about forging connections and being there for people in the community.

As a teen, Denise spent her days after school at the St. Johns Library. She would see other teens from around the neighborhood, and they all became library regulars— huddling over new laptops on "teen lounge" nights and sharing stories with Janie, the youth librarian.

"Often nobody was at home, and the library became a calm and safe place for me to just be a teenager," said Denise. Visiting the library as a teen was more than a second home, it reinforced her desire to make working in libraries a career.

Today, Denise is currently serving dual roles for the library. For the past six years, she’s been an access services assistant at Holgate Library, assisting patrons with their accounts, helping coordinate the vast amount of library materials that are checked in and out each day, and training new library staff. The position also provided an opportunity for her to work with teens at the library, managing teen programming, running an active Teen Council group of 20 members, and mentoring more than 50 teen volunteers during the library’s annual Summer Reading program.

"I want to be the person that Janie was for me when I was a teen," she says.

Possessing both the experience of helping patrons in the library and a desire to help others, Denise was selected to help create a comprehensive training program for more than 400 staff and 200 volunteers on a new library software system that staff will begin using in May.

"I enjoy teaching and finding different ways to help people learn. Whether it’s working with the teen council or organizing classroom training for library staff, I want people to feel confident in what they do."

Currently in college working toward her Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Denise plans to pursue a master’s program so she can become a teen librarian.

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