Portland Public Library is the library serving the city of Portland, Maine. The library system serving the city on the West Coast—Portland, Oregon—is called Multnomah County Library. Yet a quick Internet search for “Portland Library” positions our library in Maine at the top of the search results —so naturally, each and every month, we get some calls or texts that baffle staff and patrons alike until geographical distinctions are sorted out. But the puzzlement usually brings a smile. Our library colleagues love swapping stories about all the confusion between PWM (Maine) and PDX (Oregon).
Here’s a collection of our favorite tales of two cities.
A message arrived recently in our Ask-A-Librarian chat box: “What are the retirement communities in Portland like? Can you send me some information about retiring in Portland?” We sent back a variety of information, including links to retirement homes and a Wall Street Journal article about the benefits of fresh sea air. The patron wrote back that they had been looking for information about Oregon, but were now considering retirement in Maine!
The Public Computing area at PPL includes 3D printing services. Patrons email us their files and we correspond with a few questions and notify them when their 3D printed item is ready to be picked up. A patron called, excitedly asking for directions to the Main Branch so he could pick up his 3D print job. The staff person on the phone gave instructions for Congress Street and Elm Street, and the patron kept asking where these streets were in relation to 10th Avenue. There is no 10th Avenue in Portland, Maine, and he sheepishly admitted he was from Oregon. The patron offered to pay shipping for his 3D print job, or asked if we could donate it to someone locally—which we did, when someone serendipitously emailed the same file to be printed later that week!
Administration gets calls so frequently for Oregon-centric directions and parking that they’re able to give directions to the Multnomah County Central Library.
A Reference Librarian was similarly fielding a directions call. The patron on the line asked where the library was in relation to Boise, Idaho, where he was driving to the library from. The librarian earnestly answered: “East!” This earned a chuckle from both ends of the call.
Both Portland Public Library and the Multnomah County Library offer hoopla (a streaming video and music service à la Netflix), but selecting “Portland Public Library” and trying to log in with your Oregon library card is liable to frustrate. One of our staff fielded a call recently from someone struggling to get their library card to work with hoopla. Asking for a library card number clears up many mysteries for us, and it was soon clear the caller was not in Maine. But after learning he’d reached the wrong library in the wrong state, the caller was completely unfazed and asked for help with downloading his title anyway. Our staff member walked him through finding and selecting “Multnomah County Library” on the menu for hoopla access. We love our Oregon patrons, too!
A Reference Librarian spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with a person looking for a title that was available at PPL’s Burbank branch. Since the patron didn’t know where Burbank was, he asked if the book could be sent to Hillsdale instead. “Where are you calling from, sir?” concluded that call.
PPL receives advance copies of books from publishers that they think we might be interested in purchasing eventually. Our selector shelves frequently contain beautiful books about the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver travel, and Oregon history. The ME in PPL’s address must not have been a tip-off when these gracious publishers addressed their packages. We’ve been wondering if Multnomah County Librarians get advance copies of books on lighthouses in New England.
The Chat with a Librarian service at PPL gets so many questions asking for the city on the West Coast, we have a saved response:
While it is clear to us here in Maine that our Portland should be the first one that comes to mind—Portland, ME was founded in 1786 after all, more than fifty years before Portland, OR—Portland East Coast is still more than eight times smaller than Portland West Coast. That’s a population of 66,194 versus a population of…583,776. (Thus: so many more people with questions needing answers!) Why aren’t callers tipped off by the 207 area code when they’re dialing the number for the “Portland library”? Maine only has one area code, so all calls are local calls in Maine. Oregon, though, has four area codes, so 207 might just get lost in the shuffle.
We love to think that the work we do in Maine affects people all the way across the country. Since we’re three hours ahead, it’s nice to imagine that while our West Coast colleagues are busy waking up and getting their library open, we’re picking up some of their urgent calls—and likewise, maybe after PPL closes for the evening, the other Portland is helping keep our night owls stocked with eBooks.
Over the past several months, PPL has held a range of discussion groups on the best-selling and oft-borrowed Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande. Made possible by a generous grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation, our program engaged nearly 500 individuals – from independent seniors and family members, to assisted living residents and staff, to medical professionals
Our goals for the program were to help participants have wider understanding of the end-of-life experience for most Americans in this era, to have a way to develop and articulate their own perspective on the question of quality of life vs. quantity of time remaining, and to feel empowered to have thoughtful, necessary discussions on end-of-life issues with their families and caregivers.
We have received tremendous feedback from host facilities and from participants alike. PPL takes very seriously our vision of helping citizens be more literate, informed, and engaged, and we are gratified by participants’ appreciation for the our help in framing these critical conversations.
Maggie Richards Editor at Henry Holt, has provided us with the outline and discussion guide that Dr. Gawande uses himself when he speaks with groups about the book. This guide will be included in the upcoming October release of the paperback but is not in any of the current editions; we are delighted that Dr. Gawande’s publisher has entrusted it to us. You can download the guide here.
Additional discussion group guidelines – developed by our facilitators and with various audiences in mind – will be made available on our website shortly. We hope other libraries, individual book groups, and organizations that wish to initiate these critical conversations will find them useful.
If your book group would like to explore this topic, please be in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 207-871-1700 ext. 717 for details on how to borrow multiple copies of Being Mortal and use our supplied discussion guides to begin conversations.
Welcome back to Capes Optional, dear eyeballers of the blogosphere, where we, for one library, welcome our new robotic overlords. It’s Maker Fair time again at PPL, and tomorrow our halls and meeting rooms will be filled with exhibits and demonstrations of all genres and interests: book coloring, lock picking, coffee brewing, duct tape crafting, candle making, and absolutely everything in between. It’s a perfect day to spelunk into the bottomless depths of creativity or to discover a new hobby.
In keeping with the Maker spirit, I have found an arms-full of books that you can find on our shelves based around robotics and the sciences, and I think you’ll find something of interest no matter who you might be. Allons-y!
Chobits can be found in our Teen section, and is a popular manga and anime from Japan of the “ecchi” style, meaning playfully sexual without being explicit or adult-only. In Chobits, there exist what are called “persocoms,” computers that can do everything your smartphone can except look like people and walk around with you while they do it. The story is about Hideki, a young man who can’t hold a job, can’t get into school, and certainly can’t afford a persocom, who stumbles upon one of the robots in a trash heap. The beautiful persocom is named Chi, and as Hideki finds out, is more than just a regular computer-girl.
Rust: Visitor in the Field, as well as other books in the Rust series, is set on a small farm that could fit onto any Central- to Northern-Maine hillside…until Jet Jones flies through the barn, a jetpack on his back and being chased by a 30-foot-tall robot killing-machine that the country had used to fight a war with decades earlier. From there, the action and intrigue never stop. Lepp’s illustrations are, aptly, all the color of rust, but are wide and expressive, telling the story of a farmer, his family, and the robotic war that won’t ease its grip on humanity, with marvelous success. Rust can be found in the children’s section at PPL.
Are you as much a fan of alternate histories as I am? Then The Manhattan Projects will be right up your alley. Set in an alternate World War II, the graphic novel series follows Joseph Oppenheimer, evil twin of real-life American scientist Robert Oppenheimer, conducting secret military science experiments under the titular “Manhattan Projects.” Any follower of history will recognize the project as that which developed the atomic bomb, but would probably not be familiar with FDR being artificial intelligence, Japan having teleporting robot soldiers, Doctor Einstein being an alcoholic sadist, and aliens being eaten by the Army to gain knowledge of space travel. Sound interesting? Pick up The Manhattan Projects.
Jeff Lemire, writer of DC Comics’ critically acclaimed Animal Man and Marvel’s Old Man Logan, brings us Descender, a creator-owned comic about a young android trying to find where he fits in a big universe. TIM-21, or TIM for short, is a robot created to “entertain, protect, and assist in the education” of his human friend Andy. But TIM wakes up after ten years to find Andy missing and robots outlawed throughout the solar system; robotic, planet-sized monstrosities called Harvesters attacked the galaxy and destroyed entire civilizations, and a fearful population banned any mechanical intelligence as a result. But TIM isn’t a monster…is he? Descenders was just picked up by Sony Pictures to become a blockbuster movie, and you can read all about TIM and his robot dog Bandit right at the library before anyone else.
It’s difficult for me to tell you the plot of World War Robot…because that plot is entirely up to you. World War Robot is a series of journal entries, letters, transcripts, and diaries of a fictional Great War that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, accompanied by beautifully rendered paintings by Ashley Wood. In the timeline of WWR, a group of fanatically-religious humans took over Earth, and those seeking refuge from the violent cult fled the planet to colonize Mars. Earth retaliated, and the Terrans and Martians, as they are called, go to war with robots at their sides. The story is beautifully left with gaps in the narration and told only through “primary documents” of the time, and the paintings are breathtaking. A look back at a tragic time in one version of our past, and one not impossible to see in our future.
These are just the beginning! For superheroes that tie-in to our Maker theme, be sure to go look up DC’s Cyborg and Firestorm, and, of course, Marvel’s Iron Man.
Science and robotics are all the rage in 2016, with new advancements in artificial intelligence and the newest iGadget always front-page news, and what better way to immerse yourself in the spirit of creation than to go to the Maker Fair on April 23rd? I’ll be there, and I hope that you will too. Until next month, chums, may your screens of death never be blue and may your Roomba not try to take over the world.