Library Stories: Earl’s

I was going through some old posts and ran across a few that chronicled how much Multnomah County Library has helped shape my life.

I had this crazy idea that it might be cool to leave Las Vegas and everything else behind and go off to somewhere new and record my experiences in a journal. I wanted an adventure. I was drawn to Portland for reasons unknown to me. I had never been here before but the more I read about the city, the more it seemed like it was where I should be.

When I got here, it was cold and raining. That was no surprise. In fact, I welcomed the predictability of it all. Didn’t everyone tell me about the weather?

As adventurous as I thought I wanted to be, homelessness was always going to be the last resort. But as I wandered lost and wet in a new city, I was worried I might actually end up having to live in the streets.

I did not lose faith though. I knew there was a place I could go- where lost souls could find temporary refuge and regroup. Sacred buildings where people talked in whispers and everyone was welcome. I went to a library. And, unlike churches, they had computers I can use.

Central Library is a beautiful building. In fact, if I weren’t so soaked and hell-bent on finding a place to stay, I would have taken the time to look around and admire the architecture. But once I had a list of potential temporary lodging, I dashed off to check them out. (March 2008)

Anywhere there’s a library, I feel like I’m home. But I still had other things to worry about…

I figured that while I was still terminally unemployed, it would be a good time to check out what volunteering opportunities there were out in the world. Or, at least, in my immediate vicinity. I was hoping there’d be some at Central Library since it was close by and I was familiar with that environment. I was thinking I could check in and shelve items. I attended a meeting there last week to see what was available. I felt so old that day. I was surrounded by mostly teenagers and some were so young they had a parent with them for supervision. It lasted about an hour- going over some background information on the library district and the different areas in which to volunteer in. Unfortunately, there were no spots at that location but finding out about my work history, one of the coordinators suggested I check out the Friends’ Library Store. So I did.

Friends of the Multnomah County Library is a non-profit organization run by volunteers that helps support the library system with its sales of not only donated materials like books, CD’s and DVD’s but also of greeting card, postcards, bookmarks, book ends, literary gifts, shirts, hats, posters, drinks and snacks. For such a small space, I was surprised they could fit all that in.

I just finished my first day there even though I was practically doing everything I would have done working in a bookstore- but without getting paid. The highlight was definitely interacting with the customers. There was a nice lady, who was not only a reader but a booklover as well, and we talked about some good books we’ve read and even recommended some titles to each other. I missed those connections.

I enjoyed myself and am glad I’ve rejoined the ranks of the contributing members of society. I look forward to volunteering some more with Friends. (June 2008)

Since then, I have helped out during the Friends of the Library’s Spring and Fall Used Book Sales and special events and become a Board Member.

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to be a US citizen in order to have more of a voice/impact on issues that mattered to me.

And, as luck would have it, Multnomah County Library was holding one of their free citizenship classes (as part of their Outreach Services to adults) so I signed up.

I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit nervous but I had no need to be. After introductions were made, the volunteer instructor gave a brief overview of the six-week course. We were given a packet containing the necessary forms and flash cards and other study materials.

While I decided to just attend one class since it seemed self-explanatory to me and to give the other students more time if they needed additional assistance, I was so grateful that the library offered his kind of service! It was just what I needed to get the process started.

I decided to share my story now because I recently took my Oath Ceremony. I am now a US Citizen! Thanks to Multnomah County Library for helping me achieve this goal! (August 2012)

If you’re reading this, you probably love libraries as much as I do. You probably squeed the first time you visited one. You probably took extra care writing your name on the back of your first library card. You probably lost track of time more often than you’d like to admit, needing to be reminded by the staff that they really do have to close for the day. Where else do your parents know where to look for you when you’ve forgotten to come home after school?

Libraries play important roles in our lives and we invite you to share your experiences. What’s your library story?

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