Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Haunted Library Right Here in Oregon!

The spookiest time of year is upon us, and what could be spookier than a big, old building full of books? All those people long gone, whispering to us from the afterlife through the books they've written... no wonder that some libraries have stories of spirits wandering through the stacks. In fact, some of them are located right here in Oregon!

In my informal poking around on this subject, I started noticing that Multnomah County Library's North Portland branch was popping up over and over as a spot to possibly encounter one of these patrons-from-beyond-the-veil. So we reached out to see if anyone had heard any of these tales for themselves, and Patrick Provant had something strange happen to him there once...
The North Portland Library

Patrick Provant is now the supervisor at Midland Library in the Multnomah County Library system, but he used to work at North Portland back in the early 2000's. He had this to say:
"People said that things moved around now and then, and were sometimes found where they shouldn't be. I attributed that to humans. Another story alleged that the security cameras had captured an image when no one was in the building. Whatever. I scoff at ghost stories that never quite have actual proof. One thing I could not explain was the hand-dryer in the upstairs rest room.

What it did: randomly came on.
When it did it: Like, whenever. Sometimes when you were in there using the facilities. A bit disconcerting, to be sure.

We duly reported this malfunction. Although memory is inexact, I think I recall at least two different wiring experts 'fixing' it and the whole hand dryer unit being replaced at one point. Didn't matter.

I started playing games with 'the ghost'. When I was using the rest room, I'd say things like, 'Don't look, please,' mainly to amuse myself. Or, 'if you're here, could you turn the dryer on now?' Once in a while, the timing was interesting, and it actually would be convenient. I got into the habit of saying 'thank you', just in case.

On one particular day, I was encouraging the 'ghost' with no success. I was in the middle of my lunch hour (the staff break room is next door to the rest room in question) and had gone in to use the rest room, and had hoped for a fun coincidental moment. 'Aw, come on, turn it on!' Pause. 'Fine, I bet you a nickel you won't turn it on.' Pause. I sighed and dried my hands by myself. I went back to my lunch in the break room and found (I kid you not) a nickel sitting by my half-eaten lunch.

(Of course I took it! It was a fair bet.)"
A ghost with a sense of humor! I suppose libraries attract all kinds. And this isn't the only report he brought to us from North Portland.
"Some students from the Jefferson High School newspaper had heard tell of an NPO ghost. Somehow they got routed to me, so I escorted them upstairs, telling them about the hand dryer. One student was taking notes, the other had a videocamera and was filming. We got just outside the rest room and the camera person zoomed in as I opened the door. The one with the notepad stepped in with me as I said: 'And here is the hand dryer, the one that sometimes just goes on by itself.'

Whooooooo! The hand dryer, unassisted by a human and on camera, went off as if on cue. The young reporter with me hurtled back out of the room. They were pretty excited and took a moment or two to calm down, but decided that they had in fact got what they needed."
Clearly, someone likes to fool around with anyone curious enough to wonder about this haunting.

Have you ever experienced something ghostly in your library? Feel free to share your story in the comments!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

To the Friends of the Library

Libraries receive money from a variety of sources. Our taxes, special levies, grants, tuition dollars, private donations, and more all contribute to our thriving culture of libraries. But one source has a special place in my heart: Friends of the Library. Since next week is officially Friends of the Library week, I thought I'd tell my own story about my local Friends.

I've been a member of my local Friends for several years now, so I've seen first hand how much value they bring to our community. The way mine (Friends of Salem Public Library, by the way) is structured, they receive withdrawn books from the SPL collection as well as donations from the community, then sell them at a huge discount from their own little store inside the library. Every dollar they make goes to helping the library: for collection development, capital projects, and more.

But it's not just the money they raise. At their big semi-annual sales, I see people who can't afford to own books any other way going home with bags of them. I see kids balancing tall stacks of books with big smiles on their faces, knowing that those are their books and they don't have to share. I see collectors find just the right book, ecstatic to finally fill that empty spot on their shelf. The Friends help them all, all while bringing money back to the public library that offers so many services to these same people. Then they can offer more/better services, collect in more areas, on and on... It's a snowball of benefits and I love to watch it work.

As a full time support staffer, I've spent a lot of time in libraries and I've met a variety of people who are passionate about what libraries do. We support staffers do our essential part to ensure that libraries across the state function well. Friends groups are a great example of the power that regular people, whether they be library employees or not, have to improve their community. So this post serves as my little shout out to the folks who volunteer their time, energy, and expertise to make these organizations possible. Thank you!