Midland Library celebrates 20 years

Click on in, and read how the Multnomah County Midland Regional Library came to be, and how their services have expanded over the years …

Located in the Mill Park Neighborhood of outer East Portland, this public building, over the past two decades, has become far more than a repository of dusty tomes.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Even before the area was annexed into the City of Portland, the Multnomah County Library System put together a plan to build a mid-County library to serve people living in the area.

Library clients, neighbors, and officials were invited back to what has become the Midland Regional Library on September 24, to celebrate its 20th year of operation.

Midland Library Manager Carol Parten spends a moment with Cathy Wright, a co-worker in the building for 19 years.

“I’m one of the people [then Branch Manager Carolyn Schell] hired in 1997 when we opened the doors,” smiled Manager Carol Parten.

“My name is actually Carolanne, but we decided it was confusingly similar to Carolyn, so I became known as ‘Carol’,” Parten told East Portland News.

“This library was built in response to the community’s desire to have a large regional library here,” Parten explained. “The idea was to build a regional library in a centralized location. We have a ‘Central Library’ downtown, and wanted have a larger centralized location for the East Multnomah County area.”

Welcoming guests to a celebratory program in their “large function” room is Spanish Library Program clerk Juan Martinez.

Midland Library has always reached out to serve its community, but the demographics have changed over the years, she reflected. “In addition to English-speaking visitors, we also serve four different languages now in our community – Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Chinese – with staff to support each of those four programs.”

A couple decades ago, a library’s effectiveness was measured in terms of the “circulation” of books and periodicals.

“In terms of ‘circulation’, Midland Library is still a very busy branch,” Parten said, “but there has been a slight decrease, for our location, in the checking out of print materials, because of the increase in use of the digital collections.

Library users can still get a person to help them, usually at the “Reference Desk”.

“This is one of the major changes that’s occurred over the last two decades,” Parten acknowledged. “We now offer e-books, streaming videos, streaming music, Zineo for magazines, and access to indie flicks. These have really expanded what we can offer to the community, as technology changes.”

Midland Library was modern, compared to others in the County’s system, back when it opened – offering public Internet stations. “Then we began offering faxing, scanning, and Wi-Fi, in response to demand by the public,” Parten said.

They’ve added an online portal called My Librarian that offers a more-personalized approach to finding books or digital media. “This way, people can develop an interactive connection with their ‘own brand’ of interests, through the reader advisory,” continued Parten.

The library now provides a vast catalog of online services, for use both at home and in the library.

For clients who want one-on-one assistance, the library now also offers a service called Book A Librarian to get individual attention. Another digital resource is Mango Connect, through which people can learn one of 40 new languages online, including English for non-English speakers; and, the online LearningExpress Library offers help with test preparation and vocational training, along with GED “practice tests”.

“We’ve come a long way in the past twenty years,” Parten enthused.

Asked if someday Midland Library will now feature a “Maker-Space”, similar to what is being installed in other institutions around the country, Parten confirmed, “We are looking at having a mobile Maker-Space at this location.”

Midland Library is open seven days a week, but hours vary; call (503) 988-5392 for more information. It’s located at 805 SE 122nd Avenue, 97233.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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