25 September 2016

[Out122ndWay] The Midland Library: It Was 20 Years Ago Today …

This is yet another series of love letters to a place. And it's also an anniversary card. Because it was 20 years ago, 1996 (was it REALLY that long?!?!), that the center of a neighborhood and a landmark of the heart went up on SE 122nd Avenue at the corner of Morrison Street.

Midland Library, then.
The history of the branch suggests that there's been a library branch on this corner for the better part of the last 60 years. Midland branch is the second largest branch in the mighty MultCoLib system and is second only to Central in the number of patrons it service. And, in 1993, amid increasing pressure and demand from heavy Eastsiders thronging the location, plans were set, and in 1996, in September, construction was completed on the current building.

The new building was, at 25,000 square feet, three times the size of the old one, and graced with a modern-design clock tower with a very witty 'OPEN' neon sign in the side, was a true landmark for the neighborhood.

When the new Midland was being built, The Wife™ and I were actually residents of Brentwood-Darlington, what was once called Errol Heights, and we called Woodstock our home branch. Even then we were well on the way to having a tradition of weekly Library Days which were to become the pole star of our week; we even endured through the rebuilding of the Woodstock branch into a much more modern one. By the time we found our home the Mill Park area, the library had been in place for a handful of years. Just getting broken in, you might say. It wasn't too long after we'd become heavy Eastsiders, Bedrock residents, that we'd tried out the new branch.

I can't remember what it was like, the first time we'd walked in, but I'm sure it was love at first sight. When it comes to libraries, we're easy that way. I mean, this is truly a large branch; smaller towns would call it their main library, and this is is the city that's home to the Multnomah County Library system. A branch here is a universe in other towns. And a signature clock tower, the kind you can meet, Meier and Frank-style, under. Just seeing it when we pull in releases the kind of endorphine rush that requires pharmaceuticals in any other happenstance.

Moreover, Midland's a regional branch. There is a library hierarchy, and it goes three deep; Central, regional, and local branches. In the ranking order, branches like Capitol Hill, Holgate, and Rockwood are local branches. Midland's a regional, and you know it the moment you step in. The energy and life in the building is palpable. It's nearly always busy, and it's a good busy. although the slight overwhelm when things like Dia de los Ninos happen is also a good kind of overwhelmed.

Also, there's great mariachi music when that happens. Never ceases to delight me how that comes off.

There was music there this day, but I'll get on to that presently. The real keynote for today was a festive atmosphere and just that ever-present energy, restorative, healing, that Midland always has. We go there to recharge, and there's a reason, and that's it; for me, there's The New Yorker and looking for whatever art books they have for inspiration and motivation in my new drive to draw and cartoon; for The Wife™, catching up on The Oregonian; for me, investigating new-to-me fiction and literature and periodicals; for her, obsessive drilling-down on whatever the current interest is (and food, always food!).

Very restorative.

At the entry there were happy friendly neighbors and delicious cupcakes (with superb frosting, I'd eat a cupcake made out of that frosting, honestly) and a little spin-wheel to take home a little memento from the event. I lucked, and got a legacy pin; it was apparently supposed to be an early logo for the branch incorporating the talking-leaf motif I've commented on in an earlier missive and including the clock tower from the architecture. This'll be a keepsake.

The staff was out in force, doing the all the library things. We've known them all for so long, they're friends to us; we've seen staff members come, go on to greater responsibility, the friends we fondly remember; the staff that's still there now, just getting better as the years go by; the Sheriff's deputy that patrols the place has always become a good pal, and there are some that have gone on to promotions or other assignments that we also miss greatly.

On the right as we go back there was the children's section, doing what it does so well. If smart kids come out of this place, I can show you were some of them got their start.

The theme of the building, as I may have pointed out before, is talking leaves; that's what the Cherokee intellectual, linguist and philosopher Sequoyah called books. The theme is keynoted by the great, large, wonderful acrylic work in the foyer area at the east end of the building, Lucinda Parker's Talking Leaves, complete with a sketchbook-style explanation of what's going on at the bottom of the painting. That's an especially fun thing to look at; I must have looked at it a hundred times, but the vibrancy of the handwriting and the confidence of the sketching never get old for me. Even the outside of the building functions as a sort of book; quotations from literati such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Oregon's own William Stafford form a meta-connection between the contents of the building, the function it serves, and the link between it and its environment. All of that can be viewed at the Midland Library history page. It's a very thoughtful and apt selection.

We love our Midland Library. At age 20, it's coming into a maturity both rooted and vital, still the beloved heart of a community that it loves right back.

On the way from there to here and perhaps back again.

It's busy, but it's the good kind of busy. There's electronic
and paper media. You're very well-rounded here.

The weekly The New Yorker and Dutch Bros.
It's and excellent job, but someone has to do it.

If you see Gordon at the desk, tell him we sent you.

Juan and Yuriy are just two more of the Midlanders we've grown
fond of over the years. All the the Midland staff are just about the
best friends a reader can have.

Doing what it should be doing, this is the way you library in Portland, Oregon, 2016.

The mighty MultCoLib is at http://www.multcolib.org. May we remind you that ours is the original and genuine? Accept no substitutes!

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