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Schell helps keep Midland Library relevant, real


Carolyn Schell, manager of the Midland Library, a branch of the Multnomah County Library system, poses for the Memo during last month’s 10-year anniversary celebration of the opening of the new library.
With the Midland Library, a branch of the Multnomah County Library system, celebrating its building’s 10-year anniversary this year, the Memo thought it appropriate to provide a feature article on its manager, Carolyn Schell.
The library is located at 805 S.E. 122nd Ave., just south of Stark Street on the west side of 122nd Avenue. It’s hard to miss the “new” library, what with its landmark clock tower.

The new library opened in 1996, replacing the Midland Branch Library building, in operation since 1958. At 24,000 square feet, the Midland Library is the largest branch of the Multnomah County Library system.

The Memo has always been a fan of libraries, but this one is special. The interior is spacious, modern and attractive, and features what can only be called “window walls” with a grand view of Midland Park to the west.

The Memo sat down with Schell in her office at the library and asked her to outline her own personal history, along with an inside look at the Midland Library.

Schell told the Memo that the Midland Library is one of 17 branches of the Multnomah County Library system. She said approximately 1,500 people each day come to use the Midland Library.

“It’s very, very busy,” Schell told the Memo.

The Midland Library is open seven days a week: Sunday from noon until 5 p.m., Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Solid background
Schell was born in California and raised in Portland, attending Beaverton High School. She attended Portland State University, then the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English education and a master’s degree in library science.

She’s been with the Multnomah County Library system since 1968; in her first capacity she worked part time as a children’s librarian. Schell was raising children, so at first she also worked on call for the library system.

“In 1978,” she said, “when I felt the children were big enough, I began to work full time for the library.” Her first full-time position was as a children’s librarian at the North Portland branch.

She then became a library manager, working at several different branches, including St. Johns, Belmont and Capitol Hill; she also worked as a regional manager for Capitol Hill, Hillsdale, Sellwood, Woodstock and Holgate.

She came to the Midland Library in 1990 as branch manager.

“I watched the old branch being torn down,” the 61-year-old Schell recalled, “and I was involved in the process of designing the new library.” She was at the grand opening of the new building in 1996.

“It’s a beautiful building,” she commented, “and I just love working here.”

Library bustles
Schell said that from July 2005 to June 2006 the Midland Library circulated 1,529,332 items, including books, CDs, videos, DVDs and books on tape.

She explained what the Midland Library has to offer the local community.

First, she said, the library is a community center.

“It’s a place were people come to meet their neighbors and enjoy community events,” Schell said. “We have tried to put resources into this library in response to community needs.

“One of the things we did when we built this library is to put in three meeting rooms,” Schell explained. “Those meeting rooms are full most of the time. They are available to nonprofit groups free of charge. We also have library programs in the meeting rooms, including computer classes. We host community groups, like neighborhood associations. This has been a well-used resource at our library,” said Schell, “because there are not a lot of meeting spaces in this neighborhood.”

Virtual 24/7 library
“The other thing that I think we can be really proud of here,” the library manager extolled, “is the fact that we have so many computers for the people of this community.”

Internet access is available to children and adults; according to Schell, they all get an hour per day with free Internet access.

“That means they can look at their e-mail,” she said, “they can work on their homework, and they can actually access (Microsoft) Word software.” Schell said there are many people who can’t afford their own computers, so the library is the place that’s “a leveling influence, a place where everybody has an opportunity to participate.

“We offer many computer classes,” Schell said, “and these are free of charge.” The classes are about an hour to an hour and a half in length.

“They are pretty basic,” she continued, “with many of them for people who are either new to computers or who know a little bit but would like to learn more.”

Schell also spoke of the library’s Web site.

“That’s really an important Web site,” Schell said, “because that’s where you can find library books. It’s also the way you find your magazine articles now. Magazines are not on the shelves like they used to be.” She said the library now uses a computerized database, where over 12,000 magazines are available both currently and in back issues, with full texts available.

The Web site for the Midland Library is

Schell explained that anyone can access the database from the library or from home. And many of the library’s databases are available to the public from home.

“So what we have is a virtual library that is available 24/7,” Schell said. “It’s not just the hours the library is open.

“We’re always trying to figure out ways we can serve more people,” she said, “and let people know the library is here. It’s one of the greatest things our community offers. The libraries give all points of view. And they’re open to everybody. Our society depends on libraries for open information and access.”

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