Portland, Oregon has too many curl-up-with-a-good-book rainy days and it is home to a deep pool of oddballs. Accordingly, the city has a unique bibliophilistic awesomeness. Here are some of its best attributes:
Multnomah County Library
Roughly 35,000 patrons utilize the Multnomah County Library each day. It is one of the busiest library systems in the nation. It ranks second in terms of circulation — only the New York Public Library circulates more items!
Portlanders value their libraries. This is further evidenced by the whopping 82 percent of voters who upheld the Multnomah County Library levy last May; their votes afford ongoing funding in these times of economic struggle and public library endangerment.
Washington County Cooperative Library Services
Washington County encompasses the West side of Portland and has an amazing library system of its own vein. Its library branches serve several outlying neighborhoods and towns, like Bethany and North Plains.
The North Plains Public Library, where I volunteer each week, outgrew a gym closet eight years ago and has become the hub of its tiny farm community. Here, your library card is rarely scanned because everyone knows your name; the town sheriff leads storytime; and bake sale profits and donations from little old Library Craft Club ladies provide the lion’s share of funding.
Independent Book Stores
Portland boasts over 140 independent and one-of-a-kind book stores. Powell’s is the most famous of these. It is larger, both in breadth and scope, than any other independent book store in the world.
Conversely, the feminist book store, In Other Words, is rather infamous for its role as Women & Women First on the indie show Portlandia.
Original Literary Happenings
The metropolitan area is loaded with book events, book groups, and a Wordstock Festival. Portlanders have a particularly strong appreciation for readings by local authors*.
*Shameless plug: check out this upcoming Preschool Gems Reading by my former high school classmate, Leslie McCollom.
Even Portland’s most upscale downtown hotel is in the spirit of liteRACY! As a setting for some X-rated passages in E.L. James’ book, Fifty Shades of Grey, the Heathman Hotel now profits from guests who reserve book-themed room packages. Fox 12 News reports these juicy details.
So, do you want to hear Leslie poke fun at preschoolers? Would you like to experience the lavish Fifty Shades lifestyle? Are you looking for a store that sells new age spirituality books, political zines, or alternative comics? Perhaps you prefer to browse the collection at your quaint neighborhood library… Whatever your quirks and desires, you will find your literary niche in Portland.