February 17, 2018

Kate Houston Mitchoff | Movers & Shakers 2002

Not Just Informing Kids but Exciting Them

Extending public library services to 200 schools

Kate Houston Mitchoff likes kids, even the challenging youngest teenagers. A camp counselor and mentor to middle school students in her high school years, she had intended to be a teacher, but when Oregon’s state government cut education funding, she rethought her career plans. A cousin who worked at Multnomah County Library (MCL) convinced her to try librarianship. When Mitchoff became a librarian, also at MCL, she discovered she was a teacher after all.

Mitchoff worked with three other librarians to create the School Corps, an outreach service designed to extend public library services to some 200 schools in the county. The School Corps makes regular school visits, teaching students to use the library’s databases and web site, which includes the well-known Homework Center Mitchoff created. They also work directly with teachers to create bibliographies and webliographies for curriculum projects.


Current position: School Corps Librarian, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Degree: MLIS, University of British Columbia, 1996

Writings: Web site reviews, School Library Journal, Pathfinders for Library Journal/SLJ‘s netConnect

Awards: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers Award, 2001; MCI Oregon Cybrarian of the Year, 1998

Web site: Homework Center www.multnomah.lib.or.us/

In her pages Mitchoff doesn’t simply list sites but shows students ways of thinking about the topic. She engages kids by providing links that will be inherently interesting to them–the “mysterious and unexplained,” for instance, and those hot social issues they often choose as paper topics.

Mitchoff also goes beyond the standard and boring choices; for her pathfinder in LJ/SLJ‘s netConnect on explorers she deliberately sought links for modern-day adventurers as well, like Amelia Earhart, Jacques Cousteau, and NASA astronauts, to remind kids that exploration isn’t over and done with, that they, too, can become explorers.

Mitchoff has as much fun with kids as they do with her. When she ran the library’s Webcamp for kids, which taught basic searching and page construction, a girl who’d been there the previous year asked Mitchoff what she’d been doing since; when Mitchoff told her, “I got married,” the girl said, “You can’t do that. You’re too silly to get married.” Not too silly, though, to understand that a satisfying career is comprised of meeting new challenges and making a difference.