Librarian Matt Stefanik

Some people say librarians are the smartest people in the world because even if they don’t know the answer to a question, they can find it. So we thought we’d sit down with one smart cookie, librarian Matt Stefanik. When he’s not busy sorting through the stacks or helping library patrons with research projects at Multnomah County Library, Matt can be found zipping all over town on his bike or working on collage projects. He’s also the co-leader of the annual Bike Scout Scavenger Hunt.

He says his knowledge as a librarian definitely enhances his bike life.

So is it true? Are librarians the smartest people in the world?

Smartest, maybe not, but librarians are great at getting to the heart of a question without letting any judgement get in the way. There’s a certain mindset that’s required to be good at the job. For me it comes down to the approach to a question: Where else would the answer be? Who cares enough to collect this kind of information? It’s a job where you learn something new everyday.

How do your research skills come into play when planning a bike adventure?

Researching bike adventures comes back to the basic idea of finding a an appropriate source. The internet is great, but a fast answer is not always reliable. For instance, there’s a few go to books and organizations I like to use in planning. The same goes for people. You can ask multiple folks for a route and get three different answers, so before you take the advice think about where and who it’s coming from. Also, don’t forget paper maps (you can check them out at the library!).

What are some of the features of library that we may not know?

There’s so much the library has beyond books! Digital content is a huge segment of the library and is constantly growing. You can get magazines, ebooks, digital audiobooks, music and movies with a library card, a device and wifi. Some systems are lending cake pans, tools, even people you can talk with to learn about different cultures!

I think the most important feature of the library is that people can ask librarians anything. We don’t care why, we don’t judge, our job is simply to get you information.

What are some new trends in libraries?

Libraries are trying all sorts of new things to reinvent themselves. Some systems have vending machines ala Redbox, others are installing maker spaces, many libraries are hiring crisis/social workers for on site triage and referrals. There’s a growing trend of looking outside the traditional model of libraries and finding out what patrons want, instead of assuming the old order is working.

What has your life in Portland on a bike been like?

When I moved to Portland nine years ago, someone asked me if I was going to get a bike. Unsure, I shrugged. Now I can’t imagine my life without it (or the other four I own).

Matt says so far life has offered up interesting opportunities, some taken, others not, but he’s looking forward to what’s ahead.  You can check out some of Matt’s cool collage work at PDX Collage.

ASK THE EXPERT: We’re asking Oregon area experts who love bikes to tell us a thing or two about what they know best. Do you have someone in mind we should interview? Should we interview you? Get in touch! You can read the entire series HERE.

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