Books, Books, Books

Portland's Flagship Downtown Library Is Getting a Face-Lift—And Closing for 3 Months!

The Multnomah County Central Library building will be closed to the public from August 1 to November 1.

By Julia Silverman June 21, 2022

Portland’s landmark Central Library is getting a face-lift, and it’s going to take some time for the grande dame building to be fully ready to debut its new look. 

The building on SW 10th Avenue between and Yamhill and Taylor Streets will close to the public as of August 1, and stay that way through November 1. The biggest, most visible change in the works: new outdoor public spaces, including terraced seating areas at either side of the main entrance. 

Other plans call for improving mobility access to the building, expanding and remodeling the highly trafficked first-floor restrooms, and adding/updating new restrooms that will be earmarked just for families, depending on permitting. 

If you’re more accustomed to using your neighborhood library branch, temporary closures could be ahead there, too: Multnomah County voters approved a library bond in 2020 that will in part pay for what the library system is calling “refreshes” at 11 branches, including downtown's. The other buildings slated for similar work are Capitol Hill, Fairview-Columbia, Gregory Heights, Hillsdale, Hollywood, Kenton, Rockwood, Sellwood, Troutdale, and Woodstock.  

The biggest proposal from the 2020 bond was to build a giant new “flagship” library in Gresham, one of the fastest-growing portions of the county. But details about that have been sparse, presumably as the county looks for land to accommodate the planned 93,000-square-foot footprint; the stated goal has been to break ground in fall 2024.  

Four other buildings serving especially diverse and growing communities are also scheduled for more substantial remodels, for which the system has hired three of the city’s more high-profile architecture firms. LEVER Architecture and Noll & Tam Architects are working on the Albina and North Portland branches, while Bora Architecture & Interiors is working on the Holgate and Midland libraries. 

Meanwhile, live programming is returning to the library system very slowly, but has picked up in recent weeks. Outdoor summertime storytimes hosted by librarians, including culturally and linguistically specific events, have now been added to the calendar at a small handful of parks around the city, for example. 

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