Multnomah County’s Central Library will close for up to nine months

By Jeff Thompson (OPB)
Feb. 7, 2023 8:50 p.m.

The 110-year-old downtown Portland building will be getting some much-needed upgrades and renovations.

Multnomah County’s biggest library, the central branch in downtown Portland, will close for renovations on March 11. Then it will likely remain closed through the rest of 2023.

The downstairs reading room at the main branch of the Multnomah County Library, as seen from the stairwell.

The downstairs reading room at the main branch of the Multnomah County Library, as seen from the stairwell.

Sage Van Wing / OPB


Multnomah County Library spokesperson Shawn Cunningham said during the closure, the 110-year-old building will get new paint and carpets, renovated restrooms and much-needed technology upgrades.

The library system is the state’s largest provider of free high-speed internet. And many people who live near the Central Library rely heavily on that service, as well as other resources the building offers. But Cunningham said those services will be available in a new spot less than half a mile away throughout the closure.

“The library will be opening a pop-up space, focused on technology, at 501 SW Washington St.,” Cunningham said. “The idea there is to provide the most essential internet access and technology needs for the community that would typically use Central Library for those services.”


And then when the library reopens, there will be many more resources available.

“For instance, we know people use Central Library a lot to charge devices,” Cunningham said. “So when Central reopens it will have more comfortable furniture, more flexible arrangement and about three times as many places to charge your device.”

The whole Multnomah County Library system is getting a major upgrade, thanks to a bond approved by voters in 2020.

Related: Multnomah County voters approve library bond to build new East County flagship, expand other branches

The Albina and North Portland libraries will be next to close for renovations this year, but the dates of those closures haven’t been announced yet.

“With every current or upcoming closure, the library will work to provide people with information on other locations that they’re able to use, how to use the library online or other ways to connect with library resources and services,” Cunningham said. “But the simple fact is we’re entering a period of disruption and inconvenience for a lot of people so that the library can deliver on its promises to expand and modernize library spaces.”

He said the library space systemwide will not only be improved, but also expanded. When all of the construction and renovation is finished, the Multnomah County Library system’s physical space will be about one and a half times the size it is now.