Multnomah County’s Albina library branch was set to temporarily close Saturday, March 18, followed by the North Portland branch on April 5. They’re both joining other libraries, including the downtown central branch, that are undergoing renovations, expansions and repairs. Katie O’Dell, the capital bond deputy director at the Multnomah County Library, said many of these buildings are beautiful and steeped in history, and the county is committed to honoring and preserving that legacy. For instance, the North Portland library improvements will include creating a new cultural center.
“So they will have a whole addition that’s going to be devoted truly to Black culture, Black artists,” O’Dell said. “It’ll be a programming space. And most important, it’s going to be a space open to the community to utilize.”
Some of the changes will also enable people to be able to use these public facilities with more flexibility.
“There’s gonna be portions of the space that are usable when the library is not open,” she said. “It’s going to really extend access into the community that won’t be 100% dependent upon the library and library staff.”
Perhaps the biggest and most high profile library remodel is the downtown central branch, which closed on March 11. O’Dell says the county is planning for a pop-up location about a block from the central branch to fill some gaps in service.
“What we’ll be focusing on there is really a technology access lab where people can access computers,” she said. “We’re likely to be doing some printing and faxing some real essential services that those with the fewest resources don’t have readily at their fingertips.”
The biggest project underway by far, O’Dell says, is the one in Gresham: A brand new state of the art library is being built for those in East County. The facility will be the second largest in the system when it opens in 2025.