Planning for library spaces

Multnomah County Library spaces: planning for a bright future 

Multnomah County Library is one of the busiest public libraries in the United States. It also has the smallest amount of space of any library system serving a community its size. In fact, the square footage of all 19 library locations in Multnomah County would fit inside Seattle’s Central Library.

People in Multnomah County are missing out on programs, events, seating, space to work and collaborate in groups and much more because of the library’s small spaces.

In 2017, the Multnomah County Library District Board approved the Framework for Future Library Spaces [pdf]. The Framework is a long-term vision to expand and modernize library spaces.

Since then, the library has been working with experts to study the costs, funding, and timelines of projects that would achieve the framework’s recommendations. The library has completed that work and presented its recommendations to the Library District Board. 

Listening to the community

From 2016 to 2019, the library asked for community input to better understand the community’s priorities for library spaces. This included participation from nearly 2,000 community members at 13 culturally specific focus groups and 51 community conversations at libraries, community centers, service agencies and partner organizations across the county. The library also sent a public survey that received more than 1,700 responses.

Blue Ribbon Committee

For additional input, the library convened a Blue Ribbon Committee, comprised of local civic and business leaders, to independently review the library’s research and plans for future spaces. The Committee met three times between April and September 2019. At each step, members provided written feedback, in addition to their comments recorded at meetings. 

The Committee jointly submitted its feedback and considerations to the Multnomah County Library District Board. Read the Memo [pdf].

Library proposal for funding future library spaces

Read the proposal.

Why does the library need more space?

Multnomah County libraries are the 4th busiest in the nation, but rank 102nd in square footage. The lack of library space in East County is especially limited. Nearly 40% of the county’s population lives east of I-205, yet only 24% of library space is located there. 

Most Multnomah County libraries are cramped and crowded, with few seating options and no dedicated space for quiet reading or study. Library branches regularly turn away patrons from children’s programs. Some libraries have to deny up to 70% of requests for public meeting room use due to lack of room availability. 

Only one library branch has a dedicated creative learning space offering 21st century tools to practice and learn 3D printing, programming, robotics and more. 

How long would it take to complete all of the proposed projects?

All projects would be completed within eight years. 

What would happen to my library during a renovation?

Any library branch undergoing renovation would be closed while the work is completed. Multnomah County Library would schedule projects to minimize impacts to the community and to ensure people have a nearby library to visit. 

How much will this cost? 

The library’s proposal assumes a levy rate up to $0.73 per $1000 of Assessed Value over eight years.

This investment would bring enhanced library services and spaces across Multnomah County and would transform library spaces in East County. 

Resources

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