North Portland Library breaks ground

On May 19, Multnomah County Library broke ground on one of its most historic building projects, North Portland Library. 

During the ceremonial groundbreaking, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson was joined by District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke, and the library’s Director of Location Services, Kirby McCurtis. Community members Joyce Harris and Karis Stoudamire-Phillips spoke about their experiences at North Portland Library, followed by Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA) high school student Noah Brown.

woman at a podium with an audience in front of her sitting in chairs.

Joyce Harris speaking at the North Portland Library groundbreaking event

Image by Motoya Nakamura/ Multnomah County

Educator, community activist, and long-term library patron Joyce Harris said at the event, “Being here is very emotional because this place here has been so important to our community.” 

She continued, “We are developing some things to celebrate, to honor, to create Black history and culture. This is one of the historical creations, and we need to recognize the people who made it happen and those of us that will continue the tradition.”

The library renovations will add 1,500 square feet for a total of 10,200 square feet of space to highlight the diversity and history of the community. The design preserves the historic Carnegie building on Killingsworth Street while providing a larger space for community gatherings in the new Black Cultural Center.

Six people standing in front of North Portland Library with hard hats and shovels in front of a pile of dirt.

Left to right: Vailey Oehlke, Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, Joyce Harris, County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Noah Brown

Image by Motoya Nakamura/ Multnomah County

At the event, Vice President of DEI & Community Initiatives for Moda Health and North Portland native Karis Stoudamire-Phillips said, “I have many fond memories of time spent here. When I was a little girl, my mom brought me here to get my very first library card, and she and the librarian helped me choose and check out my books for the very first time. What was so special about this experience is that the librarian was a Black woman, and she directed me to the section of books that had pictures of children and adults that looked just like me.”

North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. The new North Portland Library will include:

  • A Black Cultural Center for connection and a celebration of Blackness.
  • Outdoor space for community members to relax and be together.
  • Updated technology and internet.
  • New art that represents the community in coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council. 

LEVER Architecture and Noll & Tam Architects led the design for North Portland Library. Andersen Construction is the General Contractor.

North Portland Library closed on April 5, 2023 to begin the construction process; it's scheduled to reopen in fall 2024. During construction, the library encourages patrons to use the many online services available and visit a nearby library:

Kenton Library: 8226 N Denver Avenue

Hollywood Library: 4040 NE Tillamook Street

St. Johns Library: 7510 N Charleston Avenue

The library will share additional updates about services on its construction closures page.