Community engagement

Community input is shaping the designs for renovated, expanded and new library spaces. Our community engagement ethos is a direct reflection of our project principles:

  • Equitable - prioritizes listening and amplifying the voices of underserved communities
  • Transparent - clearly identifies what is fixed, what is flexible, and where community can have impact and the outcomes of that input
  • Just - understands and acknowledges the past and creates a different future
  • Accessible - meets the community where they are, variety of methods of participation, culturally relevant and responsive
  • Informed - is informed by research, review and recognition of what has already been asked of communities and what’s already been shared
  • Flexible - asks for input on process, listens to feedback, is open to change and not sticking with a singular approach to engaging the community
I love our libraries, as they have been a huge part of my life so far. I'd love to be able to contribute to the development of them, and help create spaces that will be meaningful and memorable.
Youth Opportunity Design Approach teen participant

Engagement process

The library building project teams engage community members based on the unique history and cultures of each library’s neighborhood. The teams also build on existing engagement efforts within the community. 

The building project teams lead the design and construction of the libraries. The team uses community engagement activities and questions that can best inform that stage of the design.

Check out a few different engagement activities in action.

Community members gather around a table to share their visions for the new East County Library with project stakeholders.

Community meetings

Open to the public with activities to share information and gather design feedback from community members

(Photo credit: Naim Hasan Photography)

Architect Chandra Robinson shares information about North Portland Library’s new Black Cultural Center with Paul Knauls, honorary “Mayor of Northeast Portland”

Tabling at existing events

Hosting a booth at existing community events to share information and receive quick feedback from attendees

Architects, staff and teen participants work on an activity for the Youth Opportunity Design Approach program

Paid engagement programs

Longer term, paid programs with multiple sessions that participants apply to be a part of

Teens in East County gather around a table for a focus group activity

Focus groups

Smaller group discussions for more in-depth design feedback (often paid)

Teens in East County gather around a table for a focus group activity


One-on-one discussions with community members

(Photo credit: Naim Hasan Photography)

Two Belmont Library patrons cast their vote for the interior design color palette

Public surveys

Online and print questionnaires, including public voting and poster boards with questions

The library actually cares about us, the public. All my guests that I spoke to, they felt the same. They’ve never had an experience like this before.
Community Design Advocate

Community influence on design

Each building project team gets thousands of comments from all of the engagement activities. Every comment is read and grouped into themes by the architects to inform the designs of the libraries. Your comments and participation ensure that the new library spaces are useful and welcoming to all communities. 

Explore a few examples of how community input helps shape the building designs. Some images are draft renderings, not final designs.

Close up image of the pattern designs carved into the exterior walls of Midland Library

Midland Library exterior pattern

  • Reflects diverse community stories and patterns from a community workshop
  • Patterns were translated into exterior pattern by design team
  • Pattern themes represent hope, prosperity, strength and community 

Learn more about the renovated and expanded Midland Library.

Rendering of the new East County Library teen room showing flexible seating and media nooks with large wall, mounted screens in a blue color palette with gray and dark purple accents.

East County Library teen room

  • Safe, free place for teens
  • Color palette voted on by East County teens
  • Flexible, soft seating and tables for reading, hanging out with friends and doing homework
  • Computers and technology for homework, games and media

Learn more about the new East County Library.

Rendering of the new North Portland Library Black Cultural Center featuring a vibrant blue color palette and books, tables and chairs.

North Portland Library Black Cultural Center

  • New, flexible space celebrating North Portland’s Black community
  • Art and design features by Black artists, partnering with Regional Arts and Culture Council
  • Color palette reflecting Afrofuturism voted on by community members

Learn more about the renovated and expanded North Portland Library

This time, I feel that the community was listened to and taken seriously.
Community Design Advocate

Regional Arts and Culture Council

The library building projects team also works with Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) through the Multnomah County Percent for Art Program, allotting two percent of the construction budget for all county-funded improvement projects toward the investment in public art. Artists are awarded projects as part of a public process, with selection panels led by community members, business owners, artists, library staff and project partners. Much of the new artwork is also guided by robust community engagement.

Questions about the community engagement process for these building projects? Email