Multnomah County Library celebrates opening of new Operations Center

PORTLAND, Ore––Multnomah County Library is celebrating the opening of one of the first of its bond-funded building projects: the Operations Center in East Portland (221 NE 122nd Ave, Portland, OR 97230), delivered on time and on budget. 

What: Operations Center opening ceremony as part of Multnomah County Library Capital Building Projects, brief remarks and exclusive media tour of building

When: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 10-11 am

Where: Operations Center (221 NE 122nd Ave, Portland, OR 97230)

The outside of the new Operations Center

Exterior of the new Operations Center. Photo courtesy of Bob Kerns Photography

As the first real estate acquisition and first project to break ground, the Operations Center is a vital part of Multnomah County Library’s work. It’s where new books and materials come into the library system, where many items placed on hold are sorted and transferred and where specialized materials and services for outreach to new immigrant communities, schools, retirement communities, shelters and other settings are centered. 

With space to house 500,000 library materials and over 15,600 linear feet (nearly three miles) of shelving space for community outreach materials, the Operations Center houses the largest shared collection for Multnomah County Library. These items are easy to find and place on hold through the library’s catalog for quick delivery to your favorite library location. Additionally, the centralized location provides an opportunity to better serve the community through the library’s outreach programs in schools, child care centers, shelter and transitional housing and other settings.

Cutting edge technology

The building also houses a large, 65-bin Automated Materials Handling (AMH) system, which uses RFID technology to identify and process individual items. Staff are able to check in returns by the crate rather than by individual item, which means patrons receive their materials much faster at their preferred library location.  

Automated Materials Handling system at the new operations center

Automated Materials Handling (AMH) at the new Operations Center. Photo courtesy of Bob Kerns Photography

Because the Operations Center is a work area for library staff (except the section for Friends of the Library), every meeting room is a Google Meet room. That means that it only takes one tap on a screen to start a video conference--no laptop required. The Operations Center is also one of the first library buildings to introduce the County’s new fiber network, providing increased speeds and bandwidth. The building boasts a strong WiFi signal throughout - even on the second floor outdoor patio. Staff are able to take their laptop anywhere in the building and experience fast and dependable access to the internet.     

A unique retail space: Rose City Reads

While most of the Operations Center is not open to the public, Friends of the Library runs a public store called Rose City Reads. This new location carries items that were sold at the big Friends of the Library Spring & Fall book sales along with retired library books (similar to those found at the former Title Wave Used Bookstore) set in a new, expanded space. This is an exciting opportunity to provide a new, affordable store in East Portland. Rose City Reads is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am-5 pm at 221 NE 122nd Ave, Suite A. Follow Friends of the Library for more information on Facebook at @FriendMultCoLib, Instagram at @friendsofthelibrarypdx and online at

Artwork for all

The Multnomah County Percent for Art Program is led by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). RACC advocates for equity, inclusion and access within the arts and connects artists and creatives to opportunities throughout the region. At the Operations Center, emerging artist Tenya Rodriguez was selected to create a new, large-scale, 2-dimensional permanent exterior artwork. Tenya’s original artwork, their first large-scale public art commission, greets staff and visitors alike with vibrant colors and energy as they enter the new building. The artwork is also visible to drivers and pedestrians along NE 122nd Avenue, capturing the attention of those who pass by. Tenya is a queer, Latinx, self-taught artist whose practice centers on mark-making and layering as a way to communicate through experimental expressionism.

Artwork on the outside of the Operations Center

Artwork by Tenya Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Bob Kerns Photography. 

Additionally, eight pieces created by artists from the Portland Street Art Alliance center on themes of light, nature and creativity, providing a beautiful artistic landscape for the interior of the building. 

A resilient building

With Hennebery Eddy Architects leading the design, and Fortis Construction as the General Contractor, the Operations Center will be LEED Gold certified, one of the highest levels of energy efficiency awarded to buildings and a County standard. In addition, more than 600 photovoltaic panels on the building rooftop convert sunlight into electricity. This building is designed to achieve net-zero energy use, meaning it generates energy on site using clean, renewable resources. By adaptively reusing a former Safeway, the building sets an example as the first facility to meet Multnomah County's 2021 Fossil Fuel-Free Buildings resolution.

Solar panels on top of the Operations Center

A few of the more than 600 photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of the new Operations Center. Photo courtesy of Bob Kerns Photography. 

The building also has capacity for up to 40 charging stations for electric cars and library fleet vehicles.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and District 3 Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards will join the opening celebration and make brief remarks, along with Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke. 

“It’s wonderful to celebrate the first opening of these library projects, beginning with the beating heart of the library system,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “Multnomah County Library patrons will feel its impact, from receiving their materials faster to the outreach services that are vital to the community. This building will be central to everything the library does and everyone we reach.” 

This building was the first project as part of the 2020 library bond approved by voters. Multnomah County Library is excited to present this beating heart of the library system on time and under budget.