Central Library celebrates 100 years Sept. 7

“Portland’s Crown Jewel” stands for a century as a monument to free access for all.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Aug 22, 2013 — On Sept. 7, 2013, Multnomah County Library will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the iconic Central Library, in downtown Portland. The free public celebration will take place in the Collins Gallery of Central Library, located at 801 SW 10th Ave., from 3 to 3:45 pm. Made possible by The National Endowment for the Humanities Fund of The Library Foundation, the event will include commemorative remarks, musical performances and light refreshments.

In the weeks leading up to the Sept. 7 celebration, the library is offering a series of tours, presentations and discussions to mark the occasion.

Central Library was opened on Sept. 6, 1913, under the leadership of Mary Frances Isom (read a detailed history [PDF] by Penny Hummel) during a period of prolific growth and expansion of Multnomah County’s library system.

The beginning of Isom’s nearly 20-year tenure as the head librarian coincided with the library’s commencement as Oregon’s first free, tax-supported public library, open to all. During her time in this role, the library system grew from one single downtown building to 16 locations distributed across Multnomah County, as the population of the county nearly tripled.

The planning and construction of Central Library, seen by many as Isom’s greatest achievement, began years earlier with chief architect Albert E. (A.E.) Doyle. The library was designed and built with the needs of patrons at the forefront, an unusual approach at the time.

Central Library continues to be a unique and highly utilized community asset to this day. Last year, more than 850,000 patrons visited Central Library, checking out or renewing almost 1.5 million items.

“Central Library exemplifies how public libraries improve communities,” said Central Library Director Dave Ratliff. “Each day, thousands of people come here for everything from help finding a job to help finishing their homework. For a hundred years this library has worked with people to better their station in life, spark a love of learning, discover information, or just find a great book to read. It’s an honor to carry this proud tradition into the next century.”