Library space planning

Multnomah County Library future space planning

Multnomah County Library is one of the busiest public library systems in the United States, but it offers far less total space than similarly sized communities. In addition, about 40% of Multnomah County’s population is east of Interstate 205, but only about 20% of library space is in that region. 

On March 5, 2020, the Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners voted to refer a $405.5 million bond measure to the November 2020 ballot to increase the library’s total square footage by nearly 50%.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the library reconsidered its obligations as a steward of public resources and its commitments to helping people and communities recover and serving those most affected by new and existing economic and social barriers. 

On June 25, 2020, the Board of County Commissioners voted to refer a measure that reduces the overall cost to $387 million and substitutes two new projects for one of the previously proposed projects to better meet community needs.

If approved, the measure would build, rebuild or renovate eight library spaces; add modern technology infrastructure including gigabit speed internet; and update library facilities and materials handling. The measure would create a community-based oversight and reporting body.

The November 2020 bond measure would fund:

  • Building a “flagship” library of approx. 95,000 sq. ft. in East County, similar in size  to Central Library downtown
  • Expanding, rebuilding or renovating seven branch libraries, including Albina, Belmont, Holgate, Midland, North Portland, Northwest and St. Johns.
  • Adding gigabit speed internet to all libraries.
  • Creating a central materials handling and distribution center to increase efficiency and cost effectiveness.
  • Adding refresh improvements such as furniture and paint to other library locations not listed above

The process

The library began a public input process in 2016 to hear the community’s priorities for library spaces. That process 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 Multnomah County. The library also sent a public survey that received more than 1,700 responses.

 In 2017, the Multnomah County Library District Board approved the Framework for Future Library Spaces, a long-term vision to expand and modernize library spaces. The library then began a phase of due diligence work with experts to study the costs, funding, and timelines of projects that would achieve the framework’s recommendations.

 For additional input, the library convened a Blue Ribbon Committee, composed of local civic and business leaders, to independently review the library’s research, plans and costs for future spaces. The Committee jointly submitted its feedback and considerations to the Multnomah County Library District Board. Read the memo. The library also reviewed cost estimates with independent cost estimators and industry experts.

The library completed this work in early 2020 and presented its recommendations to the Library District Board on January 30, 2020. The board referred the measure to the November 2020 ballot on March 5, 2020. 

Downloadable PDF documents

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