Updated: Central Library will close March 11 for major improvements; new temporary tech space to open during closure

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

New meeting space, renovated restrooms, additional charging outlets, carpet, paint, furniture, automation, and more planned for historic library

PORTLAND, Ore. — Feb 6, 2023 — Central Library will close to the public beginning March 11 to complete a series of major bond-funded improvements. Project teams expect the work to last through most of 2023. In the weeks to follow, the library will open a new pop-up space at 501 SW Washington St., focused on serving patrons who need technology and internet access during Central’s closure.

[2/21/23 update: The library is considering other sites for a technology-focused pop-up space and has not selected a final location.]

Multnomah County Library is hard at work to build, expand and renovate library spaces for the public as a result of the voter-approved 2020 Library building bond. Central Library began construction during a shorter closure in 2022. This year, the library system will see a dramatic reinvention by building and expanding five libraries and a series of “refresh” projects to libraries across the system, requiring a series of temporary library closures.

The work at Central Library will be the largest refresh project in the system, using about $12 million in bond funds, along with other sources. The project will require the removal of all books and shelving in public areas, meaning the books and other items in public spaces will be placed in safe storage during the closure and unavailable for a period of time. Some items currently stored at Central Library will move to a new Operations Center, currently under construction, to fill patron holds.

Library patrons will see a number of changes and improvements as a result of this closure, including: 

  • Replace carpeting for all three public floors
  • Provide fresh paint in large public spaces
  • Improve shelf height and orientation to create more space for people and better sight lines 
  • Add many more USB and electrical outlets throughout public spaces for personal and library devices
  • Renovate the second and third floor restrooms with new fixtures, counters, flooring and tile
  • Expand and renovate the existing first floor family restroom and add a second family restroom adjacent to the existing one
  • Create a designated teen space with comfortable seating and a future gaming room
  • Add new comfortable and flexible seating 
  • Add a new, large flexible space for programs and public meetings
  • Improve existing meeting spaces
  • Reorganize collections, including moving some material to the Operations Center where it can be more quickly processed
  • Install automated material handling to increase efficiency of checking in and sorting books, freeing up staff time for other work
  • Introduce scannable bar-coded crates and ergonomic carts and bins for books and materials
  • Repair aging electrical components on movable high density shelving
  • Move the Friends of the Library store into the first floor lobby

This phase of work follows an initial phase in 2022 that began the construction of two new outdoor public terraces; a new ramp access to the building; began expansion and remodeling of new, all-user first floor restrooms; and worked to stage the building for the 2023 phase of improvements. 

“Multnomah County Library is hard at work to transform public library spaces to better serve this diverse community,” said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. “Central Library is known as ‘Portland’s Crown Jewel’ and we take pride in our obligation to make it a space that is useful, relevant and welcoming in keeping with its historic legacy as our community grows and needs change.”

Other bond-related closures will follow in 2023, including Albina and North Portland libraries for major building projects and other locations for smaller refresh projects. The library will announce those closures in the coming weeks and months. 

The library will share additional information about Central Library’s reopening schedule and the technology pop-up space as plans and logistics become final. For help using the library, please contact us. The library routinely posts closure or schedule change notices at multcolib.org/hours-and-locations.

The nearest libraries to Central during the closure are:
Northwest Library: 2300 NW Thurman Street 
Hillsdale Library: 1525 SW Sunset Boulevard
Belmont Library: 1038 SE César E. Chávez Boulevard