Albina Library history

Albina Library's first location — a small reading room that housed about 100 books — opened in 1906, under the custodianship of Mrs. P.P. Leche. The exact location of that reading room is unknown, and circulation records for that first year do not exist today.

In September 1907, the library moved to a larger space in a vacant storeroom in the Emporium building on Williams Avenue. The Library Association of Portland's annual report for 1907 states, ". . . on September 16, the branch was opened in charge of Miss Ella G. Dewart. The eagerness with which the people of Albina young and old have taken advantage of this library has been a surprise even to those who believed most thoroughly in it. It has been almost impossible to keep the shelves supplied with books."

Use of the collection continued to grow, so the library moved to larger quarters on Russell Street in 1909. By the end of the year, there were 3,149 volumes in the collection, and circulation that year increased to 36,800 items.

In 1911, the gift of nearby property and funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York resulted in a larger library building at 216 NE Knott, just a block and a half from the previous site. The Library Association of Portland's annual report for 1912 noted, "On October 18, 1912, the Albina branch building was ready for service, a stucco building, Spanish renaissance in design; the interior gives broad floor spaces and is well adapted to the demands of that congested district." The book collection at that time included materials in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Modern Greek, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Polish and Bohemian (Czech).

The library on Knott Street served the Albina area from 1912 until 1960.

In June 1967, a new Albina Library opened in a storefront building on the corner of N. Vancouver Avenue and N. Beech Street. After the first year, circulation began to decline and continued to do so for the next ten years. In 1977, the Library Association of Portland Board voted to move the library to a new location at NE 15th Avenue and NE Fremont Street. This building first opened as a library on October 4, 1977, with Mary Jamison-Tannehill serving as its first librarian. After more than 20 years at this location, it closed on January 10, 1999 for renovation and expansion, reopening on June 22, 1999. After closure to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Albina Library relocated to its former home at 216 NE. Knott St and reopened to the public in August 2021.

Returning Albina Library to the current location is part of the library’s larger effort to provide relevant services to people who are experiencing disenfranchisement. Albina Library was repeatedly relocated in the past; those decisions did not account for the needs of all the communities the library served. 

In November 2020, Multnomah County voters approved a $387 million capital bond to build and transform library buildings across the county. Albina Library, which shares a site location with the library's Isom Operations Center, is scheduled to be rebuilt and significantly expanded, based on community input, reopening to the public sometime in 2024.

Read the histories of all neighborhood libraries, and explore historic library photos.