In January 1903, the Oregon State Legislature enacted the first county library law, authorizing a county tax for library purposes. From 1902 to 1911, Mary Frances Isom, the librarian, and W.B. Ayer, a strong proponent of the free library movement, began working on establishing a county library system in Multnomah County. The vision was to have a strong central library supplemented with deposit stations, reading rooms and other library outlets located throughout the county. In late October, the first box of 50 books was sent to Bridal Veil. Shortly after, a reading room was established in Gresham and a collection of books sent to a deposit station in Fairview. In 1904, a library sub-station was established in Troutdale. It closed shortly after.
The Women’s Club in Troutdale ran a subscription library for many years before it became part of the public library. The Troutdale Reading Room formally opened as a free and public institution on April 7, 1908. During its first year, circulation reached 3,398 items and 224 new members joined. The staff hoped to reach the farming community east of Sandy with the installation of a new rural telephone connection.
By 1910, the Troutdale Reading Room had grown to house nearly 1,000 volumes of circulating and reference books and magazines. In addition, members could request books from the downtown library. Book circulation reached 6,469 items that year.
The Library Association of Portland improved service in all of its reading rooms, upgrading them to "sub-branches" and assuming all of their expenses and management. (Prior to this time, the local communities paid the rent, light, heat and janitor service; the library paid the attendant and furnished the books and magazines.) The sub-branch in Troutdale moved into better, well-lit and more comfortable accommodations.
Rural East Multnomah County continued to grow. On the afternoon of March 1, 1913, the Gresham Reading Room moved into a new 3,032-square-foot Tudor-style building with librarian Clarisse H. Haille in charge. Money for the new library came from community fundraising and the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. The grand opening drew people from all over East County.
After a year of failing use, the Troutdale Sub-Branch was reclassified as a deposit station.
Library service in Troutdale resumed when the Library Association of Portland signed a 10-year lease with the town of Troutdale for a reading room in the town hall. The association authorized $350 to finish this first-floor room, which opened March 15, 1923, with a celebratory tea. The new room with its attractive and comfortable quarters was very popular. In April alone, 324 nonfiction books and 331 fiction books were used.
1950s & '60s
East Multnomah County’s population continued to grow. By 1960, the Gresham Branch Library served a population of almost 10,000 residents, circulating 46,542 items that year. The increase in cars and improved roads changed the idea of library service from serving the public with many small branches and deposit stations to providing larger collections in larger buildings spaced further apart. Use of the Troutdale Reading Room declined, and during the summer of 1960, it closed and was replaced by bookmobile service.
1970s & '80s
East Multnomah County became increasingly less rural with the construction of new housing developments and industries. By the mid-1980s, the Gresham Branch Library housed a collection of 25,000 books with an annual circulation of more than 220,000 items. The old Carnegie building bulged at its historic seams. A ballot measure passed by voters in 1987 authorized $1.7 million for construction of a new 20,000-square-foot library. Groundbreaking on a site for the new library was held May 15, 1989, at the new site at the corner of Third and Miller streets. The new Gresham Regional Library was dedicated on January 7, 1990.
Late 1990s & early 2000s
In November 1997, voters passed a new library levy which included funding for new branches in Northwest Portland and in East County. Soon after, Multnomah County Library began a public siting process for a new branch library in the Wood Village/Fairview/Troutdale area. Construction began on a new building in October 2000 in the Market Square area of Fairview Village. With the library on the ground floor and four apartments above, Fairview-Columbia Library became the first mixed-use library building in Multnomah County at its November 13, 2001, opening.
East Multnomah County continued to grow. The library’s 2002 operating levy included funding for new leased libraries in North Portland and East County (although these new libraries were not included in the levy language). A public siting process in Troutdale was barely underway when budget cuts ended the process. In November 2006, voters passed a new five-year operating levy, including language in the measure that specified new libraries in North Portland and East County. A new public siting process began almost immediately in Troutdale, culminating in a negotiated lease with the Discovery Block on Historic Columbia Highway. Before the lease could be signed by the chair of the Multnomah County Commission, the developer withdrew due to financial considerations.
Subsequently, the Troutdale Siting Committee was reconvened, meeting three times to discuss potential sites. At the end of the public siting process, six potential sites had been identified. After reviewing the positives and negatives of each site, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted in April 2009 to proceed with lease negotiations with the landlord of the Cherry Park Market site.
The new Troutdale Library opened in a storefront building at 2451 S.W. Cherry Park Road in July 2010.
Read the histories of all neighborhood libraries, and explore historic library photos.