Multnomah County Library breaks ground on historic North Portland Library


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Expansion includes a community-focused Black Cultural Center while keeping classic Carnegie building 

PORTLAND, Ore––May 18, 2023

Multnomah County Library is breaking ground on one of its most historic building projects. North Portland Library will be renovated and expanded, adding 1,500 square feet for a total of 10,200 square feet of space to highlight the diversity and history of the community. 

The design preserves the historic Carnegie building on Killingsworth Street while providing greater space for community gatherings in the new Black Cultural Center.

What: North Portland Library groundbreaking ceremony as part of Multnomah County Library Capital Building Projects, brief remarks and photo opportunity

When: Friday, May 19, 1:30-2:00 p.m.

Where: North Portland Library (512 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217)

The ceremonial groundbreaking is a time to highlight how the library is transforming spaces to benefit communities. North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. That's why insights from the Black community have guided the vision and purpose for the new Black Cultural Center. The library reached out through focus groups, tabling events and one-on-one conversations to gather authentic community input. For teen spaces, project teams gathered innovative ideas and feedback through a paid teen program called Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA). In sessions led by the architects and youth librarians, teens who use Albina and North Portland libraries shared what will make them feel welcome and engaged. 
Based on input from community members, new features will include:

  • A Black Cultural Center for connection and a celebration of Blackness.
  • Outdoor space for community members to relax and be together.
  • A larger, more diverse collection.
  • Updated technology and internet.
  • New art that represents the community in coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council. 

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson will join North Portland Library’s groundbreaking celebration along with District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke; educator, community activist and long-term supporter of the library Joyce Harris;  Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, Vice President of DEI & Community Initiatives for Moda Health and North Portland native; and Noah Brown, member of the Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA) program.

“The historic North Portland Library has been a cornerstone of the community, and specifically the Black community, for so long,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “Now, with more space and a new Black Cultural Center for connection and celebration, North Portland is expanding not just in size but in its role as a vital community centerpiece.” 

“North Portland Library has such history and presence within the County library system and its neighborhood, standing adjacent to the Jefferson High School campus and providing a space for gathering, reading and community-building, ” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “The chance to do these upgrades, built with input from many stakeholders, shows how we’re successfully centering a process that builds spaces by and for the community.”

LEVER Architecture and Noll & Tam Architects led the design for North Portland Library. Andersen Construction is the General Contractor.

North Portland Library closed to begin the construction process on this approximately $12 million project on April 5, 2023. North Portland Library is scheduled to reopen in fall 2024.

During construction, the library encourages patrons to visit the libraries closest to them and use the many online services on the library’s website. 

The community is invited to use nearby libraries while North Portland is closed: 
Kenton Library: 8226 N Denver Avenue
Hollywood Library: 4040 NE Tillamook Street
St. Johns Library: 7510 N Charleston Avenue

The library will share additional updates about services at library construction closures.