A new chapter for Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke

Vailey Oehlke, director of the library, standing amongst book shelves

Vailey Oehlke, Multnomah County’s longtime Director of Libraries, will retire in June after serving as director for the past 15 years. Over that span of time, Vailey helped the library establish permanent funding, expand and modernize its cramped buildings and refocus library services on underserved communities.

“I have been extremely fortunate to work in a community that supports its library system,” Vailey said. “I am proud of the work we have done together to make Multnomah County Library valued, relevant and responsive to this community. I know that the library is on a good path, with an excellent leadership team and a talented and dedicated staff in place. Now it’s time for new leadership and new ideas to propel the library forward.”

Vailey began her career at Multnomah County Library in 1997 in the School Corps outreach program as a youth librarian.

“Being a School Corps librarian was the perfect introduction to Multnomah County Library. I got paid to get squirmy kindergartners excited about books; to inspire too-cool teens to outrage over censorship and to support overwhelmed teachers and school librarians with book lists and web resources,” Vailey said.

She later served as an administrator and director at Central Library, before being named deputy director and then director of libraries. Over that span of time, the library has added books, programs and bilingual/bicultural Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian and Somali-speaking staff, plus Indigenous and Black Cultural Library Advocate staff members.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson will work with Chief Operating Officer Serena Cruz and Karras Consulting to recruit and hire the next director of libraries. Deputy Library Director Annie Lewis will step in as Interim Director effective June 3 as the recruitment takes place.