Portland’s Central Library will close March 11 for the second time in less than a year as Multnomah County begins the second phase of the library’s two-part “refresh.”
Multnomah County Library (MCL) spokesperson Shawn Cunningham told the Mercury the building will remain closed for a projected eight to nine months, "reopening probably in December of 2023." But any number of renovation variables could prolong the timeline.
During the closure, MCL plans to open a "technology pop-up" at 501 SW Washington St.—a space that was formerly a Chase Bank, and which sits directly on the downtown transit mall, across from the 5th Avenue food cart pod. But there isn't a hard open date set for that space just yet.
"The hope would be toward the end of March," Cunningham estimated.
Despite the trickiness of moving furniture and staff—plus installing technology—in a short-term space, MCL views the pop-up as an important offset to a lack of digital access the prolonged library closure will cause.
"The focus is really around providing technology, as a fundamental service for people who rely on it at Central," Cunningham explained. "For a lot of people, that access is a necessity."
Central Library closed for three months in 2022, closing August 1 and reopening promptly on November 1. When that closure was announced, there were plans for a mobile RV to "provide wifi, technology loans, books, 1:1 assistance, and other resources" to library users for the duration. That never materialized, but the project is still in the works. MCL has the RV and will likely send it to neighborhood libraries when it's up and outfitted.
The 2022 closure addressed primarily outside renovations: two outdoor public terraces, new ramp access, first floor restroom remodeling, and set-up for the longer work. Both updates are part of a 2020 voter-approved Library building bond, aimed at updating technology throughout the library system and helping it "change and grow along with the community."
Central's renovation is the largest "refresh" project in the plan and will involve removing all the books and shelving in public areas to make way for the following renovations, described in an MCL press release:
• 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 the 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
The Library bond is also building new libraries: A brand new Holgate Library (at the former Holgate location), a new library in East Portland that is similar in size to Central, and a Northwest Portland library, at NW 20th Ave. and NW Pettygrove St., twice the size of the current one on NW Thurman St. Renovations are also in the works for Midland, Albina, Belmont, St. Johns, and North Portland library branches. You can vote on North Portland's redesign until February 13.