PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Multnomah County Central Library in downtown Portland will be closed for most of 2023 starting March 11 as it undergoes several renovations and improvements. 

The work is the result of the bond voters approved in 2020. 

“Central hasn’t received any real, major updates since about the mid-1990s and so, during this closure, crews will be hard at work to add new carpets, fresh paint, a lot more charging outlets for people’s devices,” explained Shawn Cunningham, communications director for Multnomah County Library. 

The library will also receive new furniture, lower shelves and expanded restrooms. 

Multnomah County Library is warning patrons of the closure now, so they can plan to visit other locations for the library resources they use. 

Cunningham said the closest alternative locations to the Central Library are the Northwest Library, Belmont Library and Hillsdale Library. 

Patrons can also use a pop-up space the library will operate at 501 SW Washington St. in downtown Portland. The space will offer internet access, technology and assistance using technology. 

In 2023, five Multnomah County libraries will go through dramatic renovations. The work at the Central Library will be the largest refresh project in the system and will use about $12 million in bond funds. 

To do the construction work, the library will need to remove all of its books and shelving in public areas. The books and other items will be placed in safe storage during the closure and will not be available for a period of time. Some items from the Central Library will move to a new Operations Center that’s currently under construction. 

Multnomah County's Central Library will close March 11 for improvements. Photo taken Feb. 7, 2023 (KOIN)
Multnomah County’s Central Library will close March 11 for improvements. Photo taken Feb. 7, 2023 (KOIN)

This is the second phase of construction at the Central Library. The initial phase occurred in 2022 with the early construction of two new outdoor public terraces; a new access ramp; and work to expand and remodel all-user, first-floor restrooms. 

“At Central Library, it’s a very special and historically significant building. So, we’re working with deep consideration of its historical status and of its importance to the community in civic life,” Cunningham said. 

Multnomah County Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke said the Central Library is known as “Portland’s Crown Jewel” and the county takes pride in its obligation to make a space that is useful and welcoming, while also keeping its legacy. 

Other library closures related to the bond will occur later in 2023, including the Albina and North Portland libraries. More libraries will be impacted by smaller refresh projects. Multnomah County Library will announce those closures in the coming weeks and months. 

“We’re just asking people to be patient with the library system as it works to improve buildings across the system. During construction, we’re here to help you, so please give us a call, check out the website or stop by any library for help if you need assistance using the library,” Cunningham said. 

He said the construction will create some bumps for library users, but he feels confident the system will be better once the projects are completed.