Central Library debuts renovations with grand reopening in downtown Portland

Multnomah County Library’s largest location, originally opened in 1913, has improved ADA access, new furniture and carpet, a dedicated teen space, and more.

An outside view of Multnomah County's Central Library in downtown Portland. The library's second story has oversized arched windows surrounded by red brick, while the lower level is covered in pale gray stone.

Visitors can register for guided tours of the Central Library ecoroof from April to October.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Entering familiar worlds with undiscovered twists and turns is as easy as opening a book… or passing through the front doors of downtown Portland’s Central Library.

Multnomah County Library’s historic flagship location celebrates its grand reopening today, Feb. 23. It was closed for nearly a year to undergo $13 million in renovations. Supply chain issues and severe weather kept Central Library’s doors locked a bit longer than anticipated, but they’ve now been thrown open to the public — so we stopped by to get a first look at the extensive updates.

New chapters

Designed by Portland architect Albert Doyle in a style he described as Georgian, much of the 110-year-old building remains unchanged. But upgrades are noticeable from the outside, starting with the outdoor pavilion that’s been expanded on either side to accommodate new terraces.

Inside, visitors will find a main floor lobby that houses an updated Friends of the Library store selling popular books, puzzles, cards, and tote bags. The towering bookshelves in the fiction and nonfiction sections have been replaced with dramatically shorter shelves, and part of the children’s section has been turned into a space specifically for teens.

An animated GIF file of multiple images showing interior elements of Multnomah County's Central Library, including its updated restroom, shorter bookshelves, and green floral carpet.

The library also has new kiosks where card holders can self-check materials.

Photos by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Gone are the peachy-pink walls of the second-floor periodicals and fiction rooms, painted in sunny yellow and gold tones instead. New furniture — like lounge chairs and sofas — have been scattered throughout the rooms, along with tables and power outlets with USB ports.

One of our favorite upgrades is the carpet. Multiple shades of green with rose motifs pay homage to the library’s former “Garden of Knowledge” theme (seen in the black granite staircase with floral engravings), implemented when it was last renovated nearly three decades ago. The restrooms also underwent facelifts, making them more inclusive, safe, and accessible.

Next in the series

Seven other Multnomah County Library locations are either closed or scheduled to close soon for improvements. Fairview-Columbia Library closed last month and is expected to reopen as early as this spring; Hillsdale Library is next in line, with a scheduled closing date of March 3.