MORE THAN BOOKS AND BUILDINGS

Planning for our library's future

Multnomah County Library is busier than ever, but our library system is, quite literally, running out of room. Today, at many locations, librarians are forced to turn away families from storytimes due to lack of space. Teens are unable to find quiet spaces to read and study. Waiting lists for programs, classes, and library computers are the norm.

The population of Multnomah County has grown by nearly 30% since we last voted to expand library facilities. And it's predicted to grow another 30% by 2040. Library staff and volunteers are doing a stellar job of working with limited space and outdated infrastructure, but they can't work their magic forever. We need library buildings that will meet the growing needs of our community.

With more than 5,400 storytimes a year and more than 110,000 kids participating in Summer Reading, families at our libraries contend with overcrowding every day. Multnomah County Library is one of the busiest library systems in the nation. Yet our system is one of the smallest — we are 4th in circulation, yet only 102nd in square footage among libraries in the U.S.  Our entire library system, all 19 location, would fit into Seattle's Central Library with room to spare.

In the spring of 2020, library management presented a plan to address these space and facility limitations. This plan, the result of four years of in-depth work and community feedback, proposed changes that would improve library spaces for generations to come. The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners referred this plan to the voters. The resulting capital bond measure on the November 2020 ballot was funded by an overwhelming majority of voters —nearly 60% approved the measure.

This newly-approved library funding will bring services and much-needed technology upgrades to the people and neighborhoods that need them most. Eight of our smallest or most outdated libraries will be rebuilt, renovated, or expanded, creating the space we need for children's programs and services for adults. Library service to underserved neighborhoods will increase, materials handling systems will be modernized, and all of our libraries will be able to offer gigabit-speed Internet to every person in our community.

 

Your input will be important as we design and build new library spaces. There will be much more in the coming months, but for now, you can follow along at multcolib.org/planning or sign up to receive updates.