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Left to right: Elysia Goetz, Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA) member; Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke; Black Portland community focus group member Valarie Pearce; Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson; and Department of County Assets Director and Chief Information Officer Tracey Massey. (Photo by Naim Hasan Photography)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 27 April 2023

Multnomah County Library is breaking ground on one of its largest building projects. Albina Library, which relocated to its historic location on Northeast Knott Street in 2020, will be renovated and greatly expanded, resulting in a 30,000 square foot library for the surrounding community.

The design preserves and seismically upgrades the historic Carnegie structure on Knott Street, while providing four times the current space, making it one of the largest libraries in Multnomah County. The renovation will allow for greater space for community gatherings as well as teen and children’s areas that allow for play and engagement.

albina library LEVERArchitectureKnottSt medThe historic Knott Street building will be preserved and seismically upgraded. Image courtesy of LEVER Architecture.

albina library LEVERArchitectureRussell medThis rendering shows the addition and entrance on Russell Street. Image courtesy of LEVER Architecture. 

The ceremonial groundbreaking which took place yesterday was a time to celebrate the work of expanding and transforming library spaces for communities across Multnomah County. Albina Library is located in a historically Black neighborhood. To amplify the community’s ideas, the design team worked with Black community members and other diverse communities through public meetings, surveys, workshops and more. For teen spaces, project teams gathered innovative ideas and feedback through a paid teen program called Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA). In sessions led by the architects and youth librarians, teens who use Albina and North Portland libraries shared what will make them feel welcome and engaged. 

Based on input from community members, new features will include:

  • Outdoor courtyard for community members to relax and connect.
  • Large community and meeting rooms.
  • Expanded study spaces. 
  • A larger, more diverse collection.
  • Dedicated teen room with space for technology, homework and creative expression.
  • Updated technology and internet.New art that represents the community in coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council. 

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson joined Albina Library’s groundbreaking celebration along with District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal; Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke; Director of the Department of County Assets and Chief Information Officer Tracey Massey; Valarie Pearce, member of the Black Portland community focus group; and Elysia Goetz, member of the Youth Opportunity Design Approach (YODA) program.

“Albina Library’s renovation and expansion will be a balance of modern updates while maintaining the library’s classic integrity,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “From teen spaces to an outdoor courtyard for connection and relaxation, this expanded library will be a truly beautiful and impactful place for everyone.”

LEVER Architecture and Noll & Tam Architects led the design for Albina Library. Andersen Construction is the General Contractor.

Albina Library closed to begin the construction process on this approximately $52 million project on March 18, 2023. Additionally, Isom Operations Center is connected to Albina Library and closed on March 18 to make way for the expansion of Albina Library. Isom is home to a number of services that support library operations in branches through outreach and in other ways.

When Albina Library reopens, library administrative offices will return to that space. The other operational workgroups will eventually be housed in the new, efficient Operations Center which is scheduled to be complete fall 2023. Albina Library is scheduled to reopen in fall 2024. During construction, the library encourages patrons to visit the libraries closest to them and use the many online services on the library’s website. The library will share additional updates about services on its construction closures page.   

The library looks forward to the expanded building as an opportunity to provide great libraries and services for great communities in Multnomah County. 

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