Multnomah County Library To Launch Sidewalk Service

Photo: KATU

Multnomah County Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke announced Monday that Multnomah County Library will begin no-contact “sidewalk service” at four locations and a sharpened focus on service to help the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing updates to library service and answers to common questions will be posted at

“We are grateful and excited to begin the process of resuming some physical library services. Having libraries closed due to COVID-19 has been wrenching for our community and it requires that we fundamentally rethink the work we do, guided by a set of priorities that sharpens our focus on community recovery,” said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. “The health and safety of library patrons and staff is priority above all. We will expand service in limited ways over time in keeping with science and public health guidance. If your local branch takes more time to reopen or you're missing another treasured library service, please know that this is a new process for all of us. Thank you for your patience and kindness as we all learn and adjust.”

Stages and services

Monday, June 8:

• Book drops reopen for return of library materials at all locations.

• The library will provide appointment-only sidewalk service (no-contact dropoff and pickup of reserved materials) at four locations: Central, Gresham, Midland and North Portland.

• Patrons will make appointments by calling the library at 503.988.5123. Book drops will be open to accept returns. Fines and fees remain suspended. All returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours. There will be no public access into the buildings.

Monday, June 15:

• Sidewalk service expands to Belmont, Capitol Hill, Gregory Heights, Holgate, Hollywood, Kenton, Rockwood, and St. Johns libraries.

Monday, June 22:

• Sidewalk service available at other locations (potential delay at Sellwood-Moreland Library due to facilities project).

Dates to be determined

• Time-limited in-person computer service begins at four locations: Central, Gresham, Midland and North Portland libraries inside the meeting rooms for specific support: job applications, unemployment filing assistance, and other benefit application assistance.

o This service is conditional on Multnomah County entering Phase 1 and ensuring that the library can safely operate with enough personal protective equipment for both staff and patrons.

Albina Library to return to historic Carnegie building

The library has declined to renew its lease at Albina Library, at 3605 NE 15th Ave., on July 1 and will relocate that library back to its former home at 216 NE Knott St, in a larger, historic Carnegie library building. The building that currently serves as Title Wave Used Bookstore was the home of Albina Library from 1912 to 1960 (see history).

The current location is the smallest branch in the Multnomah County Library system at just 3,500 square feet and is so small it doesn’t have a public meeting room. Because of the operational constraints around physical distancing for the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that the building would be feasible for much more than sidewalk service. The Knott St. building is about 2,000 square feet larger.

The library’s lease of Albina Library expires on June 1, 2020, with an option for a three-year renewal at a cost of more than $260,000. As a steward of public resources, the library is unable to justify that expenditure, when a suitable and larger option exists nearby.

The distance between the two locations is 1.1 miles, a 23-minute walk, a seven-minute bike ride, a five-minute drive or about 15 minutes by bus. The Knott St. location also complements the nearby Matt Dishman Community Center, Urban League of Portland and other community-facing services and affordable housing. Sidewalk service at the Knott St. location will begin this summer, date yet to be determined. The sale of retired library materials to the public will continue, with specific details also to be determined.

“Relocating any community’s library is no small matter and not a decision we take lightly,” said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. “This pandemic demands hard choices and new thinking. The library must balance the needs of the community it serves, along with its obligation to the taxpayers who make library service possible.”

Given the unpredictability of this public health crisis, reopening the library requires flexibility. The library will make changes as necessary and expand other public services and access over time, as public health guidance and physical spaces allow. Updates to library service will be posted at and on library social media channels.

Source: Multnomah County Library

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