Downtown Portland is home to the oldest library in the western United States that has been open since its humble beginnings as a reading room in a frontier settlement and has been open as a reading room for almost 150 years. The Multnomah County Library comprises several facilities, most notably Central Library on Southwest 10th Avenue between Southwest Taylor Street and Southwest Yamhill Street.
Central Library is free to browse, and newcomers may apply for a free membership to the library at the front desk and immediately begin checking out books and other materials, as well as use computer stations. The library is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, staying open an extra two hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is open noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Central Library takes up an entire city block and features three stories of books, computer stations and periodical archives. Its proximity to Portland State University make Central Library a hot spot for students seeking obscure articles and out-of-print titles that can’t be found anywhere else. There are also several dining and shopping spots nearby, meaning a family trip to Central Library may easily include browsing the many miles of its shelves, followed by a quick stop at a boutique for apparel, accessories or toys, or perhaps a family dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants within just a few blocks.
Multnomah County Libraries comprises 18 total locations throughout Portland, and chances are good that if a certain book isn’t stored at Central Library—or if it already checked out—one of the other locations in the network will have it. There is an eco-roof atop Central Library that may be viewed on a tour; horticulturists in the family will be delighted to see the 17,000+ plants that boost the sustainability of the building. There are several rooms for public use, and the U.S. Bank Room has a capacity that may be used for communities meetings and events.
The Central Library website features a virtual tour for children; be sure to let them check it out when planning a family outing that involves the library, or any time the tykes want to feel scholarly. Overall, Central Library makes for a splendid family destination that will appeal to the many interests of the kids and adults planning to stop by.
Getting to Central Library via car is easy enough for anyone familiar with Portland’s Downtown area; drive south on Southwest 11th or north on 10th toward Yamhill and keep an eye out for street parking, as there isn’t a designated lot nearby. Many TriMet bus lines serve the surrounding area of Downtown Portland and have stops within three blocks of Central Library, and the Portland Streetcar and MAX Blue and Red lines all have a stop named specifically for the library. There is limited bike parking on the block of the library and nearby.