Library renovations bring new technology, space to teens


The digital rendering for the outside of the Midland library. The building, 6,000 square feet larger than the original, will reopen next year. (Courtesy of Colloqate Design)

Multnomah County is revamping their libraries to give the community more resources and opportunities. One of the main upgrades includes teen spaces that will provide a place for Portland youth to complete tasks, as well as use updated materials. 

These renovations are possible because of Multnomah County Measure 26-211. Voters said “yes”  to a library capital bond in 2020 that gave the county $387 million to fund library updates. 

One of the biggest arguments in favor of this bond was the lack of space compared to the amount of library users.

“For library systems that serve as many people as we do, we had some of the smallest spaces in the country,” Sara Ryan, Teen Services Librarian at Multnomah County, said. 

Holgate and Midland libraries, which are the closest libraries to McDaniel that are getting these youth-focused spaces, closed for renovation in December of last year and are projected to re-open in 2024. Both buildings are being expanded and redesigned and will have dedicated teen rooms for “technology, homework and creative expression,” as stated on the Multnomah County Library website. 

The bond funds will expand Holgate to triple the size of the current building, or 21,000 square feet; Midland will receive 6,000 more square feet of space, bringing the total building size to 31,000 square feet. 

A resource that the libraries currently have for teens is online and in-person teen council meetings every week. Students are invited to attend to discuss books, issues, resolutions and more.

Pre-teen Elodie Kratzer, a resident of the Midland neighborhood and an attendee of teen council, is excited for the renovations, but unsure about the amount of time she would want to spend in a teen room. 

“[Midland] does not do a great job sometimes of making it feel more cozy, like you’d actually want to sit there for a long time,” Kratzer said. “I’ll just have to see how I feel when it finally opens because it really depends on how much time I actually want to spend in that space.”

Ahnalya De Leeuw, a teen council member and attendee of the Midland library, is very excited about what the new spaces might hold.

“I just love the idea of updating technology,” De Leeuw shared. “And maybe more demonstrations and space for doing things like makerspace and art tutorials and things like that.” 

However, not all young adults are interested in these new spaces or even know they are being created. Ryan hopes that teens talking to each other about the renovations will help encourage them to explore these libraries in a new way.

“I will not lie, I think it’s a bit of a challenge,” Ryan said in relation to getting teens to go to libraries. “Mostly, things happen by word of mouth when it’s most effective.”

For Ryan, the most important part of creating these spaces is making the libraries more welcoming.

“If you start going and you have a good experience, then you’re more likely to return,” she shared.