Visitors check out the Kenton Library, the newest branch of the Multnomah County library system. Photo by Jake Thomas.
This week, after countless conversations, a petition circulated by neighbors, and a bond levy, the Kenton Neighborhood and surrounding residential areas now have access to their very own library.
This part of town hasn’t had a nearby library since 1975, when budget cuts caused two branch libraries in Vernon and University Park to close. But beginning in 2010, local residents began lobbying the Library Advisory Board to reopen a local branch, with their efforts paying off on Monday, when the new branch opened its doors.
Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, who represents north and northeast Portland, was elected in 2006, the same year voters passed a five-year operating levy that included specific language for new libraries in North Portland and Easy County. Speaking at a press conference at the new library he said that he made getting it up and running a priority.
After getting elected, he began meeting with residents, who had become accustomed to nearly every government service being slashed, and were skeptical.
“Sure, we’ve heard that before,” said Cogen of the response he got.
Cogen said that the library, located at 8226 North Denver Avenue, was intentionally sited in the heart of Kenton’s burgeoning business district, with the intent that library patrons will stop by local businesses.
“It’s so wonderful to think that this wonderful resource will at our fingertip Monday morning,” said Angela Moos, the chair of the Kenton Neighborhood Association, speaking at a press conference last week.
In true Portland style, the new library, which cost a total of $1.754 million and has a 20,000 book capacity, has many environmentally-friendly features and recycled materials. The walls are composed of wood from back when it was Cyril S. Kenyon Hardware store. The carpets are made from recycled material, and a deliberate effort was made to prevent using any volatile chemicals during construction.
David Miles, the administrator at the Kenton branch, said that the library will include many of the same features at other libraries and a couple new ones as well.
An entire wall will be dedicated to movies and music, and will have a focus on popular titles. It’ll also have a “lucky day” shelf that will feature best-sellers that can’t be put on reserve, so patrons might find a popular new title that they won’t have to wait weeks for.
Miles also said that he aims to have a more pro-active staff that actively helps patrons, unlike some branches where people have to seek out help.
The new branch also has a community meeting space that features the art of local artist Marlene Bauer on the glass panels that has depictions of Portland’s landscape. It also includes more than 20 computer terminals for public use.
“Libraries are more than books,” added Cogen. “It’s a 21 century community hub.”
The Kenton Library is currently open for business. The grand opening will be held March 13 beginning at 10 a.m. The event will include live jazz music, a dedication ceremony, free treats, a Dr. Seuss celebration, and other events.