St. Johns Library closure is imminent

St. Johns Library
St. Johns Library will be closed for a remodel for 1 1/2 years
starting this summer.

Annie Lewis, Multnomah County Library Interim Director, discussed the pending closure and remodel of the St. Johns Library at a recent St. Johns Neighborhood Association meeting (SJNA). The upgrade will be funded by a library bond, and will include an expanded meeting room and updated technology. 

Lewis said there is no closure date yet but it will be later this summer. When the date is known, it will be published on

During the one-and-a-half year closure, Multnomah County Library managers are considering alternatives for the neighborhood. Patrons will still be able to order books online but the Kenton Library will be the pick-up location. The Concordia campus is also being considered in some capacity. Lewis said that targeted, intentional outreach is planned for particular apartment buildings, and for children in the free lunch program. There may also be books by mail.

“We have a mobile tech van that provides classes out in the community and we have a larger mobile library,” she noted. “We would love to hear feedback about what you would like to have.” She then opened the floor for questions.

Q – Will there be education about it as a Carnegie Library?
A – We’ll be maintaining the historic integrity of the St. Johns Carnegie Library.

Q – What happens to the collection of books?
A – Books will be reviewed and sorted if outdated. Outdated books will be sold at the Library Outlet. Good materials will be placed in storage. The St. Johns Library will open with a brand new collection. Electronic books will also be available.

Q – My kids use the library a lot. One-and-a-half years is too long for kids. Electronic books aren’t a good substitute.
A – We plan for an increase in services at Kenton. Staffing for an alternative site is the problem. We’re in a transition period for a couple of years until we get more staff. The staff from currently closed libraries will be sent to the expanded facilities so we will have few staff for an alternative library.

Q – Do I have to reset my “home library” from St. Johns to Kenton? Some people might find it difficult to reset.
A – It will be an automatic process. It will default to Kenton I’m pretty sure. But I will check and get back to DJ DeMello (SJNA chair) about that. When you check out your book it will automatically default.

Q – Is the Kenton Library the nearest location? What is next closest?
A – Yes. The next closest is Northwest. North is closed but will be open this fall.

Q – We were told alternatives were not available because our number of users was low. Have you projected user-ship into the future? What will be the impact of closing the library for a year and a half?
A – It IS a big deal. The alternatives are not as good.

Q – The preschool painted the street in front of the library. Can it be protected during construction? Will there be a new ballot drop-off site?
A – I can bring that question back to elections. I will ask if there can be a temporary ballot box for St. Johns.

Q – What about those looking for jobs online?
A – We started a conversation with homeless service providers to see what they can do.

Q – What about limited parking at the Kenton Library?
A – True. There is only street parking or public transit.

Q – Do any of the currently closed libraries have temporary libraries?
A – Downtown, U of O satellite campus at Concordia College, the Albina and North Portland Libraries. Belmont has a holds facility because they have the largest amount of holds and it would backup the whole system if there weren’t one. There is nothing for Holgate or Midland or any of the refresh facilities.

Q – There must be a decision process so we can appeal to the library leaders. I hope we get a temporary library a few days a week so there’s some kind of consistent service at some clear times.
A – You are welcome to reach out to leaders. The biggest challenge is staffing. I will be taking back your questions about part-time alternatives.