The Central Library

Steps up to the second floor of the Central Library. The Central Library has many building features, including unique architectural designs. Photo by Kiran Weasel

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, the Central Library has been around for almost as long as the city itself. With three stories of architectural beauty filled with skilled, intricate designs and patterns, the Central Library is a favorite spot for residents and tourists.

When entering the Central branch, one of the first things to be noticed is the height of the building. Most of the library branches in Multnomah County are small and usually have only one story. Stepping inside, one may confuse it for more of a museum than an actual library. Directly to the right of the entrance is the children’s section filled with classic stories. Right across the hall is the teen section, the place kids go when they think they are too mature for children’s books. As a younger child, the Central Library was my favorite, as it had every single book I could possibly imagine. Many other children share my sentiment, with one kid in the children’s section saying that, “he sometimes gets lost in the aisles” when going to this Library. While the children’s section is quite captivating for the younger audience, the upper two levels are for those interested in science, history and everything in between.

One of the most interesting places in the Central Library is the magazine section. While they do have popular magazines, the older, more ancient magazines are super fun to look at. On the second floor there is a whole section dedicated to magazines from decades ago, bound together for the use of the public. Although you may not take these items home, it is always fascinating to flip through the news, fashion, gardening, photography and anything else that was popular then.

The Central Library brings together all sorts of people, and they come for all different reasons. Katheryn Schwab, a librarian at Central, states how there are fewer and fewer places for people to go without being harassed or asked to leave. The Central Library “is one of the last places that is free and open to the public.” This means that while many people come to the library to check out books, there are a number of those who come to the library for a different purpose. For Schwab, the accessibility of the library is crucial. “It’s really important to create a community for everyone, and the Central Library is a place unlike any other that allows for that opportunity,” she says.

Aside from books, people come to the library for classes, music, or to hang out. Karen, another librarian who works at Central, states that her favorite thing about the Central Library besides the enormous book selection is the live music. “Sometimes there is live music out in the Gallery on the third floor, and it will ring out into the rest of the library and it makes everyone more vibrant.” For her, the sense of community is built through the events that the Central Library has to offer. “We have a gallery on the third floor that switches every few months. We have classes, workshops and a whole bunch of other resources to help those who need it.”

The Central Library is home to over thousands of books, but it contains so much more. Through the people it brings together on a daily basis, the classes provided weekly, and the areas in the building that welcome strangers to sit and open a book, the Central Library is an inviting and unique community here in Portland, Oregon.

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