Portland’s Downtown Public Library

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I love libraries. Like really love them. They are the cornerstone of the community and essential, in my opinion, to the growth of public education in the US. So when I first moved to Portland, the first thing I did was borrow a library card and find the nearest branch. It was quaint and small but I heard the main branch downtown was much better. And something about stairs that I had to see.

Yesterday, before my stop at the Saturday Market, I wanted to return books to the downtown branch and browse around. I grabbed a map of the floor-plan and typed “Frida Kahlo” into the catalog computer and began exploring.

The first floor hosts the children’s library and fiction. This may be the largest fiction selection I’ve ever seen. It’s quite overwhelming when you don’t have one author or book in mind. My neck is cramped from browsing this section alone. I found a Peruvian author and Tolkien but nothing stood out so I headed upstairs.

The pictures above are from the stairs leading to the second floor. I whizzed by the group of tourists and tour guide and snapped these two photos. The main stairwell has 92 steps, I heard. And I had to get to the 3rd floor so yeah, 92 steps later, I was there. As I browsed the art collection and more Frida paintings and photographs (she’s my new obsession), I was impressed by how many copies this branch had of each book and how extensive the collection really was. Either people never checked out books or this was one big library chock-full of books. In fact, there was one book I’ve tried finding in the local and main branch in Brooklyn and in Midtown Manhattan to no avail. Portland’s downtown branch had two copies!

I lost myself in the stacks for another hour or so and picked up my goods to check out. Although it’s fun to browse the shelves of this library if you have time, it may be more useful to come with a few topics and authors in mind so you don’t get overwhelmed like me. This city is really lucky to have such an accessible, clean, and stocked library. I wonder what they think of Powell’s nearby.

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