Multnomah County Library Closed in Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Library director says it's the first such closure in modern times.

All branches of the Multnomah County Library are closed as of tonight, in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Portland loves its libraries, so the closure is another benchmark of the extraordinary steps being taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"Closing public libraries like this in Multnomah County is an extraordinary measure," says Vailey Oehlke, the county's director of libraries. "It has never happened in modern times."

No reopening date was announced. County officials urged Portlanders to not return library books until efforts to contain the virus were lifted. No late fees will be assessed.

The decision came hours after the library had announced it would stay open but waive library fines. Oehlke says it's a sign of how fast the situation is moving that the decision changed over the course of the day.

The library branches' WiFi signals will remain turned on for anyone who wants to sit outside a building or in the parking lots, says Oehlke. And patrons are encouraged to check out e-books.

The closure comes at the end of a day that saw pillars of civic and social life close their doors or reduce services.

The Portland Art Museum this afternoon announced its closure until April 1. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry closed this morning. City Club of Portland said it would move most of its forums online.