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The architectural team that challenged Missoula Public Library’s Board of Trustees to think outside the box was awarded the design contract for a proposed new library Wednesday night.

A&E Architects, based in Missoula, and MSR from Minneapolis teamed up to present their vision and approach to designing the new library last week. Three other firms offered similar presentations.

In the end, the board selected A&E to head the project, which ultimately hinges on voter approval of a 2016 bond.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of that project,” said Chris Martison, principal with A&E in Missoula. “This library will help put Missoula on the map. It’s really going to change downtown.”

The board challenged four architectural firms to present their approach to building a new facility on the site of the current library, preferably while the existing library remains open.

As envisioned by the board, the environmentally sustainable building would offer 120,000 square feet of space providing a number of functions. The size was recommended by the American Library Association for a community with Missoula’s projected population.

The amount of the 2016 bond depends in part on how much the library can raise privately before it turns to voters to help fund the $35 million facility.

“We’ll be partnering with spectrUM and the Children’s Museum Missoula to expand the early literacy component in the library,” said Honore Bray, library director. “MSR has built many libraries and museums and understands the needs of each and how they will work cohesively together.”

Martison said A&E will meet with the board to hammer out the contract and set a timetable for the next few months. Committee meetings and public workshops will be part of the process.

He said MSR will bring its own experience to the project.

“They’ve done over 200 libraries around the country and won over 160 national awards,” Martison said. “They’re one of the best library architects in the country.”

Bray said A&E’s partnering with MSR made the team stand out.

“MSR, who is the library architect with A&E, were the top choice of the scoring committee,” Bray said. “After discussions on the qualities of each firm, MSR stood out as the firm that could best fit the needs of the future Missoula Public Library.”

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