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Missoula Public Library

Missoula Public Library

With their guiding principles in place, architects have begun designing a new Missoula Public Library, saying the end result will serve as a dynamic community hub blending a number of uses.

The high-profile project has generated widespread public interest, and while an initial design is still months away, the architects have already been asked to show their work.

“We’ve got people stopping in our office asking to see the plans, but we’re still programming,” said Chris Martison, principal with A&E Architects.

“We handed out a bunch of cards at Out to Lunch and held a public forum at the library to talk about opportunities, destinations and contextual ideas. We got hundreds of ideas and points of view.”

A design team comprised of A&E Architects and MSR of Minneapolis, when vying for the right to design the new facility, challenged the library’s Board of Trustees to think outside the box.

The team won the contract and is now in the early stages of creating a “national model of libraries” that will also house the Children’s Museum Missoula and spectrUM Discovery Area.

The facility is planned for Main Street in downtown Missoula, where the current library now stands. A student housing development is also planned for Front Street, just across the street.

“We’re meeting with all the specific users and developing what their needs are, and understanding the space needs they have,” Martison said of the library. “We still have to understand the relationships between these organizations, where their ability is to share and collaborate. That will inform us on how to assemble this building.”

As envisioned, the library will serve as a dynamic community hub and a resource “with a clear center from which all activities radiate.”

Martison said the facility will cater to diverse user needs and be responsive to the city’s heritage and landscape.

“These are some of the ideas that are going to guide us through the process,” he said. “These are things we’ve heard, and we’ve compiled them into these principles that will guide us and balance our decisions.”

Library Director Honore Bray said public input has been robust over the past two months. Comments have requested quiet study spaces, a place for creative discovery, a learning center for children and high bandwidth for rapid Internet exchange.

“And books, of course,” Bray said. “They have good ideas what will make the library be a destination. It’s an exciting time.”

Bray said the architects have made their rounds through the library, meeting with employees and observing the many departments. The library’s partners have also been involved in the process, she said.

With each visit by the architects, Bray said, the vision becomes more refined. A national library specialist is expected to help the process move forward now that it’s off the ground.

“We know what we want to do, and she’ll help us figure out how to get to there,” Bray said.

The library is also preparing to launch its capital campaign. The new facility will cost roughly $35 million, and the library will look to privately raise as much funding as possible before approaching the public with a potential bond.

“The capital campaign starts in-house this week,” Bray said. “We should have some type of rendering by the middle of September so they can actually create the capital campaign materials, so people know what they’ll be donating to.”

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