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Missoula Public Library shortlisted for international award

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The Missoula Public Library is one of four libraries worldwide on the short list for the Public Library of the Year award. 

The Missoula Public Library’s innovative approach to literacy landed it on the short list for the Public Library of the Year award from the International Federation of Library Associations.

Missoula’s new library is one of four libraries worldwide on the short list for this year’s award.

Three other libraries from Denmark, Latvia and Saudi Arabia join Missoula on the short list.

“I think it’s an incredible honor,” said library spokesperson Karl Olson.

The nomination to the Public Library of the Year short list comes roughly a year after the Missoula Public Library opened last summer. Construction on the library started in 2018.

Local firm A&E Design partnered with Minneapolis-based MSR Design on the library project.

“I do consider it a point of pride for the community,” Olson said. “It was a community effort…so many people came together in support of it.”

Olson highlighted the public-private partnership that funded the library’s construction as a defining feature of the project.

He also said the IFLA appreciated the Missoula Public Library’s commitment to encouraging diverse forms of literacy.

The award goes to “a newly built public library that features open and functional architecture and creative technology solutions, all within the context of its local culture,” according to a press release.

“Libraries historically have been key proponents of reading literacy, and we are still that,” said Olson.

At the Missoula Public Library, however, literacy transcends reading to incorporate “literacies in the plural.”

The spectrUM Discovery Center promotes literacy in science, technology, engineering and math education.

The Families First Learning Lab provides cultural literacy and family development education, and housing MCAT resources in the library helps with digital and media literacy, Olson said.

Olson also said including these different resources under one roof is something “not being done anywhere else in the region and possibly in the country.”

“It puts Missoula on the map,” he said. “It’s incredibly visionary.”

The winner of the Public Library of the Year award will be announced at the IFLA world conference, sponsored by Danish information technology company Systematic, in Dublin, Ireland on July 29. The winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Olson said the library team hasn’t decided yet how it might spend the award money.

A jury of library experts selects the IFLA award winner each year based on eligibility including: the building design’s interaction with local culture, landscape, and community connections; architectural logistics and functionality; flexibility and synergy of programmatic spaces; energy efficiency and sustainability; approaches to learning diversity and social mobility; and building-wide digital integration and access.

The 2021 IFLA Public Library of the Year was the Deichmann Bibliotek in Oslo, Norway.

Olson said this year’s crop of shortlist candidates “is an amazing group to be a part of.”

“I hope we’ll win,” he said.

Further information about IFLA and the annual award can be found at:

For a brief overview and portfolio of Missoula Public Library’s design features, go to:

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