Library pushing forward with design, funding and bond request



The Missoula Public Library and its supporters will ask Missoula County commissioners this week to place a library bond on the November ballot – a request that will arrive just days after the library confirmed a property swap with a neighboring landowner.

The library and its backers, including the library foundation and the board of trustees, have also formed a committee to win public support for passage of the bond. A campaign committee is working toward its own goal of raising $5 million from private donors.

“As of this week, we have reached almost $800,000 in pledges,” said Karl Olson, a library spokesperson. “It gets us closer to our $5 million goal from private individuals.”

In an update prepared for the county, Olson said the major donor phase began this month and will last one year. The foundation is authorized to seek up to $30 million for a new building through a bond resolution, though the amount could be less depending on the success of fundraising efforts.

Library backers will make a formal bond request to the county this week, though no final monetary figure will be attached. Commissioners are expected to decide in early March whether to place the bond on the November ballot.

Language for the bond won’t be settled until August.

“There will be another poll conducted by (Harstad Strategic Research),” said Barbara Theroux, co-treasurer of the Bond Initiative Committee. “We’ll wait to craft the exact ballot language upon some of that polling.”

Last week, library director Honore Bray confirmed that the library’s board of trustees had negotiated a property swap with neighboring land owner Terry Payne. Payne owns property just east of the library and the exchange would take effect upon passage of the bond.

Chris Martison, principal at A&E Architects and lead designer on the project, said architects have paused work on the conceptual design and are now working to determine the building’s costs.

“We’re working with Dick Anderson Construction in finalizing a budget on this project, so we’re getting a pretty good pass from a reputable contractor on what this building would largely cost to build,” said Martison. “We should be finalizing that budget in the next week or two.”

Martison said early plans call for a four-story building across from the current library. Plans provide for 88 underground parking spaces and other public amenities, such as an outdoor cafe and room for public meetings.

“The new building will invite and respond to changes in technology, user interests, collection diversity and the environment,” Martison said. “The library would expand from its current 42,000 square feet to about 120,000 square feet.”

Sue Stone, director of the library branch in Seeley Lake, said the county’s affiliated libraries have long benefited from the main branch. Students in Seeley Lake have access to books within the system, along with wi-fi and other educational programs.

A new main branch library would have widespread benefits, she said.

“With a new main building, there would be better benefits – greater benefits,” said Stone. “Some of those include a new and expanded collection in Missoula.”

The main collection currently stands at around 200,000 items. With a new building and more space, she said, the collection would expand to 600,000 items.

“That means branch patrons would have immediate access to more items,” she said. “They wouldn’t have to wait as long for a new book, a best-selling book. They could get a best-selling book while it was still new.”