Missoula Public Library designs set for public unveiling; fundraising nears its goal

A preliminary design of the proposed Missoula Public Library as seen from Adams Street. The project remains a work in progress and is subject to change. (Rendering by A&E Architects and MSR)

The Missoula City Council on Wednesday got its first glimpse of plans for a new Missoula Public Library – a design that envisions a modern, light-filled structure that plays off the city’s natural landscape.

Now years in the making, the 105,000-square-foot facility won the approval of 57 percent of Missoula County voters when they passed a $30 million bond in 2016. The last stretch of fundraising must be finished by the end of the year.

Karl Oslon, director of the Library Foundation, said they’re certain to hit the mark.

“Our goal is $5.5 million and as of the end of February, we had reached $4.37 million of that,” Olson said. “We have a little bit more to go. We’re not even entertaining the question that it won’t happen.”

Over the last month, Olson said another $400,000 has been committed, bringing the project closer to its financial goal. Along the way, A&E Architects has concluded its design development and plans to publicly unveil the results in coordination with the Library Foundation soon.

“We’ve been very careful on how we release information on the library,” said architect Chris Martison. “This is a highly visible and looked-at project in the public’s eye, so we want to be very cautious with what we show and make sure we can build what we show.”

What was shown on Wednesday was a four-story structure with aluminum walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. The main entrance will front Main Street while underground parking will be accessed off Front Street.

Martison said the first floor includes a cafe and Missoula Community Access Television, while the second floor will be dedicated to children’s activities, including reading nooks and the SpectrUM Discovery Center, as well as Family’s First and the Missoula Children’s Museum.

The third floor will serve as the adult library, while the upper floor includes public space and an event room with seating for 250 people. That top floor came with a donation from a local family.

“They’re going to honor someone in their family who believed that community storytelling was important,” Olson said. “They see the event space as one of those big living rooms in our community where people come together and share their narratives.”

An interior view of the first floor, as proposed. The design remains a work in progress and is subject to change. (Design by A&E Architects and MSR)

City Council members were generally supportive of the design.

“We take such pride here in Montana of our natural beauty, and yet very infrequently do we put money behind the structures where we reside, where we participate and where we play,” said council member Heather Harp. “As modern as this is – and it may not agree with everyone – this is extraordinary.”

Plans for a new library have been in the works for eight years, dating back to when the library’s Board of Trustees began discussing a new facility in 2010.

The new building is planned just east of the current library.

“I think this is going to be such an enriching resource for our community,” said council member Gwen Jones. “It’s taking the concept of a library and moving it forward for numerous generations.”