Najifa Farhat

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Public Library has won the Best Library Design Award for 2023 by the American Institute of Architect, and it's one of just five recipients of the recognition across the United States.

Minneapolis-based MSR Design designed the structure in collaboration with Missoula-based A&E Design. Representatives from both architect firms will join library officials in Chicago to accept the award in June.

"We are thrilled to have our central library recognized by the library design world. The project, which took a decade to realize, stands as a bold testament to Missoula's unwavering commitment to providing accessible information, learning, and collaboration in a captivating public space," said Slaven Lee, executive director library.

With a total cost of $38 million, the library project was funded through a $30 million construction bond, passed by voters in 2016, as well as $8 million in private and corporate donations and partner contributions.

Following the completion of construction, the library opened its doors to the public in May 2021. According to Lee, the library has garnered overwhelming support from the people of Missoula, with its design and infrastructure standing out for its ability to meet the modern needs of the community.

"While there are many beautiful libraries, our focus on providing the facilities that our patrons expect in this modern day has set us apart," said Lee.

In addition to its recent recognition, the library was awarded the title of Best Library in the new library category by the International Federation of Library Associations in 2022.

According to MSR Design, the entire building was envisioned as a community living room. The design's core objective was to enhance quality of life and promote equity within the community by incorporating interior finishes that support well-being and good health.

Beyond its role as a reading space, the library also accommodates four other community organizations—Missoula Cable Access Television, Families First Learning Lab, SpectrUM Discovery Area, and the University of Montana Living Lab—to create a free, equitable, and regional cultural hub.

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The library aims to expand its reach to a broader audience in Missoula County. A recent strategic survey conducted by the library revealed that individuals residing far from the library expressed a desire to access its resources.

To address this need, the library officials conceived the idea of a bookmobile, bringing reading accessibility to those living in distant areas.

"We serve the entire Missoula County, and we understand the challenges people face when trying to visit the library regularly. We have heard their demand and are planning to introduce a bookmobile that will serve our patrons, ensuring they no longer have to travel long distances," shared Lee.

The estimated cost for the bookmobile project is approximately $300,000, and the library is currently in the process of securing funds. The aim is to launch the mobile library by the following year.