June 20, 2016

About the Project

Project Timeline

Missoula Public Library’s main facility was built in 1974 when Missoula County’s population was half the current size. Planning in the 1970s did not anticipate demographic shifts, the role of public libraries in a changing society, or that virtually everyone would need access to computers and internet for work, school, and communication.

In 2010, OZ Architects studied the current site’s feasibility and determined that a substantially larger library is needed for (a) a community this size, and (b) the level of service and shared resources our community expects of its public library. OZ looked closely at structure, conditions, public space and service standards, and regional comparisons.

The OZ assessment further concluded that the current facility cannot bear the load of additional floors. Annexing on to the footprint would sacrifice parking. A retrofit of the original shell would be costly — and still not give Missoula Public Library the space it needs to adequately serve the public now, or accommodate growth in the future.

Read the OZ Architects assessment.

In 2014, the Foundation for Missoula Public Library hired CampaignCounsel.org to audit the community’s capacity for supporting a new building project. In 2015 the quiet phase of the Capital Campaign began; and in 2016, a Capital Campaign Committee was formed to cultivate a network of donors and raise $5M in charitable gifts.

In the spring of 2016, Missoula County Commissioners approved a ballot measure for a general obligation, $30M library construction bond. With the assistance of M+R Strategic Services, a “Yes for Missoula Libraries” political committee was established to educate voters about the Library’s needs, the structure of the bond, and the 2016 general election.

On November 8, 2016, Missoula County voters passed the Library bond in a landslide vote of nearly 60%.

View the Missoula County 2016 election results.

Property preparation began in 2017. Construction will begin in 2018. The new central library will be built in the 400 East Main block of downtown Missoula, allowing MPL to operate at its current location during construction. A land-exchange agreement with the neighboring property will save MPL moving costs, and prevent interim service interruptions.

Early 2020: Slated opening for Missoula Public Library’s new downtown facility.

Project Summary

Current Conditions

Operating at over-capacity impacts the growth of learning opportunities, stagnates the collection, and creates long wait times for some materials/services. Additionally, parking has been insufficient for decades.

  • MPL serves more than 700,000 library users a year
  • MPL circulates more than a million items each year
  • The remaining meeting rooms are in high demand and frequently booked for nonprofit groups and community gatherings
  • Lack of adequate kid-friendly learning space hampers the goals of critical early childhood literacy programs
  • The 1970s HVAC system needs frequent, costly repairs
  • On the main level, only 38 seats available for reading/research
  • Electrical outlets and capacity for digital devices are scarce
  • For every new book added, another must be removed
  • The 1974 building design generates costly energy waste

The 21st Century Missoula Public Library

A+E Architects is partnering with Minneapolis-based library specialists MSR Design to plan a building that brings MPL up to public space standards, accommodates future growth, and responds to community needs and change.

Construction estimate: $36.5M. Thirty million derives from a public bond. $5M+ is being raised in a capital campaign. An efficient, new public library will increase our community’s desirability to employers, young families, start-ups, retirees, and new Missoulians.

The new library will represent Missoula’s core values. It will be a life-long learning hub for Missoula County; a permanent anchor of downtown Missoula; and a popular cultural destination for western Montana’s many visitors.

  • 109,000 approx. sf: five levels, including increased parking
  • Innovative partnerships with Children’s Museum Missoula/Families First, UM spectrUM Science Discovery Center, & Missoula Cable Access Television
  • Collection growth from 200,000 to 550,000 eventual items
  • Increased and improved access to learning tools and resources
  • Tripled capacity for computer access and faster internet
  • More public gathering spaces and meeting room flexibility