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Press Release, November 2020

For Immediate Release

Missoula Public Library
Contact: Honore Bray @ (406)541-8864 or Email

Public Library Unveils Policy Changes, New Resources, and Expanded Services

The Missoula Public Library Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that construction at 455 E. Main is expected to be complete by the end of November, and, pending municipal certificates, Dick Anderson Construction will formally turn the building over to the Library. Minor finish
work will likely take place until the end of 2020 but will not affect MPL’s operations.

 

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 infection rate currently rising in our community, MPL Trustees, in consultation with Missoula Health officials, have made the difficult decision to not open the building to public use at this time. The prospect of reopening, and Health department recommendations, will be revisited at each upcoming monthly Trustee meeting.

 

“We are eager to welcome community members into their new Library,” states Barbara Berens, MPL Board of Trustees Chair. “But our community’s safety is a top priority. The pandemic is forcing the Library to respond creatively and thoughtfully to a new normal.”

 

While Missoulians work together to flatten the pandemic’s curve and respond to its impact on work, school, and family life, Missoula Public Library is committed to safely getting as many books and materials as possible into the hands of library users, via online or phone check-outs
and curbside pick-up. The Library also provides a growing menu of digital resources and virtual programs. Currently, downtown Library staff works in two separate teams and under stringent protocols to limit individual exposure and keep building occupancy manageable.

 

According to MPL director, Honore Bray: “If there’s one thing that never changes, it’s that public libraries learn to adapt quickly to change. Our staff continues to strategize ways to meet the reading, learning, and information needs of library users.”

 

Beginning November 9, a number of expanded and new library services and resources will be
offered, including:

 

  • Curbside lending will expand from four to six days of service. And Reference assistance
    is now available, by phone or by email, Monday through Saturday.
  • In an effort to bridge the digital divide exacerbated by COVID-19, MPL is now checking
    out Chromebooks and Wi-fi hotspots to library users, via curbside lending.
  • The Library is now the host of Axis 360, an app that gives our cardholders exclusive
    access to an expanded, cloud-based collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks.
  • In collaboration with our “one roof” partners at spectrUM Discovery Center and Families
    First Learning Lab, winter activity kits for kids are available for pick up at the Library.
  • The Library’s website, featuring design directly inspired by the new building’s regional
    modernism, serves as the portal to a full range of lifelong learning resources.

In conjunction with the near-completion of construction and pandemic-related changes to operations, Missoula Public Library’s leadership is also ending its policy on overdue fines.

 

This policy change, modeled after public library trends across the US, is a move towards being a less punitive institution and making access to resources and information more equitable for all Missoulians. Individuals of limited income backgrounds often self-limit their use of library lending out fear of incurring debt, and despite their potential and compelling need for the basic services a public library provides. Ironically, studies show that trusting patrons to return their checked-out items when they are finished with them actually increases overall circulation, improves return rates, and generates donations in support of Library programs.

 

Missoula Public Library’s fine-free policy change is effective immediately. It does not apply to lost or damaged items, or Interlibrary Loan late fees.

 

For information about MPL’s new hours, services, resources, and policies visit our website or contact the Library at (406)721-2665.

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