In Missoula, Montana, environmental awareness goes hand in hand with local culture and digital innovation, and the Missoula Public Library has now been named the 2022 Public Library of the Year.
The Missoula Public Library stands at the foot of Mount Sentinel, a beautiful and innovative building where people come together for culture and learning. The newly built library houses everything from photographic equipment to production studios, genealogical research facilities, family workshops and, of course, many books. The Missoula Public Library offers its citizens a unique meeting place to play, learn and experience.
The beautiful natural surroundings that serve as the library’s backdrop are impressively reflected in its construction and interior. Nature and the surrounding landscape can be seen in many aspects of the library’s architecture and furnishings. Therefore, the library could not avoid attracting the jury’s attention, and the Missoula Public Library can now claim to be the best new public library in the world in 2022.
The Public Library of the Year award is presented annually by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). This is happening in conjunction with Danish software company Systematic, which is also sponsoring the $5,000 prize that is paid out to the winner. This year, 20 libraries from 17 different countries were in the running for the award. Four have been nominated and the final winner, the Missoula Public Library, was just announced at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), being held this year in Dublin from 26-29 July. “We are thrilled to be the recipients of this important award which elevates the intersection of library services and architecture. Thank you to the jury for this honor and congratulations to our pre-selected library colleagues. It’s inspiring to witness all the great work being done around the world.
Honoré Bray and Traci Lesneski
Library Director (retired) and CEO and Director of MSR Design
Jury President Jakob Guillois Laerkes explains the jury’s decision:
“This year, the field of nominated libraries is particularly strong and reveals the extent of the reach of new library buildings. From large and impressive prestige buildings to innovative and sustainable solutions and smaller local meeting places. But the Missoula Public Library has it all. The building is notable for its beautiful architecture that pays homage to the surrounding landscape while functioning as a library with a wealth of offerings and possibilities that also serves as a meeting place for the local community. The library therefore scores high on all criteria for the award. It is a library that you would like to have in your own region. It is a library built for the future.
MSR Design and A&E Design created the vision behind the new Missoula Public Library. They found inspiration for the design of the library in the surrounding nature – the stairs, walls and furniture are clad in wood, and the interior’s purple color is a tribute to Montana’s state flower, the bitter root. The main central staircase between the floors is thus reminiscent of climbing a mountain. Each of the floors offers different activities and options. On the upper floor, visitors can enjoy magnificent views of Sentinel Mountain from the library’s rooftop terrace.
When designing the new Missoula Public Library, MSR and A&E had three guiding principles: The new library should be durable, flexible, and long-lasting. The building design therefore includes an energy-efficient air distribution system, and the building is heated with geothermal energy.
The 106,676 square meters of the main library are spread over four floors:
The ground floor serves as a meeting place. Here there is a café, a shop as well as selected documents from the library. Additionally, Missoula Community Access Television’s (MCAT) high-tech production studio is available for those wishing to experiment with technology and multimedia production. On the ground floor, you’ll also find the University of Montana’s Living Lab, which bridges the gap between the library and the world of research.
The first floor is dedicated to children and families. Here, there are spaces to play and learn with the Hank and Nancy Harrington Children’s Library, the Families First Learning Lab, and the University of Montana’s spectrUM Discovery Zone.
The second floor houses the library’s book collections, a kitchen that can be used by citizens, study spaces, and a genealogical research center.
The top floor is for events, receptions and other social arrangements. If you go up to the outdoor terrace, it is possible to enjoy the exceptional view of the mountain landscape.
The Missoula Public Library is home to four other organizations as well, and its multifunctional role as a library and center for knowledge, learning, and community makes this year’s Public Library of the Year a unique place where people can gather. , interact and innovate in a modern and picturesque environment.
The Library Journal Design Institute is scheduled to take place at the Missoula Public Library on September 29, 2022. Details here.