World’s best new public library found
In Missoula, Montana, environmental awareness go hand in hand with local culture and digital innovation, and Missoula Public Library has now been named Public Library of the Year 2022.
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 boats everything from camera equipment and production studios to genealogical research facilities, family workshops and, of course, loads of books. Missoula Public Library offers its citizens a unique place to meet for play, learning and experimentation.
The magnificent natural surroundings that serve as a backdrop to the library 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. Consequently, the library could not avoid catching the jury’s attention, and Missoula Public Library can now lay claim to being the world’s best new public library anno 2022.
The Public Library of the Year award is presented each year by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). It happens in collaboration with the Danish software company Systematic, which also sponsors the USD 5,000 prize-money which is paid to the winner. This year, 20 libraries from 17 different countries were in the running for the award. Four were nominated, and the final winner, Missoula Public Library, has just been announced at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), which this year is being held in Dublin on 26-29 July.
Jury chair Jakob Guillois Lærkes explains the jury’s decision:
“This year’s field of nominated libraries is particularly strong, and reveals the breadth of scope within new library buildings. From large and impressive prestige buildings to innovative and sustainable solutions and smaller local meeting venues. But Missoula Public Library has it all. The building stands out for its beautiful architecture that pays homage to the surrounding landscape while functioning as a library with a wealth of offers and possibilities that also serves as a meeting place for the local community. The library therefore scores highly against all the award’s criteria. It’s a library that you would relish having in your own local area. It’s a library built for the future.”
MSR Design and A&E Design created the vision behind the newly built Missoula Public Library. They found inspiration for the library's design in the surrounding nature – the stairs, walls and furniture are clad in wood, and the violet colour of the interior is a tribute to Montana's state flower, the bitterroot. The main central stairs 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 Mount Sentinel 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 long-lasting, flexible and sustainable. The design of the building therefore includes an energy-saving air distribution system, and the building is heated with geothermal energy.
The main library’s 106,676 square feet are distributed across four floors:
The ground floor functions as a meeting place. Here, there is a café, a shop as well as selected library materials. In addition, Missoula Community Access Television’s (MCAT) high-tech production studio is available for people to experiment with technology and media production. On the ground floor you will also find the University of Montana 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 for play and learning with the Hank and Nancy Harrington Children’s Library, Families First Learning Lab and the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area.
The second floor houses the library’s book collections, a kitchen which can be used by citizens, study areas and a centre for genealogical research.
The top floor is intended for events, receptions and other social arrangements. If you step onto the outdoor terrace, it is possible to enjoy the exceptional views of the mountain scenery.
Missoula Public Library thus houses four other organisations, and its multifunctional role as a library and knowledge, learning and community centre make this year’s Public Library of the Year a unique place for people to gather, interact and innovate in modern and scenic surroundings.
The Public Library of the Year award is presented by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in collaboration with the Danish software company Systematic A/S with the aim of paying tribute to new public libraries.
The award is presented to a library in any country worldwide which has excelled at combining open and functional architecture with creative IT solutions while at the same time involving digital technologies and local culture. The award comes with USD 5,000/DKK 32,000/EUR 4,200 in prize-money, which is sponsored by Systematic.
To qualify for the award, the library must be newly built or housed in buildings that have not previously been used as a library.
The award was presented at the IFLA’s annual world congress, which was held this year in Dublin, Ireland, on 26-29 July.