In 2015 the Library Journal named the Belgrade Community Library the Best Small Library in America. Now, after a year of planning in collaboration with Montana State University’s School of Architecture Community Design Center, the Belgrade library is on the way to achieving a major expansion.
Under the direction of Tom McNab, associate teaching professor in the School of Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture and the director of CDC, eight architecture and mechanical engineering students prepared a comprehensive design to remodel and enlarge the library.
“The Belgrade library was voted one of the best small town libraries in the United States but they are in need of more—more space, more books, more opportunities, more everything,” explained architecture senior Darren Brown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In the past 16 years alone, Belgrade library cards have increased from 1,788 in the year 2000, to 6,923 library cards in 2016. Feeling the pressure of a needed expansion, library director Gale Bacon approached the CDC to collaborate with the library on the recommendation of former MSU President Geoff Gamble.
Starting in the spring of 2016 and continuing into the following summer and fall semesters, students launched fact-finding investigations to evaluate the library and community needs. They met with community members and stakeholders, toured other libraries and related venues around the state, attended Belgrade library events and then created a design that reflected the community’s needs and desires.
“No matter how many hours it took, [the students] wanted to make sure this project was well done,” Bacon said. “They took this project to heart.”
The new design reflects current library design philosophy that proposes an evolution from library to community centered amenity, according to McNab. The proposed CDC student design entirely remodels the existing Belgrade building, expanding the size from 9,700 square feet to 20,000. The new building will include an upper-level coffee shop, larger adult, children and teen sections, additional staff space, a technology center and a public meeting room that can seat up to 200 occupants.
The CDC focuses on a community/university partnership approach which includes extensive research and design that supports MSU’s land-grant mission of serving the people of Montana, McNab said.
“The CDC offers a unique opportunity to work with a client to provide services very similar to a professional setting,” said Shane Caye, a graduate student in the School of Architecture from Missoula. “This real world project was a tremendous stepping stone into my first experience of working in a professional office.”
Throughout the process, students took on individual roles, from documenting research, creating the physical library model and developing digital models and drawings, explained Colin Tippett, who participated during the first semester of the process. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Tippett finished his undergraduate degree last spring and is on track to enter graduate school at MSU this fall.
“Most work in studio classes are individual, so designing as a team was an interesting experience,” Tippett said. “Working in a team was very helpful in balancing ideas and developing a way of testing design ideas. We worked really hard to make sure the Belgrade Community Library would be successful.”
Students worked with a variety of local professionals, including Sam Fox of Beaudette Consulting Engineers, Kristi Miller of KMD Design and Darren Huls of Pierce Flooring. Additionally, Sherrill Halbe, MSU interior design instructor, donated her time to work specifically with students to develop an interior design for the library that included selection of materials, textures and colors.
“This project significantly shaped my views on architecture as a whole,” said Chaundra Monical, a senior from Billings who will graduate from the program in May. “In studio we are given a building type with a program and everything else is up to us. It was eye opening to be able to design for a client and really begin to understand the psychological aspect of architecture. Architects are expected to analyze what a client says they want and design something they didn't even know was possible. It was amazing to be able to be a part of this process and to see it first-hand.”
With the students’ extensive planning, design and renderings, the Belgrade library has established a capital campaign to fundraise for expansion. In November, Milesnick Ranch kicked off the campaign with a $400,000 donation to the library.
“By connecting with the CDC and bringing in a community task force led by CDC students, we were able to create a vision to address the needs of the library community,” Bacon said. “The models and renderings have given us a chance to help our community and potential donors see the thoughtful and purpose driven planning that went into the process.”
Royce Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, says the CDC is an important and vibrant initiative in the college.
“The College of Arts and Architecture embraces community engagement as the cornerstone of local and global creative citizenship,” Smith said. “The CDC has ensured that as Bozeman grows and faces new challenges and opportunities, our faculty and students can share their innovative ideas and talents with our community leaders and partners.”
MSU students who worked on the CDC plans for the Belgrade Community Library were: Darren Brown, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Katie Calderwood, Hamilton, Montana; Shane Caye, Missoula, Montana; Chaundra Monical, Billings, Montana; Jacob Ryan, Belle Fourche, South Dakota; Colin Tippett, Fairbanks, Alaska; Andrew Wagenblast, Springfield, Oregon; and Emilee Williams, Lolo, Montana.
Tom McNab, 994-3793, email@example.com