MISSOULA — Missoula Public Library staff enjoy a very "easy" start to the first day of being open to the public, as a steady stream of people but not a crowd pay their first visit.
The library was completed last summer but closed to all but staff because of the pandemic. That changed Monday, as the doors opened for "at-risk" patrons.
The capacity is limited to 100, including staff. Everyone gets a wristband at the door, for one-hour access.
An announcement is made for people with a certain color to leave after the hour, making room for more. Access is limited, with directional arrows and some areas closed, including furniture.
People were getting lots of help dealing with the new self-check systems, or just finding what they wanted. But the few kids on hand were already enjoying the new features, like "the hive" while they waited for parents.
"Hopefully we'll be out of this by July," said Library Director Honore Bray. "We will be having a grand opening on July 14th. And we hope we don't to limit the number of people in the building at that time. But if we do we will."
"We'll start at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and go through the rest of the day until 8 o'clock at night. So lots of people will have lots of opportunities to come in."
For now, the library will only be open in the mornings, alternating between "at risk" and regular patrons each day, with curbside pickup still available.
The public opening of the new Missoula Public Library comes after not only eight months of waiting but years of planning and construction.
Replacing the 1974 library had been discussed for years, with a 2010 study determining Missoula needed a larger library at a new location.
The Foundation for Missoula Public Library was organized in 2014, helping to raise an additional $5 million through charitable gifts.
Missoula County Commissioners cleared the way for a vote on a $30 million bond issue in 2016 which was approved by 60% of the voters that fall.
Construction started after the final design was wrapped up in 2018.
The library was ready for occupancy late last summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the public opening.