Montana State University's Renne Library has won the Montana Library of the Year award for its transformation from 1950s sterility to a pleasant, contemporary space.

The award was announced at the recent Montana Library Association annual convention in Butte.

The three-year renovation was accomplished while the library remained open.

"I am both honored and proud," said Bruce Morton, MSU libraries dean. "Our staff in particular worked in a construction zone and never wavered in their commitment to serving the MSU community and the state."

Jan Zauha, MSU library reference team leader, nominated the Renne Library for the award.

Staff and students carried on in the midst of "much drilling, screeching, dragging, pounding, whirring, humming, blowing and, occasionally, burning," Zauha said. "We accomplished this with minimal down time and minimal staff or user meltdowns."

The 1999 state Legislature gave the go-ahead for the project and provided $7.5 million. MSU Libraries raised another $300,000. State energy conservation funds were also used.

The renovation added 20 percent more student study space, improved the aesthetic atmosphere and upgraded the building to modern safety codes. The Brewed Awakening coffee bar and the Clowder Flats study area, now popular with students, had been a dark corner and a faceless exit. The main library lounge is graced by a ceramic sculpture by MSU alumnus Rudy Audio.