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An Educational Feast

Missoula Community Access Television finds home in the Missoula Public Library

Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) has a new space in the Missoula Public Library (MPL), and it’s buzzing with activity. DJ Two Shoes comes in to record his weekly program “Send Up the Beat” in the Missoula Community Radio studio. An MCAT staff member patiently educates a library patron on how to use editing software. MCAT General Manager, Joel Baird, meets with community members to discuss upcoming media projects. MCAT has been providing the public with free access to a variety of media sources for 30 years, but their new space has allowed them to serve a broader section of the community.

For years, MCAT was located in the basement of the Circle Square building at 500 N. Higgins. They had partnered with the library for several decades, providing services like using their cameras to record meetings that held there. Then, as the library was making plans for their new building several years ago, they invited MCAT to be a part of their integrated space.

“When the library was being built, they were inspired by the concept of culture houses, common in Scandinavia,” said Joel. “A place for the community to gather and explore various interests under one roof.”

Today, MCAT occupies several rooms along the southeast corner of the library on the first floor. Joel says technology is woven throughout this floor with the UM Living Lab and MakerSpace as neighbors. “That’s our trip,” says Joel. “Fun stuff to do with tech, so you can see it’s just naturally very complementary.”

MCAT’s facilities are open and available to the public during library hours. The counter is manned at all times by a helpful staff member. You can make an appointment to meet with the staff, or drop in if they’re not too busy, to get help with media issues and to learn how to use Apple Final Cut Pro 10 or Adobe Premiere on one of the editing stations.

In the spacious light-filled office you’ll find Joel, happy to chat about MCAT’s services. The office is also the hub for the “T” in MCAT. Two televisions are broadcasting programming around the clock like The World Fusion Show and all city and county government meetings on channels 189 and 190 through Charter Spectrum.

Across the hall, the podcast room houses a state-of-the-art podcast machine and four headsets with microphones. Missoula Community Radio, a full-power community radio station broadcasting over 101.5 FM on KFGN, is also contained within MCAT’s facilities.

“They had operated for six years in the Union Club and I invited them to come over here since we have space and free rent,” says Joel. The anchor of the new digs is the 28x30' studio with a green screen, a special effects video switcher for four cameras, an audio mixer, and computer-controlled lights.

MCAT is also the keeper of the “Library of Things” collection where a library card allows patrons to check out a staggering array of media devices like camcorders, SLR cameras, telescopes, iPads, phone chargers, and even birdwatching kits and bike locks.

Accessibility is the greatest perk of this educational resource, and it’s free and available to all. Visit MCAT.org to book the studio or podcast room, borrow equipment, and request help from the staff to record, archive, and distribute a non-commercial program to run on their cable channels. They also offer numerous weekly workshops like an introduction to video editing, podcasting, and screenwriting, as well as a general tour and training on the MCAT media tools.

Joel has been with MCAT since 1989 and his passion for the role that the organization plays in the Missoula community is evident. He is excited about the collaborations between the library and all of its in-house partners, and he is especially eager to talk about two new programs that brings kids into the library and gets them excited about the library and all it has to offer.

“The Second Saturday Kids Passport Program” is held on the second Saturday of each month. Kids can participate in activities hosted by the five “All Under One Roof” library partners, which explore the theme of Montana’s DNA. At each stop, kids will get their passport stamped and a full passport wins a prize. Activities include hands-on stop animation with dinosaurs at MCAT, indigenous art and stories at UM Living Lab, and lessons about local plants at spectrUM. Every Saturday at 11 a.m., MCAT also hosts a dance party for kids. Parents, caregivers, and children can gather together in the studio and boogie down to kid-friendly dance music under a spinning mirror ball.

The Missoula Public Library was recently awarded the “World’s Best Public Library Award” at the World Library and Information Congress in Dublin, Ireland over the summer. This award "recognizes creative integration of innovative technology and open, sustainable architecture with reflections of local culture and landscape." It’s safe to say that MPL is a new, updated resource hub for educational (and fun!) experiences that appeal to adults and children alike. See you there. 

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