Last month, I had the opportunity to visit several libraries in Northern New Mexico dedicated to serving rural populations. This whirlwind trip left me in awe of the myriad of ways libraries connect with people throughout the state.
My first stop was the P’oe Tsawa Community Library on the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. This library, right next to a bus stop and a block away from a community school, truly feels embedded in local life. Library Director Rexine Calvert greeted me warmly and provided a full tour of the cozy library decorated with community artwork and featuring a family room for its youngest patrons. The library offers programs for all ages. Its craft programming is especially strong, and I had the opportunity to spend some time with local retirees using library leatherworking tools to make moccasins for family members.
I then met up with Juliana Anastasoff, HEROS agent, UNM Taos faculty, and my hostess for the rest of the trip. We had the opportunity to spend a little time at the Embudo Valley Library and Community Center in the rural village of Dixon. This 501(c)(3) library property features a thrift store, co-op market, orchard, and community center in addition to the library itself, a beautiful eco-friendly building nestled in local grasses and trees. I had the opportunity to learn more about local needs from staff members Annette Maes and Rosalia Ciddio.
We finished up the day at the UNM Taos Library with Library Director Kathleen Knoth on the new Klauer Campus on the south side of Taos. This light-filled library faces west and features multiple fascinating special collections that can only be viewed on-site such as the Southwest Research Center of Northern New Mexico. UNM Taos offers multiple programs specific to its local population, including its Taos Education and Career Center (TECC), which provides a high school equivalency education for all ages and multiple two-year associate degrees and one-year certificate programs, some of which are health sciences-oriented. The library serves a broad array of programs and students, many of whom commute from distant locations.
The next day, we visited the newly designated public library, the Ojo Sarco Community Center and Library in Rio Arriba County. This new library is an extension of an existing community center and offers a small lending library and reliable internet access in an area with many broadband service gaps. Staff person Kara Archuleta gave us a tour and we spent time talking about library services in the playground adjacent to the library. It was exciting to learn about their brand-new library.
Rural libraries provide many communities with much-needed information in addition to support and a strong sense of place. The state is rich in libraries, and they are valuable potential partners as HSLIC seeks to continue to engage with and empower New Mexicans by finding ways to expand and support knowledge around health information resources.