By Bill Knief
Nineteen years ago, when just about the only practical use for a computer in a library was to track the location of books, Kathleen Knoth was already building the UNM-Taos library in a back room of the old Forest Service building on Civic Plaza Drive under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Augustine Martinez. She has seen it all, practicing her craft while the digital age came into being, going from oak card files and stacks of books to a full service facility where users can sign up for Medicare, apply for a first time driver’s license, get started on their GED, do their own independent research on the Internet, sign up for unemployment, apply for a job, file their tax returns and fill out forms of all kinds.
“We still have lots of books, periodicals and resources for students,” Knoth reflected in a conversation we had last week in her new facilities on the Klauer Campus south of town. “But there’s also access to everyday life situations and you can come to the library and deal with them.
“There are people who come in here and dance rings around me with their computer skills,” she said. “Then there are the people who don’t know how to use a mouse. They are all welcome, because everything we do is tied to the computer. These days, every library is linked to every other library. Once you walk into this little modular building, the whole world opens up to you.
“The best thing about our library is the personal touch. We have skilled, caring people here, and they go that extra mile to be patient and help you with whatever you are trying to do. You can go to the DMV and they have computers there as well, and you can try to do what you need to do online, but no one is going to help you. You can go to Human Services but they don’t have the resources to give you personal attention. You’re on your own. But here we have people who care about what they are doing, and they can take you through the process from beginning to end.
“That’s so important nowadays, having someone take the time to help you to navigate. That’s a big benefit for a library like ours. This is not a shushing library,” she laughed. “We want interaction, discussion. No shushing in this library!”
Knoth emphasized that the UNM-Taos library is not just for UNM-Taos students. The entire community is welcome.
“This is your library, so why not come out and join us, have a good time and get to know how we can help you? We have quite a few community members on the southern end of town that come out to the campus on a regular basis. They’ll get a coffee at our snack bar and then come over here to read the New York Times, or get on a computer. I see them on the mile-long walking path through the sagebrush and past the solar array that Rocky Mountain Youth Corps built for us. Those patrons often get to be our friends. They come to all our events, they’re on our mailing lists and they get excited about what’s going on out here. I expect to see them at our Love Your Library event February 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Bataan Hall, because friend raising goes hand in hand with fund raising.”