By Bill Knief
“It has been a bittersweet experience,” mused UNM-Taos head librarian Kathleen Knoth last week in commenting on the library’s long-awaited move to Klauer Campus. “We have seventeen years of history in that historic building on Civic Plaza Drive and I had to ask, do we really want to leave this area? The UNM-Taos Library has been my second home in the heart of town since 1995.
“ The library actually opened long before UNM-Taos became a branch of the University of New Mexico. Back then Augustine Martinez was the director, Antonio Delgado was dean of instruction, and Dennis Cruz was the business manager. I was working as a librarian at the Millicent Rogers Museum, so the community was familiar with the fact that I was a professional librarian, and they started me at ten hours a week. I had one room, one desk, one computer and one bookshelf and I was told to start an academic library. La Plaza Telecommunity, Taos’ first internet service provider, was right next door, however, and they had about ten computers in their hub. Even back then, what became UNM-Taos was building partnerships with other local institutions. We housed La Plaza in exchange for some internet services. They were able to provide virtual library services for the Taos Educational Center students while we developed the physical library.
“It is important to keep your finger on the pulse of the college and be aware of what the needs are, and I think we have remained fairly balanced in regard to print and electronic resources. We have changing programs and varying degrees of student skills. We serve everything from GED to PhD patrons, we have a wide range of resources and services, and we continue to evolve and network with UNM libraries as well as all the other academic libraries throughout the state.
“We have always worked collaboratively so that we can offer our own students things here in Taos that a lot of other community colleges across the country might not be able to offer. In a way, when you come through our doors you are entering every library in the state.”
“But the goal has always been to get the library out to the college campus. When Dr. Kate O’Neill came on board as Executive Director a building to house the library was her top priority. But she first had to spend her expertise, time and money getting infrastructure out there, and that was no easy task. We are very grateful for that.”
With enrollment increasing to over 1,700 students this fall, UNM-Taos still faces major growing pains. The statewide General Obligation Bonds for Education are a key source of funding for higher education construction, but in 2010, at the height of the financial crisis, New Mexicans voted down the essential bonds by a narrow margin. Fortunately, however, the Taos Municipal Schools were able to effect the transfer of a portable building to the hard-pressed campus that is the current home of the library.
On October 9 early voting began for the 2012 reissue of General Obligation Bond C for Education, and this time, if it passes statewide, three million dollars will be available for the capital improvements necessary for a permanent home for the library. Because this financial instrument is a continuation of the state’s bonding capacity, which is constantly being paid down as the bonds come due, it will cause no increase in property taxes. It is hoped that people will carefully consider G.O. Bond C on November 6.
“We will be having an open house for the entire community on October 22 from 11 a.m to 3 p.m.,” Knoth continued. “I feel very strongly about emphasizing that our library is open to the public, as always, whether they are UNM-Taos students or not. Anybody can come in and get a library card and start using the resources, read a book, get on a computer, and I hope they will also take some time to take a stroll around the campus. It’s a great place, and I feel really good about being a part of it now.”