News Column

Dixon community pools efforts to make new library a reality

May 4, 2014

By Uriel J. Garcia, The Santa Fe New Mexican



May 04--DIXON -- The Embudo Valley Community Library started in 1992 in a rented room with two volunteer librarians and a collection of donated books.

On Saturday, the community celebrated the opening of a new $600,000, 3,000-square-foot library, across the street from the Dixon Elementary School on N.M. 75, with live music and a reading from local author Paulette Atencio.

The new facility, with brightly colored walls, has been open since February. It serves the Northern New Mexico communities between Velarde and Vadito, which have a combined population of about 8,000.

The library carries about 12,000 items, including books, CDs and DVDs, and is a popular meeting place for local residents, who raised money for the new building by holding bake sales and other fundraisers.

The library a good example of a successful grass-roots community effort. The idea originated in the kitchen of one of the eight original founders in 1990.

"We just felt that there was a need for it," said Shel Neymark, the library board president and one of the eight founders.

The first library in the community was immediately successful. It spawned early childhood education programs and served as a site for community events. But it quickly outgrew its rented space, and board members began looking for a permanent home.

Then a 1.5-acre property that included the old general store and a small house was up for sale. A donor offered $200,000 if the board could raise the other $50,000. People were "enthused," Neymark said, and they raised the money in three weeks. "There was just a lot of excitement for the library," he said.

The library group rented the general store building to the Dixon Co-op Market and set up the library in the house. People began congregating there, especially after a local bar closed down.

It was quickly apparent, however, that the space couldn't handle the volume of visitors who were coming to the library, and the board soon began planning and raising money for a new purpose-built facility.

So again, the community held bake sales and other benefits. Shelves and books were donated as the library's popularity grew.

"We do a lot without a lot [of resources]," Neymark explained.

Three part-time staffers now run the library, and it depends heavily on the 40 volunteers who come throughout the week, said Felicity Fonseca, the library's director.

It offers an after-school program and free Internet service, and sponsors a seasonal farmers market as well as annual community fiestas.

The old library is being remodeled to become a community center, radio station and early childhood education center. The low-power FM station will air about 10 locally produced shows, Fonseca said.

Gabriel Palley, 35, a University of New Mexico student who lives part-time in Dixon, said he's proud the community was able to do so much with so few resources.

"This [new building] matches the spirit and energy of this community," Palley said.

The board hopes to build a playground next to the library and set up a permanent stage behind the building for live performances, Fonseca said.

"Without a doubt, it's a dream come true," said Marcia Brenden, another of the original founders.

Brenden, who is also a member of the library's board, said the group's hard work was worth it. When she drives by the new building, she said, she still can't believe it "sits there so beautifully."

Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.

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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)