What do you know about Jemez Springs Public Library?


The Jemez Springs Public Library came into being through the persistence and dedication of a group of local residents. These folks, some of whom are still here today, volunteered endless hours during the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Few had training or experience as librarians. What they had was a love of books and reading and a belief that any self-respecting community should have a library open to the public where adults and children could borrow books. And books it was at that time. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the collection added audio books, first on cassette and then CD, and movies on DVD.

 Like an orphan, the original book collection was moved several times until the Village adopted it and gave it a permanent home. The initial structure has undergone four remodels to date, each one improving and expanding the library as funds became available to accommodate the community’s needs.


The library was started in 1965 by Grace Swetnam, Josephine Shepherd and Mrs. Thomas Evilsizer, of Farmington, in a corner of the vestibule on the lower level of the Jemez Springs Presbyterian Church. The original holdings were obtained when Jack Dilley, minister at that time, donated his personal collection.  According to an article in The New Mexican on April 2, 1965, books were also furnished by the New Mexico Library Extension Service through the assistance of Miss Virginia Real, Aztec librarian. Hours were 3-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year and noon-6 pm in the summer. Grace Swetnam was the librarian and was aided by a number of volunteers. Grace and Mrs. Evilsizer also arranged for the Northwest Regional Library Bookmobile to make stops in Jemez Springs.

 The library soon moved to a room in the old electric coop building (since torn down and replaced with existing Jemez Mountain Electric Coop building).  The State Library provided enough books to line two walls with books, and State Library consultants provided assistance in library skills. In addition to books on a rotating loan from the state Library, the collection consisted of donations from the public. The library was open two afternoons on week days.

 Joe Sabatini, then a VISTA volunteer, recalls that he assisted Grace one day a week in 1965-67, immediately after receiving his Master of Library Science degree. “I worked with the Sandoval County Office of Economic Opportunity as a circuit-riding librarian. I’ve always been grateful to have lucked into an assignment where I went to Cuba, Jemez Springs, Peña Blanca, Cochiti and Placitas.” (Joe Sabatini retired in 2008 as Branch Manager, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Library System.)

 Lupe (Casaus) Ruiz also worked at the library for two years when it was housed at the electric coop. As a teenager, she was employed through the Neighborhood Youth Corps, a federal program initiated by Lyndon Johnson. “Working at the library was a learning experience. I read a lot of good books. . . .It was my first job with a real salary.”

The Jemez Spring Community Library was officially established in 1973 under the incorporation of the Village of Jemez Springs; Josephine Shepherd was mayor. At a later date, the library moved from the electric coop to a room in the Jemez Springs Bath House. Hours during this period increased from two to four hours per day. Bill Guse, Shelly Quiner, Linda Soroos, Anita (Neetie) Treston Ed Torrup, Linda Domier and Susan Holmes served as librarians in these two locations.

 Permanent Building--First Remodel/First Library Board

The Community Club owned an 800 sq. ft. metal storage building located at the south end of the Village Plaza. Primary use was a place to store the life-size figures that comprised Christmas decorations placed each year on Soda Dam and subsequently in Fr. Fitzgerald Park. The Club donated the site to the Village, and in 1984, Mayor Maudell Berglund applied for a LSCA Title II grant to remodel the building for use as a library. (The Library Services and Construction Act, enacted in 1962 by Congress, provided federal assistance to libraries for the purpose of improving or implementing library services or undertaking construction projects. A primary aim of the LSCA was to provide funding for underserved and/or disadvantaged communities in need of library service.) That original storage building comprises the southernmost structure of today’s library.


A storage shed was converted into a library in 1996. The book barn was to the north, between the library and the Village offices.


In 1992, the Village, under Mayor Genevieve Sandoval, adopted Resolution #177, which formally established a library director and a library board, both being required of “developing” libraries by the State Library. Susan Minter became Library Director and held that position until 1996.. The first board members were Will Guse, president; Paul Wenninger, vice president; Theresa Millard, secretary-treasurer; Ron Malpass, representative trustee from the Village. In 1995, Kathleen Weigner became secretary-treasurer, and Roger Sweet became Village representative. The original library policies were written by Paul Wenniger, Rebecca Christman, Kathleen Weigner, Roger Sweet and Susan Minter.


Friends of the Library

From the very beginning right up to the present day, the library has been sustained by volunteers. They have raised funds through raffles, silent auctions, used book sales, and many, many bake sales. Nancy Cella, a long-time member and officer of the Friends of the Library, looked up from a sales booth in the park on a hot summer day, gestured to the library and said, “Look what a million brownies can build.” Volunteers have staffed the front desk, presented programs, served on the board, shelved books, sorted donations, and myriad other tasks that would have been difficult to complete without them. We are most likely the only library in the country, maybe the world, to be partially funded through yoga classes Four volunteers, led by Chris Gardner and including Susan Dollenger, Debi Petersen and Ruth ??, rotate teaching a weekly yoga class on a donation basis. All proceeds go to the Friends of the Library. Chris’s husband Jamie, a Ph.D. in geology, also volunteers to lead another unique and popular fund-raising activity: a day-long geology tour through the Cañon de San Diego and the Valles Caldera.


In 1993, the Friends of the Library became a 501c3 non-profit corporation in order to better raise funds for the library. The year before, Donna Lea and ??? had started the process by putting out a call for volunteers, according to an article in the Jemez Jonker. Amy Pearson was the librarian. In the next few years, the library entered the electronic age when one Apple computer was added for public access, and a PC was purchased for the librarian. Hours increased to 10-6:30 three days per week plus noon-4 on Saturdays.


Second Remodel

In 1996, the Village received another LSCA Title II grant for $25,000. With additional funds from Friends of the Library and Sandoval County, the building was expanded by 300 sq. ft. (now the small room that leads to the deck), and other parts of the building were brought up to code. The Book Barn was installed behind the library and continues to this day as the Friends’ outlet for used books, a significant source of income. 



Judith Isaacs became library director in 1996; her part-time assistant was Grainne Rowland. Judith had not trained in library science; her degree was a Masters in Educational Administration. A lifelong avid reader, she said she had “spent an awful lot of time in libraries.”


In 1997, the library became certified as a public library, having met all criteria established by the State. With public library status came regular funding from the state for collection development and staff training, as well as eligibility for inclusion in state and county bond issues. Hours expanded again to 38 hours per week to meet State requirements. With strong support from Mayor David Sanchez and using grants and funding from the Friends of the Library to supplement these new sources of revenue, a number of programs, mostly for children and youth, were instituted in the next few years, including outreach to the school district, open mike poetry reading, Chess Club, book discussion group, home-school reading group and resource center. Isaacs was able to revive preschool story time, which Susan Minter had started. Judith read to toddlers for a year, after which Margaia Forcier-Call volunteered to take this role and continued for 12 years.


Another program that has been a constant throughout the years is the monthly book discussion group. It grew into a library program from an informal book club that met in one members’ homes. That club morphed into a library program, and members of the Friends have volunteered since 1997 to select books and lead the discussions.

When asked what she was most proud of during her years as Library Director, Judith said it was getting the collection cataloged and instituting an electronic circulation system. “When I started, the books were shelved roughly into subject categories, but there wasn’t so much as card catalog. Since card catalogs everywhere were being replaced with computerized catalogs, we went straight to that type of system. For years, when books were checked out, the librarian had written the name of the patron and the name of the book in a notebook. We were really starting from scratch.” It took about 5 years, a grant from New Mexico Library Foundation and lots of volunteer help to catalog the approximately 10,000 items in the collection by the time the project was finished. In addition to creating a catalog entry for each book, a card pocket was pasted in and a circulation card inserted where patrons wrote first their names. When money became available for new software, library cards with numbers were issued, and the circulation cards were eliminated. Many patrons complained about this because they wanted to (a) see if they had read the book before and (b) see who else had read it. Patrons didn’t see the necessity of library cards either. After all, everybody knew everybody else. While cards issued today have four-digit numbers, a few people are still around who have single and double digit library card numbers.


Third Remodel

As more money became available for capital improvement, the library embarked on another remodel in 2000. This one resulted in adding the deck in the back and portal in the front, as well as stuccoing the building, installing energy efficient windows, remodeling the interior, and replacing all the shelving.


Once this remodel was complete, funding became available through the Friends and the Village to add a part-time children’s librarian. The first to hold this position was Christine Barton, formerly an elementary school teacher, now a yoga teacher in New York state. Others who worked in the children’s programs over the years included  Donna Lea, Carol Meine, Janet Phillips, and Deborah Williams.


The Library Becomes Famous: Tri-cultural Symposia

In 2001, the Friends, under the leadership of volunteer Morris Taylor, organized a Tri-Cultural Symposium, the first of what would become an annual event that literally put the Jemez Springs Public Library on the map. Morris’s vision was that the symposium would feature New Mexico authors who represented the three cultures in our state (and in our community): Native American, Hispanic and Anglo. They would be free to public; donations were encouraged. Through his immense powers of persuasion and the goodwill and love of libraries manifested in even the most famous, the first symposia featured the blockbuster trio of Tony Hillerman, Rudolfo Anaya and N. Scott Momaday. Each was internationally famous in his own right, and the opportunity to see all three together on the same stage was unprecedented.


Jim Belshaw, writing in the Albuquerque Journal (Oct. 10, 2005), said,

I like the way that, three years ago, Morris had a grand idea about getting three literary Masters of the Universe together in Jemez Springs to talk about what they do. For free.

   He thought it would be a good way to benefit the library.

   The way I heard the story this past weekend, Morris offered up his idea and everyone said, ‘Sure, Morris. You go ahead and do that. Let us know when you get it lined up.’

   So he did. . . .

   Now I can have just a moment to talk about Morris Taylor, who is now 80, and who lives in Jemez Springs in the company of smart, thoughtful people who may spend their days in a small place but don’t entertain small ideas.

   Three years ago, Morris wondered aloud if he could get N. Scott Momaday, Rudolfo Anaya and Tony Hillerman to come to the Jemez Springs [sic] High School on their own dime for the Jemez Springs Tricultural Symposium.

   So he called them and asked. All three said they’d do it, and people came from all over the country to hear them.


Belshaw was one of the 2005 symposium speakers. The only compensation any of them ever received was a dinner for themselves and a guest at the Laughing Lizard and one nights’ lodging at the Dancing Bear B&B. While none of the succeeding events reached the luster of the first, the symposia continued for five more years, featuring these well-known New Mexico authors:


2002: Denise Chavez, Simon Ortiz, Michael McGarrity

2003: John Nichols, Rina Swentzell, Demetria Martinez

2005: Nasario Garcia, Jim Belshaw, Joe Sando

2006: Lee Marmon, Thomas Chavez, Ferenc Morton Szasz

2008: Jane Lindskold, Stephen R. Donaldson, Walter Jon Williams


A favorite Friends fundfraiser is a monthly Sunday Salon. Programs have ranged from poetry workshops to edible plant walks to vision map worshops. The Valentine’s Day Chocolate Extravaganza was so popular, it became an annual event.


Fourth Remodel

The most recent remodel, completed in 2007, resulted in the library you see today. Mayor Johnnie Garcia, with approval from the Village trustees, for two consecutive years placed the library as a top priority in his request to the state for capital improvement funds earmarked by the legislature for small communities. That funding, plus once again state and county bond issues and Friends of the Library, enabled the Village to create the beautiful, expanded structure you see today. (A side note: New Mexico voters, residents in one of the poorest states in the nation, have never failed to approve bond issues for libraries, often with huge majorities.) In addition to pushing for state capital improvement funds, the Village decided to move its offices to the building occupied now and make their former office space, a double-wide mobile home, available to the library. With the vision of architect Bob Hall, now a principal at Integrated Design & Architecture, the two dissimilar buildings were joined. The former double-wide is now the children’s area, computer area, teen room and restrooms. The old conference room remains as a multi-use venue for the Village.


In a flashback to the old days, the library occupied the Jemez Valley Credit Union’s boardroom during the time the library was closed for remodeling. Like the original one-room libraries, two walls were lined with books and DVDs. Hours were 10-4:30.


Judith Isaacs retired in 2007, and Eva Jacobsen became Library Director. A native of Denmark, she had been an archivist. Eva strengthened the children’s programs and focused on technology. Under her watch, the library added more public computers, including two for children, and entered into a consortium with three other small libraries in Sandoval County to provide an ebook collection .


When Eva left in 2014 to take the job as Circulation Director at Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos, Carol Meine was selected as Library Director. She came here with 15 years’ experience at Mesa Public Library, as library administration specialist. In that position, she did all the marketing and publicity for the library as well as serve as the library’s community outreach liaison. Susequently, as program specialist, she wrote the grant applications for several competitive national programs from the ALA which the library was awarded, one of only 25 libraries awarded nationally in two cases. She also presented a wide spectrum of programs and author talks, and, an artist herself, she curated the art gallery at Mesa. Carol continues to push and pull the library into the electronic era, witness this web page.  


Another coup for the Friends occurred in 2013 when Peter Reynolds, a part-time resident of the Valley, donated his personal collection of Southwest artists, including paintings, pottery and sculpture. The Friends decided to keep work of all local artists, which today graces the walls and shelves, once again making Jemez Springs Public Library unique among the many small-town libraries in the state by owning and displaying a world-class art collection. Through E-bay and in-house auctions, the remainder of the collection was sold.