County Libraries Promote Visual Literacy

Artist Jerry Joslin created the bronze sculpture whose subject celebrates reading entitled, “The Legacy.” Courtesy/LAC 


Los Alamos County Libraries have many different collections: diverse genres of books, different book formats, books using new technologies for reading and listening, periodicals, music, movies, and much, much more. But did you know that the libraries also have art collections and galleries?

Permanent Art Collection

Los Alamos County Libraries have a permanent art collection of paintings, sculpture, weavings, pottery and works in other media.

Recently, the library received a special and generous gift from Helen and Jim Baran of a delightful, limited edition, bronze sculpture whose subject celebrates reading entitled, “The Legacy.” 

Betty Plant was the beloved librarian at a public school for more than 18 years and the community, in which she worked, West Linn, Ore., commissioned the sculpture to honor her devoted service after her death in 1986.

Artist Jerry Joslin conceived the work featuring a librarian reading to a group of children. The sculpture has a unique composition with the space between reader and children forming a heart shape, eloquently illustrating the bond reading creates.

The Barans, long time Los Alamos residents, had no personal connection to West Linn nor did they know the librarian depicted; they simply saw the sculpture in a gallery in San Francisco and fell in love with it.

The well known sculptor, Jerry Joslin, produced the original for West Linn, Ore., but his practice was to make as many copies as his age, which was 48 at the time. 

He sold the numbered copies and the one the Barans bought and have donated to the library is number 34 in an edition of 48. 

The bronze sculpture is on permanent display in Youth Services at Mesa Public Library.

“The Legacy” by Jerry Joslin. Courtesy/LAC 

Circulating Art Collection

Library patrons also have access to art they can check out. Check out the Circulating Art Collection-literally.

Change the view; brighten up an office or living room: anyone with a library card can check out two different prints or paintings each month, not from a museum or gallery, but from the public library.

Mesa Public Library has an extensive collection of framed art, about 140 works in all styles and sizes, available for check out.

Patrons are invited to come in and browse the artwork hanging on easy-to-see panels located on the main level near the magazine area or choose a favorite from the online catalog:

From local artists’ work, to Impressionists and Dutch masters, still lifes to landscapes, abstracts to photographs, there is something for all tastes-and it is all free to enjoy.

Many library patrons live in Los Alamos for a limited time and are not able to bring art with them to grace those bare walls, but they can apply for a library card and start checking out materials from all library collections.

Our long-term library users will also be delighted, experiencing new styles, new works by artists with which they may not be familiar.

Art Galleries

Mesa Public Library has two art galleries: the Upstairs Art Gallery and the Youth Art Gallery. The Upstairs gallery hosts 9 to 12 exhibitions per year.

The gallery shows traveling exhibitions from museum collections; cultural, historical, and scientific organizations; individual artists and groups of artists. In the last two years the gallery has shown costumes from the Santa Fe Opera; painting exhibitions by local artists Mira Won and Karol Mack; student created exhibitions from the Cultural Media Arts program at NM Highlands University; Los Alamos County Fair annual exhibits; Geomosaics by Kirt Kempter; Los Alamos Photographers’ annual show; two collaborative exhibitions created with the Los Alamos Historical Museum; architectural sketches by world renowned architect of Mesa Public Library, Antoine Predock; Growth: An Installation created onsite by three local artists; Ursonate by multimedia artist Jack Ox, and many more.

The gallery is the only general purpose exhibition venue in Los Alamos and is open for proposals from individuals and groups.

For more information about the gallery, please go to

The Youth Art Gallery is located in the Youth Services area of Mesa Public Library and shows work exclusively by and for people 18 and under. Local schools and classes, young artists and groups with work directly related to youth themes are welcome to contact Youth Services staff at 662-8258 or for more information about current exhibitions and opportunities.

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