Jemez Springs is an area of ancient settlement starting with early Pueblo people, continuing with Spanish settlers, and Anglo immigrants from the east, all drawn to the healing waters and rich natural environment of the Jemez valley and mountains.
People who have lived here are frequently heard to count their blessings!
On April 12, Jemez Springs is celebrating only a tiny fragment of that rich history, just 50 years of it, 50 years of our library’s history. Early 20th century Jemez Springs was never very populous and it was isolated, taking many hours or days to travel on dirt roads to larger towns. Not until mid-century was there a paved road to connect with the larger world.
In that context, the library that Katie Evilsizer and Grace Swetnam created in one room in the Presbyterian Church might have been small physically but huge in its impact, providing local readers with the universe of books. Libraries are places that provide information, entertainment and enjoyment through reading for leisure, and most importantly, they provide places of sanctuary that allow imaginations to expand without limit: they give us all the world and the means to dream regardless of age, race, economic status or abilities.
Jemez Springs is a tiny village but in the last 50 years it has deemed having a library to serve its community members one of the most important services it could provide. From the one room in the church, to the electric coop to the bathhouse to the credit union to its final location, the Village has kept the library going at various locations, through thick and thin.
The current library building started as a donated metal storage shed, expanded, was joined to the village office, was remodeled and remodeled again until it has now become the lovely, well-appointed and well-loved institution used by community members and visitors alike.
Why is the library so cherished here? It is more than the books: it is a place for discussions, for children to learn, read and play, to listen to stories; for patrons to enjoy programs on all kinds of topics from travel logs to archaeology, art to computer classes.
It is a meeting place, a place to connect, a place that is free to everyone and welcoming to everyone: it is a place our community is proud of and so supports. It provides services otherwise unavailable to so many from reliable internet access, to cutting edge computers, with remote online resources amounting to an entire virtual library patrons can also access from home in our huge geographic service area that stretches well beyond the Village limits.
There have been many library firsts over the years: first Council resolution to establish the library by the Village of Jemez Springs, first designation as a Public Library in the State Library system, first Friends group established, first public computers installed, first electronic catalog, first downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, first tri-cultural symposium, first major building remodel (of four), first Battle of the Books team, first book discussion group meeting and so many more.
All of them woven into and enriching the fabric of the community for 50 years.
There are many people to thank too: the Village Council members and mayors, all the librarians as well as all the Library Board members and Friends of the Library members, who have given their time and energy to serving the community and visitors over the years starting in 1965 with Katie Evilsizer and Grace Swetnam along with many, many volunteers.
The 50th Library Anniversary is special, particularly so in New Mexico, the state so often near the bottom of the literacy and educational statistics. Celebrating libraries, literature and literacy is the theme of the day and we are honored to have three of the state’s finest authors to make the day memorable.
One of our library history highlights occurred in 2001 when a local resident and Friends of the Library volunteer, Morris Taylor, conceived the tri-cultural symposium featuring two stellar residents of Jemez Springs, Rudolfo Anaya and N. Scott Momaday along with his river running friend, Tony Hillerman: three greats, three cultures. It was an amazing event that was recorded and broadcast nationally on National Public Radio.
A hard act to follow but the library, for this milestone year, is celebrating with the literature of three cultures once again. The library is so pleased to present Anne Hillerman, Nasario Garcia, and N. Scott Momaday for readings and conversation with moderator Irene Wanner to honor libraries through literature on the first day of National Library Week.
Everyone is invited: the talks are free and begin at 2 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church, maximum 200 people, followed 4-6 p.m. by a reception with delicious refreshments provided by the Friends of the Library, author book signing, and open house at the Jemez Springs Public Library just across the street .
April is a big literary month: it is National Poetry Month and National Library Week is April 12-18 and Jemez Springs Public Library invites everyone to celebrate reading! For more information about Jemez Springs Public Library, please visit a website-in- progress, Jemez Valley History. www.jemezsprings.org/history.