New Mexico State Library

A cornerstone of rural communities gets financial support from the state and a boost from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

September 05, 2023

Greg Gurule

Small town libraries are the lifeblood of rural communities. They are learning centers and meeting places for residents along with providing reading and educational opportunities, broadband internet, even workforce development. 

Rural libraries have limited funding sources though, relying on volunteer support, donations and grants. Some are forced to choose between purchasing children’s books and keeping up with building maintenance. To help, the NM State Legislature created the Rural Libraries Endowment with an initial investment of $1 million in 2019 and this year Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary Garcia y Griego requested and received an additional $15 million dollars for the fund, raising the total principal to $28 million dollars. Distributions from the earnings of the Endowment will be used to support eligible rural libraries.

Tara Parker, the Head Librarian at the Eunice Public Library said additional money could be used to improve their facilities, buy more books, provide activities, and upgrade the library. “We have become more of a service facility,” said Parker, “we provide summer entertainment programs adults and children like to use, but a lot of people still want to read.” Parker says they take extra steps to help senior citizens with failing eyesight who still love to pick up a book.  

“The Department of Cultural Affairs understands and appreciates the priceless value that Rural Libraries provide as centers of rural communities,” said NMDCA Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego, “and we are thrilled that we can help ensure that everyone will be around for generations to come.” 

The grant money may be used to upgrade and create library programs, services, and materials statewide providing operational and capital needs to rural libraries including salaries, books, electronic materials, furniture, utility costs, and money for specialized services, over the course of the State fiscal year.

“Having worked with rural libraries for over 15 years, I know how critical they are to the strength and resilience of the community,” said New Mexico State Librarian, Eli Guinnee. “They help make small towns wonderful places to live. Anything we can do to support a rural library supports the education, economy, health, and wellbeing of the community it serves.” 

Funds can be disbursed to the Rural Library Program Fund each year from which the NM State Library makes grant awards to eligible libraries. FY24 grants will be $2,646 for each library and could increase in future years as additional DCA funding growth grows.    

The grants are intended for libraries that serve a population of 3,000 or less. There are currently 54 libraries that are eligible for Rural Library Program Grants.   

The New Mexico State Library will be releasing the grant application for these Establishing Grants in the fall.   
About the New Mexico State Library  Established in 1929, the New Mexico State Library is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the guidance of the New Mexico Library Commission. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the New Mexico State Library Foundation through the generous support of donors. The New Mexico State Library provides services that support public and tribal libraries, delivers direct library services to rural populations, state agencies, the visually impaired and physically disabled, and students and citizens conducting research. The library supports public libraries by providing consulting services, offering training and continuing education opportunities, administering the librarian certification program, coordinating a statewide summer reading program and tribal library program, and administering state and federal grants to public libraries. 


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