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It Begins!

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Greatest Rural Library in the West

The Rio Abajo Community Library is operated by volunteers, funded with contributions by farmers & ranchers, and is presently housed in a tiny 1500 sq. ft. adobe casita (pictured here).

Imagine a picturesque valley, surrounded by mountains, cattle and prairie.  Imagine as well a community in this valley of 14 villages with approximately 3600 people, where your nearest neighbor is often a mile away. This community may be classified as poverty-level, but dreams and hopes for the youth are as big as the sky.  As such, the farmers and ranchers got together in 1999 to make a library. It took grit and sun-baked determination, but it was done.

The dream now is to move this tiny library into a building of its own, with online computers, an expanded book collection, a meeting area that can be used as an "educational center" for tutoring and workshops, but also maintains the homey New Mexico flavor.  The community has come together once more.  Land was donated in a centralized location, a well-known architect donated drawings, and the work begins anew.

Let Us Begin

We have been advised that it will take $750,000 to finance everything.  Rather than be completely overwhelmed, we have broken it down into segments we can realistically aim for.  So, for our initial focus, we need $70,000, which will be used for:

-- Having the site cleared and leveled;
-- Installing a septic system capable of sustaining a public facility;
-- Digging a well for water, including a pumping system sufficient to adequately service a public library; and
-- Installing an electrical pole and initial hook-ups for service to be used during construction.

In order to avoid being stymied, we will not begin work until half of the funds for the next challenge is met, namely $158,000 for the materials, labor and permits for laying the footings, foundation and initial plumbing/electrical hook-ups.

Thereafter we will need to raise sufficient funds to build the walls and roof, plus furnace, air-conditioning, doors, windows, and plumbing/electrical work, which will be an additional $364,000.  The interior work of drywall, flooring, carpeting and basic furnishings is approximated to be $83,000, and the fencing, driveway and parking lot should be approximately $75,000.

The Impact

Since the nearest town to this community is almost fifty miles away, RAC Library is the only resource the youth, senior and handicappers have to research items. Additionally, RAC Library is the community's only public resource for making copies, faxing, computers, and the internet.

The rented casita presently being used is tucked in a remote southern corner of the community.  The new building will be centrally located alongside a rural highway that would be feet away from the school, senior center, medical center, and the Boys Ranch (a home for troubled boys).  

In short, the new location would be accessible to more of the community, which would then enable RAC Library to initiate on-going classes and programs for the youth and Seniors.

Risks & Challenges

Our biggest challenge has been funding.  Urban libraries are supported with tax dollars that are regularly budgeted.  RAC Library does not have this type of support, but relies on donations and volunteers.  Although every effort is being made to procure public funds from state and county sources, the support from governmental entities has been sparse.  We will continue to apply for funding to build and maintain the library, but we are aware that the need continues despite the lack of government support for a country library.

The greatest hurdles we see at the moment are:

>  Raising enough funds to get the job started;
>  Raising enough funds to complete the construction.

We fully realize the mountain we are climbing, but most of us have grown up alongside the Rockies.  Therefore, we are not afraid of the climb.  We have "suited up" and now invite you to join us.

Other Ways You Can Help

Obviously, in building a dream, the needs are numerous and varied.  In addition to cash, some of the things we would appreciate are:

1.  Construction materials of every type;
2.  The need for library furnishings will be critical (we can't have folks digging through boxes to find a book!);
3.  Once built, we will obviously need good books of every type and description;
4.  We need help getting the word out, so if you know of someone that could help -- pass the word!

We send you a warm New Mexico "thank you" for taking the time to learn about us.  Check out our website ( for more information. And always -- if you are in the area, drop in!  We love visitors!

Organizer and beneficiary

Donna Hernandez-Clark
La Joya, NM
Dolores Varela-Phillips

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