In late 2019, months before the pandemic seized everyone’s attention, Santa Fe’s mayor and city councilors met in a study session to hear a consultant present results of a comprehensive study of our public library system and offer strategic planning advice.

While the ideas discussed that day have received little public notice, there was one key proposal we hope will be a priority as municipal leaders ponder what to do with the city-owned midtown campus property: Create a new, modern central library.

Dallas-based Godfrey’s & Associates, hired with the help of the Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library, made a sound case for converting the existing Main Library downtown into a branch library and putting a new main facility on the St. Michael’s Drive property, within easier reach of a majority of the city’s population and with the kind of enhanced services that have made contemporary libraries more than just repositories of books to lend.

The downtown library, where a portion of the clientele are the city’s relatively older north-side population — as well as visitors and people without internet access at home, if they have one — also provides computer terminals, online resources including audio books and digital entertainment, and a free community meeting room.

But those envisioning a new main library see opportunities to create even more of a community hub, perhaps with programs for learning skills such as computer coding, workforce development and added support for small businesses, or helping residents with things like home technology, well-being and health.

The consultants suggested the downtown library could be renovated to include a cultural center as well as a branch library that holds the existing Southwest Collection, plus a 24/7 kiosk for checkout and return of materials.

The new central library would replace the small but heavily used Oliver La Farge Branch Library on Llano Street, currently providing only drive-up service due to the pandemic.

Of course, much still needs to be done before any of this could become reality, including sorting out the future of the now mostly vacant midtown campus.

“We’re still getting public input on what to do with the midtown campus,” Library Director Maria Sanchez-Tucker noted recently. “But I think the public is very interested in seeing a new, beautiful library at midtown.”

The city already has a purpose-built academic library on the midtown campus, named for the late businessman and philanthropist Buddy Fogelson, who along with his wife, actress Greer Garson, were major benefactors to the College of Santa Fe while they owned a ranch along the Pecos River southeast of Santa Fe.

Opened in 1970, the approximately 69,000 square-foot Fogelson Library consists of three buildings, including the Forum, a lecture venue; the Southwest Annex, originally an art gallery; and the three-story library.

“Good location and adequate capacity make Fogelson a good candidate for replacing La Farge,” the consultants’ written report said.

Funding for future projects at midtown is one of the matters yet to be determined. Among possible sources is help from the state, currently flush with money. The city could ask for more support from Santa Fe County officials, whose constituents account for about 1 in 5 Santa Fe Public Library card holders. The city could ask voters to approve a bond issue.

Whatever happens next with planning for the midtown campus, we urge community leaders to keep the idea of a new central library front and center.

(4) comments

Mike Johnson

I think it should be a homeless shelter.

Michael Kiley

Maybe. But my two cents is, replenish the books and audio books particularly, I have heard the audio books in my genres and we need new titles.

ROSEMARY ZIBART

I am so glad this idea has been brought up again. I spent time in the Fogelson Library and it's a first rate facility. Making it the main library is a terrific idea -- that would bring all ages to the library for different functions.

Jim Montevallo

This administration should go to a library and read books about master development, city services, budget management, human resources and governing.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.