State public libraries need more financial support

A northern New Mexico library director recently managed a $580,000 capital project in addition to her usual duties of collection development, grant writing, managing volunteers and assistants, managing children’s programs, budgeting, facilities management and working with clients. She earns the princely sum of $12.50 an hour after 10 years of work.

A library manager in southern New Mexico earns $1,000 a month for a full-time job. A director in northeastern New Mexico earns $13.50 an hour. Many children’s librarians in rural libraries earn minimum wage.

The Tularosa Library wants to hire someone to take the kids on field trips during the summer. Many parents there cannot afford the entrance fees to White Sands or the nearby Space Museum. At Anton Chico, volunteers have kept the library open 25 hours a week for years. They want to hire staff. The Villanueva Library has the only free internet connection in 75 miles. They recently handed out 150 free COVID tests in two days. Their facilities are crumbling and there are no recurring funds to ensure they can rehire their manager. She earns less than $15 an hour.

The door to the Tatum Library collapses. Clayton Bookcase door needs to be widened to meet ADA standards.

In Capitan, where few people have private internet access, librarians offer coffee to patrons in their cars by accessing the library’s Wi-Fi. Connecting with customers, assessing their needs, and providing space for neighbors to interact strengthens small communities.

Six rural libraries in New Mexico operate on less than $10,000 per year, 16 others on less than $50,000 per year. The New Mexico Rural Library Endowment was created by the legislature to help. Fifty-one village and tribal libraries are currently eligible to receive endowment funds.

The $3 million currently in the endowment will yield an annual payout of approximately $3,000 to each qualifying library. The state budget proposes an additional $10 million, or about $13,000 per year. Senate Bill 149, introduced by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, would add another $10 million, or about $23,000 a year.

Rural communities in New Mexico are losing population. Libraries contribute to their sustainability and support economic development. Even this small annual payment could help create jobs.

Please ask your representatives and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to support SB 149.

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