On average, the Taos Public Library has 10,000 people walk through its front doors each month.
It's been a busy six months for Kate Alderete. She assumed the position as new director of the Taos Public Library in June 2018 and immediately got to work on managing the collection of 63,753 books and 2,060 digital ebooks and audiobooks.
But it's the people of Taos County that has Alderete the most excited. She is keen on getting to know library users and the community at large. "I'm focused on having people view the library as a community center rather than just a depository for books."
To that end, Alderete is encouraging Taoseños to get their noses out of their books (and their eyes up from their screens) and join in some of the fun programming the library is initiating.
So far the Taos Public Library has hosted Yoga in the Stacks and Knitting & Crocheting Circle, both of which are ongoing. To shake up the January doldrums, the library even hosted a fun Speed Dating event.
On Feb. 23, the public is invited to attend a free seminar titled "Fake News and You!" Co-sponsored with the University of New Mexico-Taos Library, the flyer says a "rock star librarian" will discuss information literacy and effective research in the 21st century.
"We want to make sure we are all here for each other," said Alderete. "To me, that's the role of the library in a small town, in a small county."
Alderete was born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Her mother was a literature teacher and her grandparents originally hail from Mexico. Although she grew up with an emphasis on reading, she hadn't planned on being a career librarian until she got her career start as a children's librarian in her hometown.
"It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as far working with community and kids," she said of the Las Vegas Carnegie Public Library stint.
From there, she moved to Denver to earn a master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Denver. In that advanced-level education she learned about the possibilities of archive work and digitization. "My world view of libraries just completely blew open."
Indeed, Alderete has steadily pursued a career path of library education, indexing, cataloging, preservation, management, circulation and information technology. Her résumé includes years of experience working in library internships, as a library volunteer and performing specialized library work at public and private libraries.
Most notably, she worked at CNN in Washington, D.C. assisting with the management of digital video records.
Upon arriving in Taos, Alderete had heard about the 2013 controversy in which the library once charged out-of-town cardholders a $10 annual fee. She doesn't foresee reinstituting that policy, which experienced a public backlash. Nevertheless, Alderete acknowledges that securing adequate funding always remains a top priority.
"Librarians know that we have to be our own advocates. We have to stay strong in what we ask for," said Alderete.
The financial operations of the library are funded mostly through the town of Taos. The library also has a state library grant and in November 2018, New Mexico voters passed the General Obligation Bond B directing state funding toward libraries.
"The county of Taos passed GO Bond B at 80 percent - the highest in New Mexico," said Alderete. "It just goes to show how appreciated and needed we are."
To her predecessors' credit, the library has been on a steady path of growth since it was built in 1996. For example, Alderete now oversees a Fine Arts room and Southwest Collection room stocked with boutique-published tomes and limited-run manuscripts -- all for free circulation to the public. Some books are so precious in their singularity they are stored under lock and key in the Special Collections room and are for on-site research only.
The free public Wi-Fi and internet access has been greatly improved over the years. For those who don't have their own device, cardholders and guests can check in to use 12 adult public access computers, three teen computers and five children's computers. In terms of safe spaces, the Children's Library remains as robust as ever with a steady stream of story times, book giveaways and crafts activities. A specially designated Teen Zone gives young Taoseños the space and reading material they need.
To support all this growth? Alderete is an avid reader and she encourages other booklovers to become a donating Friend of the Taos Public Library. Or like she once did, they could volunteer to restack circulating books. In addition, revenue from books purchased from the library's bookstore or from the book sales at the Farmers Market each summer goes right back to literacy in Taos.
On average, the Taos Public Library has 10,000 people walk through its front doors each month. "They are our stakeholders. The number one thing you can do to show support for your library is to come in and use our resources, and participate in our programs," said Alderete.
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