When Fogelson Library shut down in May 2018 alongside the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, it must have been, for those who worked there, akin to watching the Library of Alexandria burn.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says former Fogelson director Valerie Nye. “The collection is amazing, especially for people interested in studying art and literature, theater, opera—a lot of things that people in the Santa Fe community are interested in, and those books are not available to us.”
But unlike that ancient atrocity, Fogelson’s collection isn’t lost forever.
Now, a new central library at the Midtown site has moved toward the front of the queue in the City of Santa Fe’s priorities on its 2024-2028 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan. It’s in the top five, at $22 million, alongside infrastructure development at the Midtown site, pegged at $12.1 million.
Maria Sanchez-Tucker, former Library Division director, spoke in favor of the new branch at the Aug. 10 City Council meeting.
“This is truly a gift that we can give to the community,” she told the governing body. “It’s the one free space, the place of culture and knowledge for the city, that we have this wonderful opportunity to take advantage of and really start planning what a modern public library will be for this wonderful city.”
She added that she’s “really looking forward to getting started on the assessment process,” and she hopes to build something “for everyone.”
Plans are still very much in the initial stages—Sanchez-Tucker and current Library Division Director Margaret Neill don’t yet know what the revamp will entail, whether the existing building will be renovated, or whether they’ll start from scratch.
But their goals for the new library branch are ambitious.
“My vision is that we have a state-of-the-art library that is technologically advanced, that has meeting and program space, that serves as a community hub,” Sanchez-Tucker tells SFR.
She and Neill want to make use of Fogelson’s current collection, which is rich with cultural and historical materials unique to Santa Fe. But they also want to branch out.
The Santa Fe Public Library is already providing services one wouldn’t typically expect, such as hosting the Food Depot’s Food Mobile at the Southside Library on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
The library system also has a project called Neighborhood Historians geared toward training Santa Feans to use professional recording equipment, gather oral histories, edit their recordings and archive them in a public digital repository.
At the new branch, Sanchez-Tucker and Neill hope to expand programming and provide “maker spaces,” community rooms, meeting rooms and an early childhood center.
Nye hopes to see that, too. She recently visited the public library in Missoula, Montana—named the best library in the world this year—which has a teaching kitchen where people can learn to cook healthy food and a “maker space” that provides access to 3D printers, sewing machines and other tools.
According to a city report, the former university library still houses a collection of books and other materials that will likely be granted to the Santa Fe Public Library.
Sanchez-Tucker says she doesn’t know if the collection might be opened to the public before the new library’s completion.She declined to allow SFR inside to have a look at the trove this week.
For Nye, access to the collection is paramount. “I think the space where the collection lives is less important than getting access to the intellectual material that’s in that space,” she says.
“Personally, I would be less interested in seeing the building maintained and more interested in access to the collection.”
The first step, Sanchez-Tucker says, will be community engagement and a feasibility study on the building itself. Those findings will inform design and programming plans, as well as a development plan for fundraising.
She says funding will likely come from both public and private sources, including the Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library.
So far, the city has spent $300,000 on the first phase of the assessment.
For Neill, it’s an opportunity to do what the existing library branches can’t.
“We’re really kind of figuring out that we don’t have a whole lot of space in our facilities to have a lot of programming, at least not with many people,” she says. “Having the opportunity to work with a space to be a community center more than a traditional library where everyone has to be quiet, everyone gets shushed all the time—the idea is having a big, open space where we can do all kinds of really interesting programming and bring community groups together.”