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International District Becomes Home to the Newest Public Library Branch After More Than a Decade of Advocacy

$16.5 million dollar project is the19th branch of The Public Library of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

July 9, 2022 - Today Mayor Tim Keller, along with City, County, State, and community leaders, opened the doors to the International District Library during a ribbon cutting ceremony after more than a decade of advocacy and seven years after the opening of the Central and Unser branch. The approximately $16.5 million project was funded by a combination of City General Obligation Bonds, State Capital Outlay, Bernalillo County Bonds, donations from the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation, and a $1 million donation from the Freedman Trust.

"We’re here today because the International District knew their families deserved a library too: a place not just to access books, but also a safe space for communities to connect with cultural programming and other social services," said Mayor Tim Keller. "I started advocating for this very library when I was serving this district in the State Senate. Today we're opening the doors to years of learning, art making, and community building in the International District, a historically underserved area."

Led by Dr. Shelle Sanchez, director of the City's Department of Arts & Culture, the ribbon cutting ceremony also included remarks from First Lady Elizabeth Kistin Keller; Public Library Director Dean P. Smith; City Councilor Pat Davis; County Commissioner Adriann Barboa; and community member Enrique Cardiel. Anna C. Martinez, who was just announced as Albuquerque's sixth poet laureate, read a powerful poem entitled The Great Equalizer that she wrote for the occasion.

“This is a decades-long investment in the International District. The neighborhood that serves as the home for so many first-generation immigrants and small entrepreneurs finally has a hub for the language services, access to technology, and after-school programs based on neighborhood input for neighborhood success across every generation,” said Councilor Davis.

“The International District Library is a center that is so important to our communities. It is not only a place that you can get right off a bus line to access education and internet and the tools that you need to survive and thrive, but it is also a place where we will definitely prioritize the preservation and advancement of our local cultures and histories. I’m excited for what that means for our International District," said Commissioner Barboa.

In recognition of the 40-year history of the Caravan East night club - where the library now sits - the Jewell Community Room will have a wood floor that can be used for dance demonstrations and instruction that reflects the diversity of the community. The room is named in honor of Bobbie and Tommie Jewell and seats up to 150 people. The 25,000 square foot building, designed by RMKM Architects, will also have a Multi-Gen Activity Room, the first such space in a Public Library of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County that will be used for computer classes, language classes, job training, adult literacy, community bookings, maker space activities, and other activities requested by the community. The adult Reading Room is named in honor of former City Councilor Rey Garduño and includes the World Language Collections, fiction, non-fiction, large print, magazines and DVD’s plus 32 public computers. The Children’s Room is named in honor of Reynaluz Juarez and features reading nooks, a story tower, four public computers for children along with picture books, non-fiction and chapter books, magazines, and DVDs for children.

The International District Library will be home to the Library system's world languages collections. Other features include:

• An Early Literacy Center to encourage interactive play that helps develop basic literacy in young children.

• A Children's Activity Room for programs such as story time, Music and Movement, and Read to the Dogs.

• A Freedman Room for quiet reading, research, study, and contemplation.

• A fireplace, funded by the Freedman Trust, as the centerpiece of the adult area, making the library the International District "community living room."

• Two Tower Gardens will be used for programs on gardening and nutrition for all ages.

• Two virtual reality computer systems will be the first in the Library system, used for programs for all ages, and are provided by funding from the Albuquerque Community Foundation.

• A Story Plaza for outdoor gatherings and displays of art and poetry by the community.

• A large interlaced monitor for displaying video art and community projects.

The library is built for sustainability with saturated and natural daylight from skylights and clerestory windows so minimal artificial light will be required during the day; a closed loop heat pump system requiring no gas and minimal electricity to operate; and is equipped to support solar panels that will be installed later to bring use of electricity to minimal or even negative use.

The International District Library is located at 7601 Central Ave. NE. Visit https://abqlibrary.org for programming schedules and hours of operation.