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By Stephani Dingreville

A proposal for a new library annex was presented at the January 11 Village Council meeting, along with an appeal for a fund-matching grant. Kristie Gilbert of the Friends of the Corrales Library (FOCL) gave the presentation on behalf of the more than 200-member organization. The annex project has been in the works for over six years, according to Gilbert, and began with the simple desire to replace the shed adjacent to the bandshell in La Entrada Park.

Nearing the end of its lifespan, the shed was continually crammed with books for upcoming library book sales and beginning to fall apart. As described in the proposal for the new annex, the shed is still “overrun with mice” and fear of “a catastrophic roof failure” accompanies each and every storm. As the FOCL came nearer to replacing the existing shed, an unexpected development prompted them to think bigger. Namely, more and more books were being donated every year. 

Faced with the overflow of thousands of volumes, the FOCL began to resort to renting a commercial storage space and utilizing the garages of various board members. Then another unexpected development, COVID-19, came to Corrales and the library had to close its doors. Many at FOCL began to dream of outdoor, safer meeting space for people to again enjoy the community spirit of the library.

FOCL’s book storage project began to morph into a bigger animal, a permanent structure that could not only store books but also serve as a community meeting area, a sort of outdoor supplement to the library.

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Known as the “Library the People Built,” the Corrales Library was completed in 1979, in a style Gilbert describes as “inward-facing, traditional, and cozy.”

“The library doesn’t really take advantage of our outdoor space,” she concluded.

As the project grew, so too did community interest and funding. In particular, large gifts from the Fred Emerson Kenneth and Genevieve Gillespie estates gave the FOCL the funds it needed to move forward with a bigger plan.

That’s when FOCL sought advice from Corrales Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Siverts on where and how a permanent structure might fit in La Entrada Park.

Siverts advised the FOCL to try to use the existing footprint of the shed and portable restroom, due to the location of sprinklers and utility hookups.

Finally, the current plans for a 950-square foot annex were drawn by Gilbert and Lisa Demarr, a FOCL member and masters-trained architect. They include a space for storing and selling books, a concessions window for use during events, a covered patio with seating, and a permanent public restroom.

Back at the Village Council meeting, support for the project was overwhelming.

Councilor Bill Woldman, who had advised the FOCL during the process, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community. I think it’s just a terrific idea.”

Echoing his enthusiasm, Councilor Stuart Murray said, “I would support this 100 percent. I think the attorney should draft a grant for $100,000. I would support it and let it move forward.”

Councilor Mel Knight also approved, but gave a word of caution, saying: “I think it’s a great idea; the only thing is when I was looking at your handout, [the annex] might encroach on the bandshell and we need to keep in mind that a lot of people put a lot of effort into that bandshell.”

And indeed, the proposed structure does encroach on the bandshell’s footprint. During the meeting, Gilbert admitted this might not be ideal. She told the councilors that the FOCL was amenable to the idea of other locations within the park.

Councilor Zach Burkett spoke up, saying “In the model displayed [the Village] would own the land and the money would be transferred to [the Village], so that should open up where we could put [the annex].”

Thus, encouraged by the council’s initial response, the FOCL will continue to move ahead. The next steps could include a presentation to Corrales’ Planning and Zoning Department.

Gilbert admits that the potential use of the adjacent Gonzales field for library parking could open up new possibilities for this project, which may yet change dramatically.

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