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Mission Statement

The El Rito Library furthers the aims of education for the public by serving as a portal through which individuals and families may obtain information, and acquire skills and experience for enlightenment, enjoyment and empowerment.

Service Area

We serve approximately 40 villages of eastern Rio Arriba and southwestern Taos counties ranging in population from 1,400 in El Rito to hamlets with populations below 100. The nearest public library is Abiquiu which is sixteen (16) miles and Española which is approximately thirty (30) miles in distance.


The original land (one acre) was donated by Abel and Petrolina Lucero to be used for educational purposes.  At the time, a new elementary school was needed so the WPA program built a beautiful three classroom adobe schoolhouse in the late 1930s.  The school was named "Placitas Elementary School" and was used until 1969 when a new elementary school was built.  Two rooms were added and the room we now call the community room was occupied by the El Rito Headstart Program and the Rio Arriba Senior Citizens Center occupied one of the original classrooms.  The El Rito Public Library was established on May 5, 1986 by Clinic Director, Andy R. Lopez, and Professional Librarian Betsy McIntosh. Las Clinicas del Norte did some renovations and moved in taking over all the other vacated rooms. After its founding in 1986, the library operated for several years on a volunteer basis, and was open only a few hours a week.

Ten years later the library was still located in cramped quarters, but hours had expanded to 20 per week, and the one-person, part-time staff was now paid, thanks to a few essential grants from private foundations. By the mid 1990s, the yearly operating budget hovered around $20,000, and by 1998, through meeting several stringent requirements, the library was accorded official status as a public library. In 1999 a new clinic was built and Las Clinicas del Norte moved out.

When Las Clinicas del Norte vacated and money was secured to renovate the empty space, the Library expanded. The Senior Citizens Center was still here until a new Community Center was built. Then the Senior Citizens Center moved out and the Library took over the whole building; but many renovations were needed.  A capital-improvement grant from the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps, supplemental funding from the Los Alamos Foundation, and an outpouring of volunteers and community donations made this possible. Construction was completed in early 2000; a Grand Opening of the new library was held on February 1. At this time, the staff had expanded slightly to 1.00 FTE.  Other major renovations have been made.  A new roof was installed and two of the original classrooms have been completely renovated and now house our fiction and non-fiction collection.  We also have a new children's room for the kids to call their own. 

The library now consists of four rooms, a community room and two bathroooms.  The staff is currently at 2.0 FTE. On October 14, 2003 we received $40,000 from the Helen and Will Webster Foundation out of California.  With this money we put a new roof and completely renovated what is now called the Fiction Room where the north wall had collapsed due to water seeping into the adobe wall.

A legal battle began when the heirs of Abel and Petrolina Lucero wanted to re-claim the land that their parents donated because they felt it was no longer being used for educational purposes.  The law firm of Montgomery and Andrews, P.A. (Tom Olson) helped the Library (Pro Bono) with the legal proceedings until there was a settlement agreement.  The Mesa Vista School District did not want the building because of its upkeep and they had no need for the building.  Andy R. Lopez (School Board President at the time), Myron (Mickey) Simmons (Library Board Treasurer), Tom Olson (Attorney at Montgomery and Andrews), and Raymond Lucero (Family Representative) all came to a settlement agreement that the Library would pay the Luceros $30,000 (which was the value of one acre at the time).  The agreement was that $15,000 would be paid initially and three yearly installments of $5,000 thereafter.

Andy R. Lopez (Director at Las Clinicas del Norte), John H. Caster (Library Board President); and Myron (Mickey) Simmons all drove to Santa Fe to meet with Owen M. Lopez (Executive Director) at the McCune Charitable Foundation.  Mr. Owen Lopez agreed to grant the library the initial $15,000.  The next two yearly installments were fund raised and the final installment was granted by the Helen and Will Webster Foundation.

Coinciding with the renovation was a shift in governance, as the library reorganized under its own nonprofit 501 (c) (3) status, with its own board of directors.

The El Rito Library is recognized as a Non-Profit Corporation in the State of New Mexico and is on the Attorney General’s list of Charitable Organizations. As of today, the staff is now at 2.0 FTE.