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Let history set an example

Twenty-five years ago today, on Monday, Feb. 6, 1989, the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library opened for business.

The previous library facility was located in the old Town Hall building where the Bell Tower is now located. Those of us who frequented that facility can attest to the dire need for a larger facility with more offerings.

In the Feb. 9, 1989, issue of The SUN, then-editor David C. Mitchell wrote:

“Thanks to Lenore Bright and members of the library board who voted that the old REA building at Lewis and Fourth streets was not the best site for a new library, the vision of the Eighth Street and U.S. 160 facility became a commitment.

“Herman Riggs was recruited as the fund raising chairman. Sensing the commitment generated by Lenore and the library district board, some of the largest taxpayers in Archuleta County graciously became larger donors.

“Likewise, the trickle of nickels, dimes and dollars from throughout the county soon flowed together as thousands of dollars in their own right.  Checks were mailed from across the United States. Some earlier donors made substantial second contributions as the commitment intensified. There were no golden eggs laid by any benevolent goose, but a mountain bird of the Dan Fogelberg variety agreed to a benefit concert.

“Commitment became the blood and guts effort, the sweat, sacrifice, personal generosity and unselfish attitude that brought together $765,000 to build a new library in Archuleta County.

“Lenore, Herman, Dan and all the others who played a part in making the Ruby M. Sisson Library a reality weren’t seeking recognition or acclaim. They were committed to strengthening a community.

“Archuleta County has its own proof that once you focus on a goal and sell the community on the value of that goal, it is easy to go out and sell it to the world.”

Yes, you read that correctly. No public tax revenues were pumped into building the new library.

Lenore Bright was the librarian during that time and she documented the entire story in her journals. She said, “It was remarkable, there was not one club or organization in town that didn’t hold a fundraiser for us.”

Jake and Terry Hershey, 4-Mile Ranch owners, were the first ones to speak publicly about the need and made a large contribution to the effort.

The Friends of the Library was formed in 1983 in an effort to build a new facility with Ruby Sisson, Betty Feazel, Marguerite Wiley and Charlie Stith leading the way.  The first library board, formed in 1984, focused on that same goal. The board included Drue Hartong, Joe Dan Martinez, Joan Seielstad, Bob Bigelow, Gloria Macht, Mary K. Carpenter and Edna Turney. Then-county commissioners Chris Chavez, Dee Diestelkamp and Vic Poma came together to demonstrate support for a new library. Herman Riggs, Pam Barsanti and Ginger Swartz united to lead the fundraising campaign.

In 1985, Herman introduced Lenore to a man named Bob Lindner. She had no idea who Bob was at the time. Bob asked Lenore, “If you had your wish, where would you go?” She replied that she would build the library up by the grocery store and the elementary school so that the kids could walk down to it. Bob granted her wish and purchased the property at the current location for approximately $240,000. He had only three stipulations: 1.) The building had to be beautiful. 2.) The library had to be named after Ruby Sisson. 3.) The building had to remain as a library for 20 years. All of those promises were kept.

Lenore shared, “If you don’t have a plan that is so good you can sell it, it isn’t going to work. Every detail must be worked out. You have to go out into the community and find out that there is a true need, and everyone will support it. Planning is the whole thing.”

Incredible things can happen through the strength and commitment of a cooperative community effort — let history set an example for today.

Terri Lynn Oldham House

This story was posted on February 6, 2014.
  • ajpagosa

    What a great resource the library is to our town, and what a pleasant surprise to find out it was not built with public tax revenues!

    Maybe some wealthy locals in need of a tax break could donate a rec center! A sensible one not the lavish boondoggle proposed.

    In any case many thanks to those who made the library happen, and to those who keep it going.