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Albuquerque library renamed to honor novelist Rudolfo Anaya

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Libraries have always been important to iconic New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya, so it was particularly significant when the North Valley Library was renamed the Rudolfo Anaya North Valley Library during a windy Thursday morning ceremony.

As a child in Santa Rosa, N.M., Anaya was overjoyed to discover a one-room public library on top of the local fire station.

“We found out we could go there and check out books and take them home. It was incredible, because we were from a poor family and we didn’t have books at home, and here was a way to get books, take them home, read them – cowboy stories, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys.”

Later, his family moved to Albuquerque and Anaya attended Albuquerque High School, where he earned a reputation as someone who was pretty good putting words to paper. A daily study session in the school library turned into a writing session as other boys prevailed on him to pen love notes for their romantic interests.

“Pretty soon the girls were looking at me because they knew who had written the notes,” he said.

As a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, Anaya said he met a beautiful woman named Patricia in a summer class. They were studying folklore and spent a lot of time in Zimmerman Library. “I think Patricia and I fell in love at the library,” Anaya said of his late wife, who died in January 2010.

“I’ve always been connected to libraries,” Anaya said during the renaming ceremony. “It’s fantastic and it’s an honor. The library is probably one of the most important things in my life. It’s a center for democracy and of a community.”

Children from Alameda Elementary meet Rudolfo Anaya at a ceremony honoring the renaming of the North Valley Library in Anaya’s honor Thursday in Albuquerque. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

The idea for the library name change originated with former Bernalillo County manager Juan Vigil. In September, he wrote to Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, in whose district the library is located, and suggested the name change.

O’Malley told those gathered outside the library, at 7704 Second St. NW, that she immediately offered her support, and the renaming item quickly moved through the formal process and was unanimously approved by the full commission.

Dean Smith, director of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Public Library System, said naming the library for Anaya is part of a tradition “where we honor authors who have made major contributions to the literary canon of New Mexico – hence, we have the Ernie Pyle Library, the Erna Fergusson Library and the Tony Hillerman Library.” Smith said he was “humbled that this library will share his (Anaya’s) name.”

Anaya, 80, earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. He worked as a guidance counselor in the Albuquerque Public Schools for seven years and later became an English professor at UNM.

He is the author of numerous novels, children’s books and essays. His 1972 “Bless Me, Ultima” is among the most critically acclaimed novels in contemporary Chicano literature. The book has been made into a movie, a play and an opera.