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New West Side branch ‘a crown jewel of libraries’

Crews are shown in November working on what will become a new city library at Central and Unser. The 25,000-square-foot building will become the city’s largest branch location. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Crews are shown in November working on what will become a new city library at Central and Unser. The 25,000-square-foot building will become the city’s largest branch location. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — West Side residents are only months away from having a new library.

In addition, the city has decided that two smaller libraries it had planned to close when the new branch was finished will remain open.

The new 25,000-square-foot library sits on the northwest corner of Central and Unser. With construction wrapping up, the library will open to the public in late March or early April, Dean Smith, director of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County library system.

“This will be our largest branch library,” he said. “This is really going to be the most outstanding library in Albuquerque.”

The new branch sits within the district of City Councilor Ken Sanchez, who said the community worked for almost nine years to get a library. He said he hopes the library will be a lure for more retail stores in that area. The land north of the library is vacant and designated for retail. An ABQ Ride transit center and a University of New Mexico health clinic are adjacent to the project.

“I think it’s going to be a crown jewel of libraries in Albuquerque,” he said. “We’ve waited so long for this.”

The $8.4 million price tag was covered by money from the county, city, state and private sector. It will have more than 40 computers, books for adults and children, group rooms, reading areas and a meeting space.

Smith said in order to serve its bilingual customers, the library will include Spanish language books for both adults and children. The city, he said, hopes to hire at least two bilingual staff members at that location. The library will create 13 new jobs.

The library being built at Central and Unser “is really going to be the most outstanding library in Albuquerque,” said Dean Smith, director of the city/county library system. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The library being built at Central and Unser “is really going to be the most outstanding library in Albuquerque,” said Dean Smith, director of the city/county library system. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The library will cost about $850,000 annually to operate, Sanchez said.

Initially, the city said it would close the Westgate branch on Delgado SW as well as the Alamosa library on Gonzales SW when the new library opened, but Smith said that there were some complaints and concerns about the plan.

Sanchez said the city decided to leave the branches open for at least another year and included funding in the current budget so that can happen. Alamosa has an annual operating cost of $289,000; Westgate, $132,000.

Closing the smaller branches, Sanchez said, would have saved money but could be detrimental to the nearby neighborhoods.

“People would have to travel farther and some do not always have transportation,” he said. “If we ever do close the other branches, I would like to see public transportation to the (new) library.”

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