Harvey House Museum to house extension of Belen Public Library

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One room in the Harvey House Museum is transforming into an extension of the Belen Public Library.

This historical venue will be a one-stop shop providing information about the history of Belen and the Southwest, where locals can also trace back their family ancestry.

Deborah Graham, the library director, estimates the branch will be open by March, but it's dependent upon the number of volunteers that can set up the branch.

"We're all very short staffed and depend a lot on volunteers," Graham said.

Partnering up with the Harvey House Museum seemed like a natural idea, since both entities have the same goals, Graham said.

"It's about educating the community and preserving the heritage," she said. "We have such a neat cultural history in the city that goes back many hundreds of years. On top of that, we have all of the history of the railroad and this will be just be a fascinating and wonderful place to visit."

Adding a branch of the library to the museum adds another facet to the Harvey House for museum-goers to enjoy, said Maureen McMillan, the museum's director.

"It provides another close tie to the city's history and will enhance the operations at the museum in turn," McMillan said.

By collaborating with the Harvey House Museum, the library becomes eligible to receive additional grants for archive supplies, materials and library resources, and for restoration efforts to preserve the building erected in 1910, Graham said.

"There's always grant money available to libraries for renovations, and we're hoping to look for some of those to help with this historic building," she said.

Instead of holding antiques from Belen's past, the room on the north side of the building will soon be home to a Southwestern collection consisting of more than 300 books.

Among the Southwestern collection are journals filled with personal experiences of ranching adventures from families in the region.

"They're really fascinating," the library director said. "Some of them are basically a history of certain events … We want to hang onto them for the community."

At first, the branch will display these donated history books, which have been in boxes due to a lack of space in the library and their large quantity.

"Most of them are on the back wall in the main reading room, but we need more space," Graham said.

Once the branch is open, the library's railroad collection may be added to this location.

By July of next year, Graham is planning to add computers to the branch to aid visitors in searching for books, checking books out and searching for their family ancestry on Heritage Quest and Ancestry.com.

In the past, the library collaborated with the museum to host the annual Hub City Rail Heritage Day, where residents learned about Belen's historical connection to the railroad and Harvey House.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.