Born in former U.S. Forest Service ranger station, the Baldwin Cabin Public Library near Datil is marking its 20th year with an open house and celebration on Saturday, May 4.
Starting out in 1999 with a decent number of donated books, the library has grown to offer approximately 20,000 titles.
“We started off on all donations. The bookcases were built by volunteers, and other furnishings were donated,” Linn Kennedy, one of the founders, said. “Then we started carrying audio books, movies, and then music CDs. We’ve tried to respond to the community in growing our collection.”
But don’t look for internet access.
“There are no computers. We don’t have Wi-Fi,” she said. We’re still old-fashioned that way.”
On the other hand, she said patrons do have access to a wealth of information on local history.
“We have a really good local history and Southwest collection,” Kennedy said. “It’s all due to an extraordinarily generous gift from the late Datil resident James Wetzig. He donated his entire Southwest and non-fiction Western collections, over 250 volumes all in prime condition, to the library. It gave us a really good collection that would’ve been difficult for us to financially to buy.”
Kennedy said the late Martin Chavez, who was the Magdalena District Forest Ranger at the time, partnered with her and Anne Sullivan to convert the unused building into a library.
“Our intent was to have year-round reading available for kids in the area because the local school would close its library in the summer,” Kennedy said. “My daughter was in school in Datil then, and I knew there was some interest in year-round reading. That’s how it came about. Diane Olmstead was the librarian for many years.”
She said a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the forest Service in 1998.
“It took us a year to negotiate the contract and the MOU, and to get the building fixed up. We were able to put in a heating system and a bathroom,” Kennedy said. “Being an old ranger station, right behind the library is the original forest service mule barn.”
Baldwin Cabin is the only public library on U.S. Forest Service land.
“Within our 20 years, they have used it on occasion when they needed to,” she said. “We’ve always had that understanding, if they need to be in that area.”
Kennedy originally became involved with the Magdalena library.
“I used to do the kids program in Magdalena with Linda Montoya,” she said. “B.J. Blackburn asked Linda and I to start a kids program at the Magdalena library in the mid-1990s. And that’s how we got into the business.”
The open house will be 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4.
“Jim Ruff and his group, the Three Amigos are playing for the party, and we’re going to give books away,” Kennedy said. “We’ll be glad to see you and you’ll be glad to meet all these wonderful books.”
Baldwin Cabin Public Library is located on Forest Road 100 off Highway 60, four miles west of Datil in the Cibola National Forest. Normal hours are Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.