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History and General Information

The first public library service in Taos was initiated by Mrs. Lucy Case Harwood and her husband Burt, who made their own personal library available to the people of Taos from the front porch of their Ledoux Street home. Just before Mr. Harwood’s death in 1923, Mrs. Harwood formally organized The Harwood Foundation as a cultural center for the community. It was a place where artists and townspeople could meet, exchange ideas, borrow books and show their artwork.

In the early 1930s, WPA funds were made available to add on a wing, which was designed by John Gaw Meem, to house the growing library and provide a community meeting room for the citizens of Taos. This became a formal library and, in 1936, not long before Mrs. Harwood’s death, she deeded the property over to the University of New Mexico with the understanding that The University would maintain the facility as a public library in perpetuity. 

By this time, the Harwood housed a public library, an art gallery and museum, and a community hall, none of which existed elsewhere in Taos. In the 1940s the Taos County Project was initiated through the Carnegie Foundation, which brought a bookmobile that was active into the 1950s and operated out of the Harwood.

The first librarian was Mr. Albert Gee, who was hired by Mrs. Harwood before her death. Later Librarians included Willard “Spud” Johnson, who was a writer of note and publisher of “The Horse Fly”, the “World’s Smallest and Most Inadequate Newspaper”. Mrs. Toni Tarleton, a former Harvey Girl, succeeded Johnson and, for many years, was the sole employee in the library. 

In the 70s the Harwood Foundation became a National Historic Place and became eligible for grant monies and extensive renovation began. 

The Town of Taos took over the management of the Library. In 1993 the Town of Taos, the Friends of the Harwood Public Library and other community organizations began raising money to build a new library building. The Town of Taos contributed property it owned behind Town Hall and refinanced existing bonds to create major funds for the library. The Friends group raised an additional $300,000. Construction of the new building, designed by Robert Sturtcman, began in 1995 and the present library opened in July, 1996.

Less than 10 years later, the Library has outgrown its present space and plans and fundraising for expansion will begin in January, 2005.