New Mexico School for the Deaf’s new library opens
August 17, 2014
By Robert Nott
The New Mexican
New Mexico School for the Deaf first-grader Nirveli Smith wore a pair of helium-filled balloons tied to her wrists Sunday afternoon as she helped welcome visitors to the school’s new library, which opened just in time for the first day of school Monday.
“If you don’t have a library, students won’t learn any words,” Smith said through an interpreter. “If you have a library, you’ll learn.”
The school’s leaders hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday to mark the opening of the roughly 4,000-square-foot library filled with about 20,000 volumes. Located in the center of the campus on Cerrillos Road, the library — which also will house the Kenneth E. Brasel Centennial Museum — was an unexpected addition to the school’s eight-year master site plan. The school had a smaller library in Dillon Hall, but students and staff had complained it was small and dark.
“The other library was limited in book selections because of its size,” said seventh-grader Lindsay Hand through an interpreter.
Superintendent Ronald Stern said it is important for the school to have an updated, well-lit library with an expanded collection of books because the school places a strong emphasis on literacy. The library and museum building, coupled with a renovation of Dillon Hall, cost about $5.8 million.
The museum, named after the school’s fifth superintendent, has been housed on the second floor above the school’s cafeteria since it opened for the school’s 100th birthday, in 1987. It features a chronological history of the school’s superintendents; original documents, letters and photos detailing the people and history of the school; and a display of hearing-aid devices, classroom furniture and learning tools. The walls are filled with photos of all the school’s graduates dating back to the 1880s.
But the museum will not open in its new location until the beginning of December, Stern said, as volunteers are still packing up, labeling and moving all the material. Stern told those who gathered for Sunday’s event that the museum is “one of the best pertaining to deaf education in the country, but it’s not accessible” both because of its location above the cafeteria and because it has been manned by a few volunteers who are not there every day.
The new museum will have computers to allow visitors to access historical information on students and practices at the school.
The school itself was founded by deaf pioneer Lars Larson and his wife, Belle, in 1887. The pair originally held classes in residences on both Manhattan Avenue and Dunlap Street before the school set up shop at its current locale on Cerrillos Road.
About 135 students will start classes Monday at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, and Stern said he expects more to enroll over the course of the year. The school serves students from birth to age 21.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or [email protected].