Shel Neymark is one of the founders of the Embudo Valley Library and a member of its board of directors. The Embudo Valley Library & Community Center is a nonprofit public library that is at the center of village life in Dixon, New Mexico. Offering more than traditional library services, the library and community center are the local hub for educational, cultural, and recreational resources in rural New Mexico’s Rio Arriba and Taos counties, serving more than 900 local residents and 8,500 people in the broader region.
With the help of more than 60 volunteers, the library houses and sponsors a community center, a public park and orchard, a radio station, and partners with Dixon Cooperative Market—the town’s only full-service grocery store, which the library has helped renovate and expand. It also hosts a multitude of events and programming, from an archaeology lecture series to annual fiestas, while also providing critical services such as access to the only free, public computers and internet connection in the area.
Founded in 1992 in a rented room with two volunteer librarians and a small collection of donated books, today, the library has 1,500 cardholders and houses a collection of 17,000 books, movies, newspapers, and other reference materials. Serving communities from Velarde to Vadito, the library offers a summer reading program, an early literacy program, and an after-school enrichment program with tutoring and professional arts instruction for area students in K–6th grade. The library partners with Northern New Mexico College to provide a youth STEM program—offering students 3D printing and robotics classes as well as a team to compete in a state-wide robotics competition in Albuquerque. Participants in the youth STEM program have shown significant gains in technology-related skills and confidence, which highlight how opportunities for local school children have increased due to library programming and assistance from its staff.
In 2015, the Embudo Valley Library was one of 10 institutions awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums. In 2012, the library was recognized as one of "America's Star Libraries" by Library Journal, and in 2006, the organization received the John Gaw Meem Award for Civic Affairs from the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the New Mexico State Senate.
A Chicago native, Neymark has lived in northern New Mexico since 1976. He is an artist with a degree in ceramics from Washington University in St. Louis. He has created public art and private installations throughout New Mexico and is currently making interactive work as well as a sculptural series exploring the brain. In addition to his ongoing work with the library, Neymark is the creator and director of the New Mexico Rural Library Initiative, which raises funds to help sustain 51 vulnerable community and pueblo libraries.
In 2020, Neymark and the Embudo Valley Library & Community Center were recognized with a Manhattan Institute Civil Society Award.
Learn more about Neymark’s work at https://www.embudovalleylibrary.org.