Unsung Heroes 2019

Unsung Hero: Sharon Nicholson

The vitality behind a community library

By Staci Matlock
Posted 10/11/19

When Sharon Nicholson was a child growing up in Wichita, Kansas, she used to hop on a city bus for a trip to the public library. “I would spend a Saturday morning exploring the nooks and …

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Unsung Heroes 2019

Unsung Hero: Sharon Nicholson

The vitality behind a community library

Posted

When Sharon Nicholson was a child growing up in Wichita, Kansas, she used to hop on a city bus for a trip to the public library. “I would spend a Saturday morning exploring the nooks and crannies, then check out my books, get on the bus and go home,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Nicholson is still having fun in a library – as the head of the Questa Public Library for the last eight years.

Under her direction, the little library has added several thousand books, DVDs and audio books. She’s also helped foster a lot of community programs over the years — from computer literacy for seniors to Friday activities for children since the school district has no classes that day.

Nicholson started at the library as a volunteer. She proved so useful that when then head librarian Carolyn Anderson retired approximately 10 years ago, she urged Nicholson to take the job. “I kept saying ‘No, I’m just having fun,’ ” Nicholson said.

She finally relented and she’s glad she did. “It’s been good,” said Nicholson, 77. “The reason it’s been good is that I have the greatest people behind me to help with programs. I’m not the hero. They’re the heroes.”

Esther García, who nominated Nicholson as an Unsung Hero, said the librarian doesn’t give herself enough credit for all she does. “Sharon goes beyond what she is supposed to do at the library,” said García, a former mayor of Questa. “The kids don’t have school on Fridays. She’s always looking for what she can do to interest them. She gives a lot out of her own time.”

When adults go to the library looking for information, Nicholson helps track down what they need. “She’s always very willing to help,” García said.

The little library stays busy. Nicholson said she’s issued around 1,600 library cards in the last decade. On a typical day, 17-18 people will fill up the seats in the library, working on computers, perusing a book or visiting.

Yes, visiting.

“We are not a quiet library,” Nicholson said with a laugh that comes easily and frequently.

Nicholson moved all over the country when she was married. Later, after raising three children, she migrated to Albuquerque, finished a business degree and moved to Taos in the late ’90s to manage a bed-and-breakfast for a decade. She sang in the Taos Community Choir and settled into the rhythm of Northern New Mexico.

She had a little cabin for awhile in Red River and finally built a house near the Sunshine Valley near Questa in 2005, where she likes to garden, knit and, of course, read, when she isn’t managing the library. 

She hopes to stay at the library as long as she can work. “I feel like I’m needed, like I can make a difference. Whether it is a program or helping someone find a resource they need.”

Along with the programs that she and the volunteers keep expanding, the library has become a pet rescue and lost pet search center. Nicholson has two dogs and a cat and she’s passionate about animals. She allows people to post notices of lost pets and helps connect them to resources if they find a stray.

Nicholson also is overseeing the library’s expansion. With the help of García and longtime state Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a Questa native, the village received $580,000 in capitol outlay funds to build a new wing onto the library. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

Along with a great room that can double for meetings, there’ll be a kids section and Nicholson will finally have an office with a door.

But she won’t be adding automatic checkout. “No. How am I going to get to know you, or know your name or enjoy the fact that you came in the library if there’s auto checkout?” she said.

Libraries, she said, are crucial places for communities to gather.

“A library is a place where anyone can go, it’s free and people accept you for who you are,” Nicholson said. “I think small public libraries are going to become more and more vital because people have fewer places to go and gather.”

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