Project to create new community library in Terlingua gains momentum

Big Bend Citizens Alliance members handed out surveys at the Terlingua Post Office to gather input from the community about a new library in South Brewster County. Photo courtesy of Joselyn Fenstermacher.

TERLINGUA — Terlingua may soon get a new library and community space, thanks to the cooperation of Brewster County, Terlingua CSD and the Big Bend Citizens Alliance (BBCA). The BBCA recently wrapped up a survey project to gather community input while reaching out to people who live in and love the area for financial support. 

Until 2022, the Terlingua library was located on campus at Terlingua CSD — though library users didn’t have to be district students or parents in order to borrow materials. That changed amidst mounting concerns about school security, and the district was advised to close off facilities to the public for good. 

Community members were still able to call in requests to the library and pick up materials at the front desk, but that process discouraged many regulars from using the library. BBCA President Joselyn Fenstermacher and Terlingua CSD Superintendent Reagan Reed approached the Brewster County Commissioners Court for help. 

The commissioners agreed to amend the county’s library contract and to allocate a sliver of their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward the effort. The BBCA was then tasked with raising the remainder of the funds and using community input to bring the project to fruition. 

The organization launched a survey project to gather that input, which spanned a huge and remote area from Lajitas to Big Bend National Park. Surveys were distributed at the Terlingua Post Office, the Terlingua Ranch Lodge and other high-traffic community spaces. 

BBCA member Barbara Hines was one of the masterminds behind the survey project. She said that around 70% of the survey responses came from full-time locals, who requested services like adult education classes, tutoring, a food pantry and more. 

One amenity of the new library that Hines thought would be particularly helpful was a private space for folks to make Zoom calls. While many in the area are hooked up to the internet, connection speeds aren’t always as fast as they might be in the city. A solid connection and a quiet space to take calls could open up a world of possibility for telemedicine, access to the court system, and more. “It’s kind of limitless,” she said. 

The new library will be built on BBCA-owned land adjacent to the school. Members are currently brainstorming what they’d like the space to look like — popular ideas include installing a community garden and a public park.

Hines felt that the project would transform the area by providing a space to gather — as well as to seek a place for contemplation. “[Libraries] are a place you can go and meet other people without having to spend money,” she said. “It’s also a space you can go to be quiet.” 

As an avid book lover, she felt that there was a greater value in libraries in providing opportunities to be exposed to new ways of thinking. “I think it’s really important that we have access to all kinds of literature,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to have access to ideas, and libraries are a really good place to find them.”

For now, the organization’s next step is to recruit private donors to help turn their dreams into reality. “We don’t have a lot here in South County,” Hines said. “I think having a library down here will be a great asset to the community.” 

To make a donation to the Terlingua library project, visit the Big Bend Citizens Alliance online: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=GKDCHS7QBGKFG.