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The dedication of the Lora Belle Cole Library in the Los Alamos Detention Center was held Aug 21. Host Mary Najar, detention supervisor, welcomed about 60 people, essentially all friends or admirers of Lora Belle Cole, which included Los Alamos Police Department staff, three county councilors, Mesa Public Library staff and members of the Friends of the Library. She introduced Chief of Police Wayne Torpy and Cole’s son Tom Cole and his family.
In his remarks, Torpy said most of the prisoners are between 18-25 and are not repeat offenders. He said his staff at the Detention Center has taught him a lot.
Together, they run a very good facility where inmates are treated humanely. The in-house library contributes to this objective.
Before moving on to the dedication, Najar surprised Torpy with an Appreciation Award from the entire Detention Center staff.
The award left him almost speechless. During construction of the Detention Center, Torpy was on-site in his hard hat checking to make sure their objectives were met. Torpy’s admiration for his Detention Center staff, coupled with their award for him, made everyone aware of what a good relationship has been fostered. The camaraderie and mutual respect we saw made the Friends appreciate our role as supporters of the Lora Belle Cole Library that much more.
Cole, who retired from Mesa Public Library in late 1983, after serving in various capacities including acting director, volunteered as a member of the Friends of the Library Board to be the interface between the library and the jail.
Weekly, she took lists of new books to the jail and received requests from prisoners for books and magazines.
Cole was not in it for the glory. Bernadine Goldman, assistant library manager of Mesa Public Library said people talked about Cole with reverence because she saw a need and filled it selflessly with great care and good humor. Eventually, a small room was designated the Jail Library and Cole was their first librarian.
In addition to housing magazines, fiction, non-fiction and science fiction books, the Lora Belle Cole Library is used for religious services that inmates may attend, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other training and self-help events. Inmates may peruse the book lists from Mesa Public Library and select books and magazines to have delivered the next time that a volunteer goes to the library on
weekly volunteer rounds.
The inmates then pick up their requested books and magazines and take them back to their cells to read. They return them when they are done in a designated box in the library. Soon inmates, one at a time, will be able to study in the library for their GED and possibly other training using a computer that the Friends are in process of purchasing for the Lora Belle Cole Library.
People may bring current magazines and books for the library to the desk of the Friends Bookstore when it is open. Any donations deemed out of date or inappropriate will be integrated into the bookstore materials for sale or given to the Navajo Nation or other needy libraries.
People who wish to have a book or other material considered for inclusion in Mesa Public Library’s collection should bring that item into the library and fill out the appropriate form.
Anne Browning is the Friends of the Library