HU’s Donnelly Library Celebrates 50th Anniversary During Homecoming


photo of Donnelly library

C.M. Montgomery’s 1966 photograph of Donnelly Library

Las Vegas, N.M – The Thomas C. Donnelly Library at Highlands University celebrates its 5oth anniversary as an enduring symbol of research, study, teaching and learning during homecoming week.

The milestone will include three public events, an Edible Book Festival Oct. 6, a cocktail reception and silent auction Oct. 7, and an exhibit of Highlands University history in the Ray Drew Gallery.

The library is at 802 National Ave. and all the festivities are free. It is named for Thomas C. Donnelly, Highlands University’s president from 1952-1970. Internationally acclaimed architect Robert Walters designed Donnelly Library. The library opened its doors in 1966.

Ruben Aragón, Donnelly Library director since 1992, said technology advances have been the most dramatic change in library services since it opened. His tenure at the library began in 1985 as associate director.

“There’s an incredible wealth of information available at Donnelly between our print and electronic collections,” Aragón said. “In 1987, we initiated a user-friendly online catalogue, and our electronic books and full-text online journal articles make us a 24/7 library. Highlands faculty and students can access, read and download texts of millions of articles and e-books from computers in their offices, dorm rooms or anywhere else in the world with Internet access.”

Aragón said that the ongoing goal at Donnelly Library is to help students and faculty find the resources they need for their academic success – whether from traditional print collections or electronic documents. The library serves the main campus as well as Highlands University’s centers and the university’s distance education students.

“Another important goal for Donnelly is to provide library resources for the Las Vegas community and Northeastern New Mexico. The high-quality, well-rounded library staff is dedicated to assisting all our patrons with their research needs. We cater to lifelong learners,” Aragón said.

Donnelly isn’t the first home for the Highlands University library. The first library was housed in Springer Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1922 and again in 1955. Next, the library was moved to the second floor of historic Rodgers Hall, the current administration building.

In 1996, Donnelly Library added a major addition designed by architect Richard Dawson and renovated the existing library, with Aragón leading the effort.

“We were bursting at the seams with books and other materials before the addition and had very limited public study areas,” Aragón said.

With the addition, the footprint of the library more than doubled from 23,700-square-feet to 53,500-square feet. The collection grew along with the building.

“Our Donnelly collection today contains 620,000 print items, which includes 166,000 books as well as scholarly journals, maps, government documents, fine art prints, and much more. We also have more than 246,000 e-books and subscribe to thousands of electronic journals,” Aragón said.

The 50th anniversary celebration activities for Donnelly include:

Edible Book Festival – Oct. 6, from 1 – 4 p.m. with a cake walk at 3 p.m. Entries should be edible and related to a book. Drop off entries from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Oct. 6. Light refreshments will be served. All proceeds benefit Donnelly Library’s account with the Highlands Foundation.

April Kent, head of public services, and Josephine Sena, head of government documents, organized the Edible Book Festival.

“This festival is a celebration of books and food – two wonderful things,” Kent said. “It will be really fun and tasty to see the wide variety of creative entries. The festival is not limited to cakes. It can be any kind of food.”

Kent said she’s hearing rumors of entries from classics like Moby Dick to Doctor Seuss books. Her own entry will be The Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 best-seller.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three entries, with the first place winner taking home a $50 Amazon gift card. For more details, contact Kent at or 505-454-3139 or Sena at or 505-454-3411.

Donnelly Library 50th Anniversary Cocktail Reception & Silent Auction – Oct. 7 from 5-7 p.m. at Highlands University’s Media Arts and Technology Department Trolley Building at 12th Street and San Francisco Avenue.

The Highlands Foundation is hosting the free event.

“This event features great food, a signature Highlands cocktail and President Sam Minner as auctioneer,” said Theresa Law, vice president for advancement and executive director for the Highlands Foundation. “It will be an elegant, enjoyable evening that has something for everyone, from fine art to ski lift tickets. It benefits Donnelly Library’s initiative to digitize more of its collection.”

SugarBomb Bake Shoppe, a local caterer, will be serving up both sweet and savory hor d’oeuvres. Borracho’s, a local bar, is creating the complimentary signature cocktail. There will also be a cash bar.

The live auction features a rare fine art print from the Russian artist Marc Chagall who died in 1985, Angel Fire Ski Resort tickets, and Disneyland tickets, among other items. The silent auction includes items like paintings, photography, crystal sculpture, jewelry, gift baskets, and a digital camera.

Photographs of the silent auction items can be found online at Click on the link for the Donnelly Library silent auction.

The Past Beyond the Purple Brick Road – An exhibit in Donnelly’s Ray Drew Gallery features highlights from Highlands University’s history. The exhibit is open during homecoming week and continues through Oct. 14.

Leslie Broughton, head of collection and instruction, and Lynn Gates, head of archiving and cataloging, combed the the university’s archives housed in Donnelly to develop the historical exhibit. Bob Read, Ray Drew Gallery curator, also helped with the exhibit.

“The exhibit features scenes of Highlands University history that illustrate campus life since the early 1900s as well as the changing architecture,” Broughton said.

The rarely seen artifacts include photographs of students at work and play, yearbooks and pennants, handwritten minutes from the first Board of Regents meeting, and Academic Dean Thomas Rodger’s academic regalia from 1925, to name a few.

“Our goal with this exhibit is to make the history of Highlands come alive through this treasure trove of our archives and make the images accessible to to the public,” Gates said.

The exhibit also showcases the creativity of the university’s faculty and students since its founding in 1893 through books and art.

More information about Donnelly Library’s 50th Anniversary celebration is online at The library is online at