Library History

Welcome to the History of the Branigan Library.

History By the Numbers...

  • Library Collection
    1935: 1,000 books
    2005: 146,133 books
  • Library Circulation
    July 1, 1975- June 30, 1976: 250,167
    July 1, 2005- June 30, 2006: 472,164
  • Library Staff
    1997: 25
    2007: 43
  • Number of Reference Librarians:
    1977: 1
    2007: 2
  • Number of months with active Children's programming:
    1937: 3
    2007: 12
WIA Building
WIA Library on Water Street

Before Branigan Library opened its doors to the public, Las Cruces depended on the Women's Improvement Association's (WIA) subscription library for its books and information.

When the local WIA was founded in 1894, one of their goals was to create a library as part of their overall mission to help improve Las Cruces. With that in mind, they gathered around 500 books for the circulating collection. For lack of a building, they stored the books at various member's houses, eventually moving to a small office building on Water Street.

In 1927, the WIA Club House was built and became the permanent home for all the books the WIA had acquired. Las Cruces had its first public library.

WIA members took turns caring for the books and acting as librarians. One of those members was Alice Branigan, widow of prominent Las Crucen Captain Thomas Branigan. Both Thomas and Alice had been very active in the community and cared a great deal about Las Cruces. When Alice died in 1932, she bequeathed her estate to a number of local organizations, such as the WIA and her church. She also left the people of Las Cruces a wonderful gift: funds to establish a public library in her husband's name.

Alice Branigan's generous donation allowed Las Cruces to build a library, furnish it and fill it with books.

Thomas Branigan Memorial Library opened its doors to the public in November of 1935.

1937: Library begins offering story time

1942: Mrs. W. Grover Murphy becomes Library Director.


The original Branigan Library and Reading room

  • 1950: Helen Caffey becomes Library Director
  • 1961: Library is renovated and expanded
  • 1967: Library is designated a building of signifigance for adherence to regional architectural design by the Dona Ana County Historical Society
  • 1971: Don Dresp becomes Library Director
  • 1972: Library is open 66 hours a week, more than any other NM library
  • 1973: Library undergoes another renovation

In 1979 Newly Built Branigan Library and Circulation area

  • 1977: City Commission approved the purchase of a 6-acre site
  • 1978: Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new library site
  • 1979: New Library opens to the public
  • 1992: New computer lab is added
  • 1995: Library automates circulation and cataloging systems
  • 1999: Library expands public computer lab with Gates Foundation grant

 New Library

Branigan Library and Circulation area today

  • 2001: Lori Grumet becomes Library Director
  • 2005: Library collection reaches 146,000 items
  • 2006: Library launches new, re-vamped website
  • 2008: Bookmobile is retired, Library begins Books by Mail
  • 2010: Lynette Schurdevin becomes Library Director
  • 2010: Library celebrates 75th anniversary