In 1963 Rio Rancho was home to about five families. Melba Palmer, one of the pioneers, gathered a tiny collection of books, from gifts from the Santa Fe State Library and donations from the community.
In the early 1970s Esther Bone, professor emeritus in library administration from Kent State University, along with Perce Williams, started the first community library in Rio Rancho. The city gave them a few shelves in the recreation center at Grande and 19th and later at the city auditorium building on Sabana Grande. The collection contained mostly paperback books, and volunteers staffed the library.
In 1975 the Rio Rancho Community Library Association first met, and the library moved into a small building in Haynes Park that AMREP leased to it for one dollar a year. Esther Bone wrote a proposal and received a small state grant to organize and enlarge the library. When the city incorporated in 1981, the community library became a public library annexed by the city, and it moved into City Hall.
With incorporation, the Friends of the Library of Rio Rancho group was established as the library's nonprofit fund-raising arm, and the city hired its first paid librarian. Esther Bone died in 1982, and the City Council renamed the library the Esther Bone Memorial Library in her honor. In 1992 Toni Beatty, library director since 1986, oversaw the building of a new 12,250 square-foot building on Pinetree Road, just off Southern Boulevard, and the Esther Bone Memorial Library moved into its first independent home.
By the early 2000s, the library was rapidly outgrowing its space, and demand from the growing population was straining library resources. Planning and fundraising for a new main library began under Toni Beatty's ongoing leadership. A $5.5 million construction bond referendum was passed in 2004, and with that and many generous donations, both private and corporate, the Loma Colorado Main Library was built.
Opening in December 2006, the 32,000 square-foot facility included state-of-the-art computer services, an auditorium, a conference room, a café area, and a local history room, in addition to more extensive children and adult areas and a separate teen room, the Twilight Zone. The building had LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and has received architectural awards for excellence in design. Loma Colorado Main Library is a close neighbor to Rio Rancho High School, the Rio Rancho Aquatic Center, and the growing Loma Colorado residential community.
While plans were still developing for the Loma Colorado Main Library, another library facility, the Star Heights Learning Center, was built as part of the new Star Heights Recreation Center. A homework center for youth in grades 5 through 9, it opened in 2004 for use on weekday afternoons, staffed by a succession of creative staff members. In 2010, low usage resulted in the facility being closed as a library service point. Until conditions change, the space is being used as a computer center for the Star Heights neighborhood.
After serving the Rio Rancho community for 22 years and greatly expanding both the physical facilities and library services, as well as taking a major role in leading library development in the state, Toni Beatty retired in early 2008. The Esther Bone Memorial Library, closed since October 2006 for a complete refurbishing, reopened its doors in February 2008. In July, 2008, William Cicola was appointed library director.