ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A city-county library is off-limits now after a fire that erupted inside the building early Wednesday morning.
Investigators are pointing to arson as the possible cause of the fire at the North Valley Library on Second Street NW near Los Ranchos Road.
"Closed due to fire damage" isn't the kind of signs Dean Smith thought he would ever have to put up.
"It's a very sad and terrible thing when it looks like someone may have intentionally set fire to a public library," said Smith, director of Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library system.
Yet that's exactly what apparently happened at the North Valley Library Wednesday morning.
An employee coming into work noticed smoke coming from the building and dialed 911 just after 6 a.m.
"Right now it looks like someone may have broken into the library and started it on fire utilizing the books themselves," Bernalillo County Battalion Commander Marty Girón said.
When firefighters arrived, they found a pile of burning books in the library's east side.
"It's very painful. Any loss to the building or to the collection, it has an impact," Smith said.
Those who use the library are already feeling the impact. They now have to go elsewhere.
"The worst part is on average over 500 people walk through every library's doors every day," Smith said. "So those 500 people aren't going to be able to come to this library for weeks."
Manuel Harrison frequents North Valley and is upset that someone could do such a thing.
"This is an educational building and everything, and then you have people trying to destroy the things we have in the North Valley. It makes me very sick," Harrison said.
Bernalillo County fire officials say it'll likely be a few weeks until the library will reopen.
Smith says there's smoke damage throughout the entire building.
"There will be a lot of effort to get the building back open," he said. "It will take quite a bit of time and effort to get it right again."
The library's five full-time employees will be reassigned to other branches while the cleanup takes place. At this point, investigators have no solid leads on who could have done this.
While North Valley is closed, people are being asked to use the Los Griegos, Taylor Ranch and Erna Fergusson libraries. Any materials can be returned to those locations as well.
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