House Bill 123, the Prohibit Library Book Banning bill, is sponsored by Representative Kathleen Cates and Senator Herald Pope. It is modeled similarly to the new law in Illinois which ties state funding to library policies about book banning. In order for public libraries in New Mexico to receive state funding, they would need to do the following:
- adopt and follow the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Bill of Rights
- adopt or create a policy that explicitly prohibits the removal of materials from the public library based on “partisan or doctrinal disapproval”–in other words, no banning on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, political, or religious views.
The bill also would make it against the law for any political division of the state to reduce a library’s funding for not engaging in book banning. It would still be permissible for people to challenge books at their library–that’s a First Amendment Right–but the parameters for what can be removed are much stricter.
As of writing, the bill would apply only to public libraries.
One of the most interesting pieces of this legislation is that it clearly defines the word “ban.” One of the consistent arguments made by book banners is that they are not banning books but are simply removing them (see here and here). The state would define a ban precisely as it is: the act of removing or prohibiting the addition of materials in public libraries.”
New Mexico has not been one of the biggest targets of book bans in recent years, but the state has not been unscathed. ALA reported one attempt to restrict access and six titles challenged in that attempt between January and August of 2023. Additionally, Ruidoso School District, Los Alamos Public Library, Las Cruces School District, and Rio Rancho Public Libraries have all experienced book challenges in the last few months.
If you’re a New Mexico resident, take 10 minutes to write your representatives in support of the bill, which was filed January 16, 2024. You have a wealth of statistics at your fingertips, including those found in the recent Book Riot x Every Library Institute research about how much libraries are supported by their communities.