A proposed bill that would make state funds unavailable to libraries who try to ban books passed the New Mexico House Education Committee with a vote of 8-0.
“A public library shall not be eligible to receive state funds unless the library adopts and complies with the American Library Association’s library bill of rights, including the requirement that library materials not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or the author’s race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation or political or religious views,” the bill states.
Dozens of individuals, mostly from libraries around the state, showed up in support of the bill. There were no individuals opposed to the bill who spoke at the meeting.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Kathleen Cates, whose district lies in Rio Rancho, and is co-sponsored by Sen. Harold Pope, Sen. Antoinette Lopez, Rep. Christina Parajon and Rep. Natalie Figueroa.
“This is a very simple bill that follows an existing process with our public libraries to create their own processes and policies that are based on the Library Bill of Rights,” Cates said.
Parajon, who sits on the education committee, doubled down on this message.
“I am excited about this bill because it will ensure that all public libraries in New Mexico remain open and inclusive spaces,” she said.
While the bill got support from several library directors and librarians across the state, it also got a supporting statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Ivan Torres, of Rio Rancho, was there representing the ACLU Organizing Committee.
“I have been advocating for this issue since it started. I was in my senior year of high school studying for finals when a group attempted to ban books from our public library,” he said.
Torres originally spoke at a series of attempts to remove LGBTQIA-themed books from the Rio Rancho libraries last year.
Then and now he references his family being a LGBTQIA family and stressed that this bill would support families like his as well as the libraries.
“It recognizes that my family is just as validated in the freedom to read,” he said.
Representatives sitting on the committee also spoke in support of the bill.
Rep. Willie Madrid, District 53, said the bill is just plain common sense for New Mexico.
“As one of the public just said, ‘You’re free to read what you want to read,’ and I think we have to preserve that,” he added.
Rep. Susan Herrera, District 41, said she thinks books save lives. She explained that she remembers wanting to watch a movie called “A Summer Place.”
“It was about teenage love, and I was very interested in that at the time at 15, but my mom wouldn’t let me. The next day I said, ‘Can you just take me to the library?’ She took me to the library and, of course, I checked out that book,” she said.
Rep. Patricia Caballero, District 13, talked about her previous support of Chicano and Chicana publications that were being challenged at the national level.
Rep. Joy Garratt, District 29, showed the committee a book about Ruby Bridges, a civil rights activist, which was banned in other states so Garratt keeps it as a reminder of “what banning books means.”
The bill has not passed into law yet. The next step is the committee report from the education committee and the consumer and public affairs committee.