The Rio Rancho City Council Meeting on April 28 worked backward in terms of agenda items.
Before public comment was allowed to ensue by Mayor Gregg Hull, City Manager Matt Geisel made his comments.
Normally, the city council allows public comment first after any declarations by the mayor. This time, it came last.
Geisel took the opportunity to explain how Rio Rancho Public Library book process works and to explain New Mexico law Article 30-37-2 after citizens calling for the removal of three books cited it at the April 13 meeting.
“The public library serves more than 105,000 residents of Rio Rancho. The public library has material on thousands of topics. The community has access to over 1.3 million items in the library collection. It is funded by all community taxpayers who have diverse interest,” Geisel said.
He went on to explain the public library has both a reconsideration policy and a process for adding to the collection.
“It is the public library’s responsibility to collect and make available information representing the range of human thought and experience. It is inevitable and expected that people will occasionally encounter resources with which they disagree,” he said.
Should a member of the community question a selection or placement of an item in the collection, they can submit a reconsideration request. That request will be reviewed by a group of professional librarians to address the concerns of the community member. Then that community member would receive a formal notification from the library director. The item in question won’t be removed while the reconsideration process is taking place.
The public library has received one request for reconsideration for a title during the past year as of April 26.
There is also a library card system for people under the age of 17 to use:
Full Access Card: available to those 17 years of age and under accompanied by an adult parent or guardian with photo ID and signature; allows for checkout of 30 physical items and all electronic services.
Child Card: available to 17 years of age and under accompanied by an adult parent or guardian with photo ID and proof of in-state address and signature; allows for checkout of 30 physical items from Children’s Collection only.
Youth Card: available to self-declared residents 17 years of age and under who can provide name and date of birth; allows the holder to checkout maximum of two books from Children’s Collection only.
“The Library Child Safety Policy states that responsibility for children in the library rests with the parent or guardian, and not with public library staff. The public library catalogs, arranges, and houses materials based on the publisher’s intended audience. If you are a parent or guardian, you have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what materials are suitable for your own family,” Geisel explained.
One of the members of the community trying to have the “offensive” books removed, Michael Jackovich, stated during his public comment that the library card policy changed recently because of his group’s comments at the last meeting. The city confirmed that since 2022, when a new library director was appointed, the library card policy has changed. That change was not a response to this group’s accusations toward the city.
Geisel also corrected the group on their interpretation of the New Mexico Law Article 30-37-2, saying the entities excluded from the law includes where such person is a bona fide school, museum or public library, or is acting in his capacity as an employee of such organization, or as a retail outlet affiliated with and serving the educational purposes of such organization.
In other words, the city of Rio Rancho has not committed a crime by including the alleged pornographic books specified by Jackovich in the April 13 meeting in the library collection, he said.
The previous story on the group trying to restrict the library collection can be found at https://rrobserver.com/book-ban-proposal-causes-stir-at-council-meeting/.