New Mexico HB 123 Prohibit Library Book Banning


The New Mexico legislature is moving into the final rounds and push to get bills to the floor. One such House Bill 123 is sponsored by a handful of Democratic lawmakers, concerning book banning and public libraries.

Under the law citizens could still challenge books in public libraries, but the library’s decision on whether or not to remove a book from the collection would have to follow written policy, rather than political whim or an unexplained reason.

House Bill 123 (HB123) proposes to withhold state funding from libraries unless they adopt and comply with the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and adopt a written policy prohibiting the practice of banning books or other library materials on the basis of author’s race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, or political or religious views. The effective date of this bill is July 1, 2024.

The Library Bill of Rights:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfilment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; January 29, 2019.

Inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

Although the Articles of the Library Bill of Rights are unambiguous statements of basic principles that should govern the service of all libraries, questions do arise concerning application of these principles to specific library practices. See the documents designated by the Intellectual Freedom Committee as Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights to learn more. American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. The American Library Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes libraries and library education.

Limitations. HB123 prohibits political subdivisions of the state from reducing funding to a public library for complying with the requirements of the bill. HB123 is not intended to curtail the right of individuals to challenge library materials as part of an approved library collection development policy following established library materials challenge procedures.

National Context:

Illinois passed a very similar law, which took effect on January 1, 2024. Illinois’ bill also withheld state funding from libraries that did not either adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or develop a written statement prohibiting book banning. Similar bills have been introduced in several other states this year including New York and Pennsylvania. According to the American Library Association, in the first eight months of 2023, the association received reports of 695 attempts to censor library materials for nearly 2,000 unique titles. This represents a 20 percent increase from the same reporting period last year. The majority of the challenges targeted books written by, or about, a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It is unclear what degree of book banning currently occurs in New Mexico’s public libraries.

Constitutional Law and the Supreme Court:

Related Supreme Court Case. The Justice Department notes the Supreme Court case Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982), addressed the removal of books from school libraries. The Court’s plurality opinion suggested school boards may not remove books from libraries simply due to disapproval of the ideas within them.

Per the case  457 U.S. 853, Did the Board of Education's decision to ban certain books from its junior high and high school libraries, based on their content, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?

Per the decision by Justice Brennan, "Yes. Although school boards have a vested interest in promoting respect for social, moral, and political community values, their discretionary power is secondary to the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment. The Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held that as centers' for voluntary inquiry and the dissemination of information and ideas, school libraries enjoy a special affinity with the rights of free speech and press. Therefore, the Board could not restrict the availability of books in its libraries simply because its members disagreed with their idea content.

This case serves as a precedent for both school boards and library boards throughout the nation and of special note in New Mexico with the political climate of today. The proposed bill applies to libraries only and not the school systems. 

SB123 would require state libraries to amend administrative code to include adoption of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, or a policy prohibiting banning of library materials, and a process for individuals to challenge library materials. Affected public libraries would be required to submit updated policies within one year of the law taking effect.

The Alamogordo Public Library already abides by the ALA Bill of Rights. Every year in Alamogordo is a discussion and highlights of those books with attempts to ban nationwide.

Source: NM Legislature, US Supreme Court, American Library Association,

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