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NM voters to weigh stocking the shelves with largest ever state library bond

School library bookshelf
Zaini Izzuddin
New Mexicans are voting on General Obligation Bond 2 in November, which would allocate around $19 million to public, tribal, school and academic libraries across the state to purchase print and electronic resources, along with equipment, internet technology and furniture.

The second of three bond questions on November’s ballot in New Mexico is about whether to boost the resources available at public and school-based libraries. At around $19 million, it would be the largest ever statewide library bond.

If approved, General Obligation Bond 2 will be split up, with $6 million each going to public libraries, K-12 school libraries, and academic libraries at colleges and universities, and another $1 million going to the 17 libraries on tribal lands.

The New Mexico Library Association requests the funds from lawmakers on behalf of all the state’s libraries. In 2020, they requested $9.5 million, but chair of the NMLA legislation committee Joe Sabatini said this year the state had more money.

“So we said ‘Let’s ask for double what that one was,’” he said.

With local government oversight, the libraries can use their portion of the bond for books, other print and electronic media and equipment.

The academic libraries distribute their allotment based on student enrollment, so the larger universities get the bulk of the funds. But before they divvy it up, they pool a third of it and buy a suite of shared electronic resources that some smaller colleges may not be able to afford otherwise.

“And that way, if you’re at Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, but somebody has a technical question about nursing that’s in a database about nursing — well, that happens to be in the package,” he said. “And that student and that faculty member get what the big guys get.”

Public and tribal libraries can spend some of their share of the bond on broadband infrastructure and even furniture and fixtures.

Sabatini said New Mexico voters have never rejected a library bond since they began in 2002 to appear on the ballot every other year.

“And we’re grateful to the citizens who continue to support this investment,” he said.

The statewide property tax rate will not go up if this — or any of this year’s three bonds — pass, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration.

The Your New Mexico Government project is a collaboration between KUNM and New Mexico PBS with support from the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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