A Censorious Vigilante Is Hiding Books About President Trump at the Coeur d'Alene Library 

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Apolitical in nature, public libraries are bastions of free speech that uphold the First Amendment, but at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library, one patron is waging a one-person war on books about President Donald Trump, removing them from the shelves and hiding them elsewhere in the building.

"It’s just blatant censorship,” said C d'A Library Director Bette Ammon.

Across America, local libraries are among the most important institutions that uphold the right to free speech. It embattles that mission when individuals take it upon themselves to control public access to information.

"There are multiple books that have been hidden, some several times,” Ammon said. “I began noticing a year ago in 2018.”

In August of the same year, someone posted on the library comment board, “I have noticed a large volume of books attacking our president,” and, “I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of young minds.”

The library staff was alerted, and Ammon said that another patron has donated many of the titles that have gone missing. However, as recently as the first week of October 2019, more books have gone missing. All of them offer progressive viewpoints on topics like the history of women's suffrage, criticism of the President, LGBTQ rights, gun control and impeachment.

Censorship comes in many forms, from traditional omission of information to graffiti and the destruction of information, but in the context of libraries, it reduces people's basic access to information. According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA), "libraries are a traditional forum for the open exchange of information. Attempts to restrict access to library materials violate the basic tenets of the Library Bill of Rights."

For public libraries, censorship rarely involves the government. Instead, the push often comes from community members who want to promote their own beliefs, or shield others from what they think are harmful ideas. Libraries have had to endure constant acts of vandalism or theft in regards to individual ideas on censorship.

Library vigilantism is hardly new. In 2002 a man in San Francisco was banned from all public libraries because he had vandalized hundreds of books related to LGBTQ issues by cutting out the pages and replacing them with religious material.

As public institutions, libraries are willing to take in the considerations of the community, but always with the caveat that libraries are spaces for freethinking and free exchange of ideas.

The Coeur d’Alene library website states the library is “dedicated to lifelong learning, the library provides free and equal access to a full range of historical, intellectual, and cultural resources.” In turn, the library is combating its vigilante to ensure the public has access to all kinds of information.

“This takes a lot of resources,” said Ammon, “but we’ll keep searching and replacing what goes missing.”


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