The Coeur d’Alene Public Library is rewriting The Book Thief.
At least one individual is intentionally hiding books within the library — specifically, books promoting LGBTQ rights, women’s right to vote and new releases critical of President Donald Trump, among other topics.
“It feels childish,” library Director Bette Ammon said Tuesday. “It’s such a waste of time, and it doesn’t accomplish what they set out to accomplish.”
Someone — or possibly multiple someones, library staff believe — takes books dealing with issues traditionally assigned to more liberal political platforms and hides them in nooks and crannies throughout the Front Street building, most recently striking last week. Books are often recovered days later, most often in the fiction section, usually crammed into the Ws.
“Physically, it’s the farthest spot away [from our vantage point],” library circulation manager Tyler McLane said. “Once a month or so, we’ll have staff go through and poke their heads around to see what we can find.”
What they find is often new releases from White House insiders or reporters detailing their views of and histories with President Trump.
“The most notable one is ‘Fire And Fury’ by Michael Wolff,” Ammon said. “That one has been moved I don’t know how many times.”
Wolff, a journalist for USA Today who conducted more than 200 interviews with Trump and his West Wing, campaign and transition staffs, wrote in the 2018 bestseller that “100 percent of the people around [Trump]” at the time believed the President was unfit for office.
Other partisan books hidden from sight or intentionally removed from their correct place on the shelves include but are not limited to, Ammon emphasized:
• Guns Down: How To Defeat The NRA And Build A Safer Future With Fewer Guns
• Enemies Of The State: The Radical Right In America From FDR To Trump
• It’s Time To Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build A Lasting Majority In American Politics
The list doesn’t just include left-leaning titles, however. “Impeachment: An American History”; “White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege In A Racially-Divided America”; “Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps The Innocent And Makes America More Unequal”; and “Whose Boat Is This Boat?: Comments That Don’t Help In The Aftermath Of A Hurricane” were all concealed.
Topics of other books gone missing revolve around LGBTQ rights, perspectives from California’s political scene, and the history of the Women’s Suffrage movement.
The frequency of the culprit’s strikes ranges from five times a week to 10 times a month. Ammon added that the cost of hiding books is more than just a good laugh at the library’s expense.
“We have a list of people who want to check some of these new releases out,” she said. “Every time this happens, we have to buy another book to replace it.”
McLane said the cost to replace those books can exceed $20 each. It also costs the library staff hours to search the shelves for wanted titles.
“It takes from our materials budget, and it takes from our staff time,” Ammon said. “It’s frustrating when you want to get a book for a patron and you can’t.”
When asked if the activity could be the result of accident or miscommunication, Ammon produced an anonymous patron’s comment card submitted in August 2018.
“I noticed a large volume of Books attacking our President,” the comment card reads. “I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds. Your liberal angst gives me great pleasure.”
Ammon said the library response was tempered but concerned.
“Every month a number of books are published about political issues,” library staff wrote back. “Your library tries hard to purchase well-reviewed books on all sides and most of these books are frequently checked out and not on display. We’re sorry you feel the need to hide books you don’t agree with since that takes up valuable staff time to reorder and replace lost titles. If you have recommendations on titles you’d like the library to buy, please let us know.”
Ammon said the consequences of the perpetrator’s actions impact everyone.
“It’s censorship, plain and simple,” she said. “The public library supports the city they serve. We have a lot of interests and diverse opinions. We try to have books that represent all of those interests and opinions.”
“I just wish they’d voice their feelings,” McLane added. “If they feel a particular viewpoint isn’t being represented, they can talk to us about it. I don’t think stealing books is the answer. It’s taking away the opportunity for someone else to read those materials.”