Community Responds to Racist Stickers in Library Materials

As you may recall from a previous week’s column, we had a bit of an incident a few weeks ago when an area bigot decided it would be a good idea to deface a few library books with “White Lives Matter” stickers. So, randomly placed inside library materials are an alternate reality version of Willy Wonka’s “Golden Tickets,” but instead of gaining access to a candy factory if you find one, you just get sad and confused at the state of racial relations in our community.

Originally, my response to what to do was “I don’t know.” Other than filing a police report and noting each title as defaced with the ALA, writing about it in the column was pretty much my only other recourse. Going through all the books in our library is a daunting task, and staff time is stretched pretty thin with ‘normal duties’ around here. Library staff has, however, gone through hundreds of books and ended up finding an additional book that was defaced. 

Thank you to the kind patron who found the fifth Golden Ticket (I really need to stop calling it that), inside a new Adult Fiction title while they were browsing last week. They were very understanding – and to that patron I’ll just say the book is once again available for circulation after having been cleaned up.

After reading about what happened, the folks at the Hamilton Area Anti-Racism Coalition (HAARC) reached out to me and offered help. One member suggested putting informational materials inside library books reminding patrons about the law and defacement of library material, as has been done in a similar library’s situation. 

Today, a patron (who wishes to remain anonymous) volunteered to go through our books, one-by-one, in the hopes of getting through each of the 10,000 or so books in our adult collection. They are currently a few hundred titles into this process.

I am extremely grateful to those of you who have reached out and offered to help, come in to shelf-read, and for those of you who just read the column and shared kind words. Also to our team here at the library who took this matter seriously. Dealing with the incident last week was daunting, but your collective response makes me proud, once again, to serve this little community of ours. In the words of Malcolm X, “hatred and anger are powerless when met with kindness.” 

Thank you for reading.

Connect with/complain to Travis Olivera at the Hamilton Public Library by phone at (315) 824-3060 or by email at, or in person at the library.

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