Seacoast Activists Insert 5,000 Bookmarks in Public Library Books
The School Sucks Project outreach spreads all the way across New Hampshire to the Seacoast where the public library was successfully targeted with bookmarks promoting the School Sucks Project and Freedomain Radio. The Seacoast Online’s Dave Choate reports:
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PORTSMOUTH — Thousands of bookmarks promoting two organizations’ points of view recently created a headache for public libraries on the Seacoast.
The two groups placing the bookmarks in Portsmouth, Dover and at the University of New Hampshire are the School Sucks Project and Freedomain Radio. The School Sucks Project Web site calls for an end of public, government-funded education in the United States, charging that it is ineffective and values obedience over creativity. Freedomain Radio bills itself as a philosophical radio show.
It’s not a new phenomenon at libraries, but Portsmouth Public Library Director Mary Ann List said several in the area were hit recently with a scourge of bookmarks promoting an unspecified political cause between the pages of books. The messages tend to be politically or religiously focused, she said, and libraries typically strive to remain disassociated with that type of propaganda.
The latest dispersal was the largest Cathleen Beaudoin said she has ever seen. The Dover Public Library director said, while she’s found pamphlets and the like within small groups of books in the past, as well as such oddities as a $100 bill, an endorsed paycheck and a strip of bacon, nothing could match the number of stuffed books that cropped up in May.
“Never have we been inundated with the kind of deluge of bookmarks that were surreptitiously placed in our books,” she said. “We collected over 5,000 bookmarks.”
Beaudoin said the bookmarks were found when a shelf of books spilled onto the floor and splayed open to reveal blue bookmarks within. Curious staffers began looking in neighboring shelves and found many more, she said.
Beaudoin said the issue is not what was written on the bookmarks, and she added that, had the groups approached the library to put up a poster or pamphlets promoting meetings and the like, the library likely would have granted approval. The manner in which it was done, and the possibility that the philosophies espoused would be linked to the library itself, is what forced the removal of the thousands in Portsmouth, Beaudoin and List said.
“It’s not that we object to the content of the bookmark. Everybody has a right to believe in whatever they want to believe in,” Beaudoin said. “We do have a specific policy that prohibits this.”
“They tend to be advocating a cause when this happens,” List said. “If we’re not spreading that message on purpose, we don’t want to be spreading it at all.”
The Herald was unable to speak with a representative for the School Sucks Project by Thursday afternoon. This is not the group’s only presence in the state, however, as the Keene Sentinel recently reported that protesters in Keene have stood outside the middle school there holding signs that read “School Sucks Project” in recent weeks.
List acknowledged it is time-intensive to remove the pamphlets or bookmarks placed in books. Beaudoin said it took her staff and volunteers from the community about 30 hours in total. In her years as a staff member of libraries, List said she has never caught someone in the act of placing something in a book.
“Normally, it’s done in a clandestine way,” she said.
List said many libraries rely on each other to spread word when such incidents occur, and added she finds it interesting that groups choose make use of the library to get their message out.