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:

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.

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  1. Free press for those two organizations! 🙂

  2. She should look at the bright side of it…

    When someone puts a bookmark in that advertises the school sucks podcast or at least it wouldn't leave a greasy stain like the bacon strip did. I say this as a very staunch advocate of bacon.

    So much for a library that serves "the public". Perhaps she could just publicly burn the books they are found in to let us know how she really feels about it. People will read the texts in the library that THEY want them to read. Thus again, the tragedy of the commons rears it's ugly head.

  3. All those free bookmarks gone to waste.

    I like free bookmarks in my books.

  4. "she finds it interesting that groups choose make use of the library to get their message out."

    Because there is nothing good about the library? Or because those groups are forced to pay for the library and her paycheck under threat of kidnapping, caging or death?

    Maybe the welfare queen is afraid of losing her free government lunch, if people agree with what they read on the bookmarks. It's understandable that she would want to get rid of the message on those bookmarks. She will get paid, if she leaves the bookmarks in the books or if she removes them.

  5. So inspirational. Good work folks.

  6. What an awsome article!

  7. @Chaz and Thinkliberty. I have no idea what you're talking about. As she said, there is a specific policy for pamphlets and advertising. If these groups had asked to post their material, they most likely would have been allowed to, in the appropriate place such as a bulletin board or public notice area. They chose not to do that and put bookmarks in the books. This makes it look like the library is promoting the groups' ideas (because many libraries do put library-related promotional materials in books at times–library program info, putting bookmarks with similar author suggestions to help patrons find more books, etc). Libraries are not supposed to promote one side of an issue over another because they are part of a government entity. Same goes if this was a political race and one candidate had people stuff the books with his/her campaign material. Libraries are supposed to be impartial.

    The issue is not whether or not she agrees with the groups' stance, but why they felt the need to resort to an underhanded way to promote themselves and their cause.

  8. @janspears

    I should explain myself so that you can know what I'm talking about, I apologize for not going into more detail regarding just what the "tragedy of the commons" is.

    What it means is simply that "public" property is paid for by the public by taxes (taken by threat of force for not paying them), from the public themselves. It does not mean that such property is actually ever *owned* or controlled by the people of a given area.

    Folks who place free ordinary bookmarks in books under such a system as described, may freely do so and there are no complaints. Yet if they have a bookmark that is "political" in nature, or deemed as such by those that actually control said public library, they are to be excluded from placing them there. This is because those that adhere to the mindset of the monopoly system of the library, would find it against their interest of any "anti-government" information being freely disseminated.

    If you're bothered by the freedom & liberty loving text on a bookmark you may find, them by all means, don't use it. Don't go to the websites it lists, as they just might change your paradigm and have you starting to question any lies you may have been told. Feel free to use a slice of bacon instead if you like to mark your pages, at least one other person has, it seems.

    Just please don't walk past me with it in your book, Jan, you'll make me hungry.

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