GREAT FALLS — A community resource known for knowledge was the recent recipient of some unwanted literature.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and safe at the library and these materials are the opposite of that,” said Great Falls Public Library director Susie McIntyre.
On Friday, December 1, McIntyre got a call from a community member who is part of a group that monitors hate groups.
“They look on the dark web and follow what these people are doing. A neo-Nazi hate site had a video posted that showed people putting stickers in Great Falls Public Library books,” said McIntyre.
The group had placed propaganda in the form of stickers in at least 16 books.
McIntyre said the stickers were not adhered, just in book pockets mostly in genealogy, World War Two and some biography books. She said the library is doing some spot checking, but with over 120,000 books, they can’t check them all.
McIntyre encourages anyone who finds stickers or fliers at the library or in library materials to alert the library or police and the city and county commission.
McIntyre says the library protects intellectual freedom and advocates against censorship but won’t allow promotion of hate or unauthorized messages in library materials.
“There's a big difference between doing a search and choosing to check out Mein Kampf because you want to do history or choosing to read something because you know what it is and opening up a biography and seeing cartoon pictures of people holding guns to people's heads,” said McIntyre. “It's very different and it is against everything that the library stands for.”
McIntyre is especially concerned for younger library visitors.
“We don't want any of our, especially our young people, to come across these materials and end up going down a rabbit hole online and being convinced of this really hateful misinformation about how the world is,” said McIntyre.
In response, the library is collaborating with the Great Falls YWCA and other community groups in launching a campaign called “Hate Has No Home Here.” With signs available at the library and for download, they hope to send a strong message. They started with a presence at Tuesday night’s Great Falls City Commission meeting.
“If you're a business, a school, a church, a synagogue, just at your home, put it in your window that says “Hate Has No Home Here,” said McIntyre.
“I think that we need to honor the diversity in our community, the wealth that we get from Malmstrom Air Force Base being a part of our community and celebrate that and make sure that everyone is protected,” said Great Falls YWCA director Sandi Filipowicz.
McIntyre says the library believes the best way to counter hate speech, which has been ongoing for more than a year, is with more community action.