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BENNINGTON — At least three Vermont libraries were targeted with white nationalist propaganda placed in books, according to emailed responses to a warning sent to institutions across the state.

Among those targeted was Southern Vermont College, where library personnel discovered material placed in the literature section of the Karen Gross Library.

"It was on little slips of paper placed into books, the size of Monopoly money," said SVC President David Evans.

Since visitors to the campus and to the Everett Mansion, where the library is located — as well as students, faculty and staff — all have access to the area, Evans said it would be difficult to determine who left the material.

"I assume it was an outsider," he said, adding, "It is possible it was a student, but I sincerely hope it was not."

The material, which Evans declined to describe in detail so as not to encourage similar behavior, has been removed, and a search was conducted of other sections of the library. The apparent aim, he said, "was to shock and disturb" anyone opening one of the books. "It's really unfortunate."

After a similar incident at Middlebury College, a notice was posted Wednesday on a listserv for Vermont libraries by Carrie Macfarlane, director of research and instruction at Davis Family Library at Middlebury, a copy of which was obtained by the Bennington Banner and VTDigger.

"I am writing to let you know of a regrettable incident at the Middlebury College libraries," the notice stated. "It's possible that other libraries in the area have been affected."

The warning continued: "Last week, our library staff discovered that white nationalist propaganda had been placed in the stacks of our main library, in areas covering LGBTQ topics, the Holocaust, civil rights, Judaism, and Islam. Public Safety was alerted and they are investigating the matter. Members of the library staff have removed all of the materials that they could locate and are assisting in the investigation."

The notice added: "We consider the placement of this material in our stacks to be a form of hate speech. We've told our community that hate has no place here, and we've provided instructions on what to do if anyone finds more materials like these."

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Another library official, Randal Smathers, director of the Rutland Free Library, confirmed Friday that “we did have an incident with the type of material that was found in the library in Saratoga.”

And Sarah Sanfilippo, director of library resources at SVC, responded Thursday, saying, "We just found some too. Ours were in the literature section, but probably because that's the only area of our collection that's not in clear view of other people."

Contacted Thursday about the incidents, Bennington College spokeswoman Alex Dery Snider said, "We have not found white nationalist materials recently, and we did check after hearing that our peer institutions had. We do, periodically, find materials that are left without permission, and we remove those that do not support our educational mission."

The notice from Middlebury College also noted that a similar incident was reported at the Saratoga (N.Y.) Public Library.

Information on that incident in September 2017 can be found on the Saratoga Today website.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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