SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two little libraries were vandalized last month in Saratoga Springs. The public boxes contain banned books that can be borrowed and returned for free.
One box, located near Caffe Lena on Phila Street, is stewarded by Nancy Weber. When she found the library vandalized, she said she “kind of did a double-take because it was so shocking.” Weber discovered that dozens of books had been taken from the library. Only one remained: “The Hate U Give,” a novel about race relations in the wake of a police shooting.
“We knew that it was just a matter of time before something like this would happen,” Weber said. “We’re living in very volatile, polarized times.”
The identity of the vandal or vandals is unknown. “It could’ve been a prank, or it could’ve been someone intentionally doing it,” Weber said.
Weber said that no further vandalism has occurred since the initial incident, but there was one odd book exchange.
“Curiously, one book came back: The Bible,” Weber said. “A few days ago, that copy of the Bible left and another copy of the Bible came in, which I thought was sort of pointless.”
Weber said that since the vandalization occurred, there’s been an increase in book donations to the library. But many of the donated books are not actually considered banned books. Donated books should be included on the American Library Association’s list of banned and challenged books, or the PEN America Index of School Book Bans.
The second vandalized little library of banned books is stewarded by Julie Holmberg. She said that one of the congregants at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Saratoga found the library’s contents under a nearby bush.
“There had been a rainstorm, and all of the books were destroyed,” Holmberg said. “They were all hidden away underneath there and had to be trashed.”
“It’s very frustrating that people would destroy property like that, especially books,” she said. “It just feels like right now things are so discouraging.”
Unlike Weber, Holmberg has not received a significant increase in book donations since the vandalization occurred, leaving the little library with an uncertain future.
“I just encourage people to open their minds, read things. If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. But keep the conversation going so that we can figure out a way to live together,” Weber said.