“There’s a saying in the world that a good library has something to offend everyone,” said Bette Ammon, Coeur d’Alene Public Library director, on Thursday night. “I think a great library also has something to please everyone.”
Someone has been pretty offended by Coeur d’Alene’s library for the last year and has shown frustration by hiding books the perpetrator considers “propaganda,” according to a note left in the suggestion box.
This unique attempt at censorship amused and angered the author of one of those books, Rick Reilly. So the renowned author, who made his name as a longtime Sports Illustrated columnist, decided to travel to Coeur d’Alene on Thursday for something other than his annual summer golf trip.
“I’ve heard of people burning books, destroying books, stealing books from libraries,” Reilly said. “I’ve never heard of someone hiding them, but that’s kind of clever. But it still kind of makes me mad.”
Ever since volunteering at a local library in the seventh grade, Reilly has had an “affinity for libraries.”
When he heard his latest book, “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” was hidden, Reilly decided to do something about it. So he came to town and spoke to a crowded room Thursday night.
This wasn’t a typical author talk though. It was closer to stand-up comedy.
He had three goals for his speech: Make people laugh, support libraries and get the book bandit to reveal him- or herself.
He succeeded on the first two counts.
He also strategically hid copies of his book next to those on narcissism, near “Becoming Hitler” and in the Children’s Issues section, among other apropos places.
Ammon, the self-identified “lucky library director,” introduced Reilly, who then kept her on stage.
“It’s not often you get a chance to interview the most famous librarian in the world,” Reilly quipped.
Ammon has been interviewed frequently since the story of the book bandit broke, including by the BBC and the New York Times. She was mentioned in Reilly’s op-ed published last week in the Washington Post.
“I was surprised your publicist called me,” Ammon told Reilly. “I didn’t know who the hell you were.”
Reilly grilled Ammon on the antics since the book hiding started, including when circulation manager Tyler McLane flew his drone through the library in search of misplaced books.
The idea worked for about 15 minutes, “until he ran into one of the stacks and broke a blade,” Ammon said, sending the crowd into fits of laughter.
Ammon confirmed Steven Colbert followed through on a promise he made on his show last week and sent an “un-hideable” version of his book “Whose Boat Is This Boat?” The book arrived Thursday, and kids quickly turned it into a tent.
In his own version of an oversized story hour, Reilly told a long series of jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense.
Some stories he pulled from “Commander in Cheat,” which includes observations from Reilly’s time on the links with Trump. But others were secondhand, he explained.
“Since the book came out, I’ve become the clearing house for all the Trump cheating stories,” Reilly said, before telling how Trump cheated during a round with Tiger Woods.
For Reilly, Trump’s cheating matters for a simple reason: “That says a lot about your soul.”
Raised in a golfing family, Reilly was taught a simple principle.
“We play honestly because it’s not about winning or losing,” Reilly said. “It’s about the integrity of the game.”
He said integrity is key to democracy, too, as are libraries.
“I know how democracy works, and democracy works when voters know what they’re reading, know what they’re doing,” Reilly said. “You can’t go into a library in Beijing or Saudi Arabia or Cuba or China and read anything you want. But in America you can for free – and with nice Wi-Fi and good chairs.”