ImagineIF Library Director Ashley Cummins was about to board a plane back to Kalispell on Aug. 3 when she got a call from library staff informing her that five books left in the overnight book drop appeared to have been shot with a firearm.
“Not knowing anything else about the situation, I made the decision to close all facilities until we could assess the situation and determine if there was any threat,” Cummins said. All branches of the ImagineIF Library system shut down on Wednesday but resumed normal operations on Thursday.
According to a report filed with the Kalispell Police Department, the five hardcover books were “riddled with bullet holes,” and disposed of by staff after the investigation. Cummins said the five books were not connected to each other or related to any controversial or political topics.
“With no specific titles offering clues to why this happened, we don’t know if this was someone just messing around or if it was meant as intimidation,” Cummins said. “We are not intimidated, but it was alarming for a staff member to open up the collection box and see that.”
The five books that were damaged included “Act of Betrayal” by Will Cochrane, “The Armageddon File” by Stephen Coonts, “The Bourne Initiative” by Eric Van Lustbader, “Crown Jewel” by Christopher Reich, and “Trump’s War” by Michael Savage.
Law enforcement determined there was no threat to staff or patrons, and it is being treated as an isolated incident. Following a day of debriefing with staff during the closure, Cummins and her staff decided the library could operate as normal on Thursday.
“It was a rough day, but our staff is strong and resilient,” Cummins said. “More resilient than they should have to be. We won’t let this affect us or our work.”
On Aug. 5, two more books were found with bullets lodged in them. Library staff say that similar markings on the books indicated they were likely from the same person. Cummins said that law enforcement is still investigating the matter, but even with the additional books do not feel that there is any threat to the community.
In a joint statement, Cummins and ImagineIF Trustee Chair Doug Adams wrote they will continue working with law enforcement to prioritize safety, including implementing policies and procedures regarding weapons and customer conduct in the library. The library is also in the process of installing cameras at all branches to increase security of patrons and staff.
Cummins expressed her gratitude for the unified response by staff, trustees and the ImagineIF Library Foundation to condemn the act and ensure the safety of all library users.
“We took it very seriously from the start,” Cummins said. “I just regret that so many people had to miss out on library services because of this act.”
This story has been updated to report on the additional books received Aug. 5.
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