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As cultural winds shift for some libraries, CDA Library plans third book giveaway

J.D. Smithson, Coeur d'Alene Public Library (submitted)
The 2021 Jolabokaflod display at Coeur d'Alene Public Library.

For the third year in a row, Coeur d’Alene’s public library will mount a holiday book giveaway inspired by an Icelandic tradition. Jolabokaflod is scheduled to take place from December 12 to 23.

The word means “yuletide book flood.” Last year’s Jolabokaflod at the Coeur d’Alene Library was wildly successful, giving away more than a thousand volumes.

This year, libraries are operating in something of a different environment. Some libraries are under pressure from conservative activists spurred on by online myths about books and materials they consider inappropriate. One such conflict prompted the resignation of Boundary County’s library director in September.

Coeur d’Alene Library communications coordinator J.D. Smithson helped create the local Jolabokaflod in 2020. She said she hoped the premise of giving away wrapped books wouldn’t be considered controversial or viewed with suspicion.

“A lot of the books that we do we give away are donations from community members,” Smithson said. “So we are giving away the books to community members that community members have given to us.”

The books are examined by library staff and placed in age-appropriate categories before they are wrapped and offered to the public.

After two years of heavy donations, this year is running a bit short. Smithson said the Coeur d’Alene Library is still looking for book donations, especially for young readers. That was last year’s most popular selection.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.