The book was called “Opening the Qur’an.” It was supposed to provide a guide for empathetic non-Muslims who want to understand more about the holy book treasured by more than a billion people.

But when Lorena Neal opened it on Monday, she found something else entirely.

“Bulls— hatred cover to cover,” someone had scrawled in pencil. Underneath: a swastika.

The book was one of seven at the Evanston Public Library defaced with similar graffiti — all books about Islam. Now, the library is collecting donations to replace the books and buy more. And it is reminding its patrons of its core belief: that the best way to combat Islamophobia and other forms of hatred might be found between the pages of a book.

“One effective way to combat fear, hate and ignorance is to provide access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others,” the library said in a statement. “All are welcome to join us at the library.”

Neal, who works at the library in this liberal-leaning city outside Chicago, said on Facebook that the graffiti must have happened within the past week. A week ago, a librarian showed the library’s collection of books on Islam to a Muslim man who was looking for them, and didn’t see any graffiti at the time. On Monday night, Neal was setting up for a lecture on the Middle East, a regular event hosted at the library by Northwestern University’s Middle East and North African Studies program. That’s when she found the defaced books.

If the library catches the person who wrote in the book, he or she will be prosecuted, the library said.

Last night, the Evanston Public Library hosted another of our regular lectures on topics involving the Middle East,...

Posted by Lorena Neal on Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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