With its ceramics classes and preschool storytime sessions, Leichhardt library - like most suburban libraries - is usually a pretty calm place.
But the "fear of god'' was reportedly put into its librarian when counter terrorism officers paid a visit to speak about an upcoming exhibition called "Al-Nakba", which means "catastrophe".
"Al-Nakba", a pictorial exhibition about Palestine and Israel, should have opened at Leichhardt municipal library last Friday.
But after the police visit on Thursday night, it was suddenly cancelled the next morning.
Friends of Hebron, a local activitist group, had been working on the exhibition of photos, poems and articles for eight months after the library agreed to host it last year.
"We set up the exhibition at the library on Thursday night and the librarian ... approved the exhibition, and said that it could be seen by children and other people,'' said Carole Lawson, a Friends of Hebron member.
"But then that night, the [police] anti-terrorism squad visited the library and told her she had to vet the exhibition.
"They wanted to put the fear of god into the library staff and want the staff to feel threatened.''
On Friday morning, Ms Lawson said she received a call to tell her the exhibition had been pulled down.
"It's the censorship of Palestine - apparently the anti-terrorism squad decides what we can see on the public walls of a library.''
The librarian, Marilyn Taylor, would not speak to smh.com.au.
Leichhardt mayor Carolyn Allen confirmed police had visited the library on Thursday night, but said council, not police, had decided to pull down the exhibition because it hadn't met the council's criteria for such projects, which include not being divisive.
Counter Terrorism police just saying 'Hi!'
A police media spokesman said the officers were from the community contact unit, which falls within its Counter Terrorism operations. They had not visited the the library to to tell it to cancel the exhibition, but only to "say hi'' to Friends of Hebron members, he said.
"They went to introduce themselves to members of the community setting up the display and just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter.
"When they got there the librarian was the only one there ... they just had a quick chat to the librarian.''
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