NORTHEAST ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Several libraries in the Chicago suburbs were forced to close temporarily after getting bomb threats.
There were five threats in the last week. The Illinois Library Association said the threats were not credible, but it’s left them concerned.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Cynthia Robinson, the Executive Director of the Illinois Library Association. “In any case, no matter what the reason is, it’s scary to get a bomb threat.”
The Illinois Secretary of State serves as the State Librarian. In a statement, Alexi Giannoulias condemned the threats saying:
The bomb threats received by Illinois libraries during the past several days represent a troublesome and disturbing trend that has escalated from banning books to harassing and criminalizing librarians and now to endangering the lives of innocent people.Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois Secretary of State
The Illinois Library Association would not go so far as to link the threats to ongoing efforts to censor books in libraries, but they said these threats should still be taken seriously.
“Our primary concern is the well-being of library professionals and library patrons,” Robinson said. “We want our buildings to be safe, we want them to be open places that anybody can visit.”
The libraries that received the threats are in Park Ridge, Morton Grove, Wilmette, Oak Park, and Gurnee. Fortunately, libraries in Central Illinois, like Lincoln Library in Springfield, have not had that issue.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said Emily Stone, the assistant director at Lincoln Library. “Springfield’s a great community, so we really haven’t had the problems that other libraries are experiencing.”
Libraries have been facing challenges from groups looking to ban books. In response, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law to stop public libraries from banning books because of political reasons or disapproval of the content. Otherwise, libraries won’t be eligible for state grants.
“We are in such a divisive time and I think that really does weigh on our library workers,” Robinson said. “Things are much more stressful than perhaps they used to be in libraries.”
Stone said Lincoln Library has already been following the guidelines laid out in the new law Pritzker signed.
“This new legislation was really great for us, because we actually didn’t really have to change anything as a result,” Stone said. “We already had a strong collection development policy that explains how we select our materials, and that we don’t want to police what anyone is reading. We do have a policy in place for if someone takes issue with a book and wants us to remove it.”
Lincoln Library also hasn’t had any major issues with people challenging materials in the library or any request to remove books from the shelves.