A series of threats against public libraries led to the closure of all Chicago Public Library facilities Thursday, officials said.
According to a CPL press release, all sites were evacuated and temporarily closed due to the threats.
The threats were deemed “unfounded” and all libraries were reopened where possible, according to the statement.
“We find ourselves in an incredibly unfortunate time where libraries are under threat because of the inclusive role we play,” officials said in a statement.
City departments should provide emergency response training and security drills in response to these threats. Officials say new strategies will be developed to deal with threats following incidents in recent weeks.
The city wasn’t the only one affected by Thursday’s threats, with libraries in Bolingbrook, Aurora, Evanston and other communities all receiving similar threats, according to officials.
The threats were made earlier this week as Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias testified at a U.S. Senate judiciary hearing on the state’s first nationwide ban on book bans.
“…What concerns me are political attempts to ban books that force libraries to close their doors, to stifle creativity, to force librarians out of their jobs,” Giannoulias said at the hearing on Tuesday. “And just a few weeks ago we literally had to evacuate due to numerous bomb threats in multiple locations.
The first law of its kind, signed by Governor JB Pritzker on June 12, states that Illinois public libraries that restrict or prohibit materials due to “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval will no longer be eligible for library funding. State as of January 1st. 2024, date of entry into force of the new law.
Giannoulias, who is also state librarian, faced pushback from several Republican senators during Tuesday’s hearing, titled “Book Bans: How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature,” some of whom questioned question the authorization of certain books, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, in libraries.
“At the exact same time I was in Washington, libraries here were forced to close their doors and be evacuated because of bomb threats,” Giannoulias told NBC Chicago. “And unfortunately, it literally symbolizes what we see: our bill was about protecting libraries and librarians.”
Last month, several other suburban libraries closed their doors after receiving bomb threats, including Morton Grove, Gurnee, Wilmette, Park Ridge, Oak Park, Vernon Hills and Lincolnshire.
In each case, the buildings were reopened after police searches.
“Censorship has never been good for democracy,” Giannoulis said. “We also need to remember the mental health issues that children and adolescents face. Books are a place to go and use their imagination, and literature offers them a way to understand different worlds.”
According to the American Library Association, in 2022 there have been 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois.