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Illinois book ban law draws national attention as Chicago-area libraries receive bomb threats – NBC Chicago

As bomb threats earlier this week forced nearly a half-dozen libraries in Chicago and its suburbs to evacuate, Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias testified at a U.S. Senate judicial hearing on the state’s first 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.

“I understand that this is good for your politics in your country,” Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said during a heated exchange with Giannoulias.

Hours before the hearing, libraries in Aurora, Addison, Chicago, Evanston and Libertyville all received bomb threats.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that an employee at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., received an anonymous email saying there was a bomb inside the building, police said from Chicago.

Aurora police evacuated the city’s three public libraries and closed surrounding roads after receiving a similar threat via an “online source” just before 3 p.m., according to the Sun-Times report.

“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.

NBC Chicago

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