MORTON GROVE – A number of public libraries, mostly in the northern suburbs, have been the target of bomb threats over the past week.
The Chicago Tribune reported that libraries in Morton Grove, Park Ridge, Gurnee, Oak Park and Wilmette have received threats. Glencoe Public Library didn’t receive any threats but did close their building since those that did are neighboring districts.
The newspaper reported that the threats came through the chat function on the libraries’ websites.
Police in each of the communities are investigating.
Public libraries nationwide have become a target and battleground in the past two years. Conservative groups have pushed to have books that include subjects such as LGBTQ issues and race removed or block events such as drag queen story hours.
Illinois libraries have already been a target. Last year, the Downers Grove Library had to cancel a drag bingo event for teens after threats. Earlier this year, a library board in Collinsville saw conservatives voted into the majority after a drag queen story hour at the Collinsville Memorial Public Library.
Just last month, Rockton’s Talcott Free Library was forced to move a drag Q&A to online because of protests. The far-right Illinois Freedom Caucus also called on the state to pull out of the American Library Association (ALA) because of the ALA’s “Marxist lesbian” president.
Edwin Yohnka, director of communications at the ACLU of Illinois, said political extremism was behind the threats.
“The recent threats result from ideologically driven attacks on libraries, attacks from a small handful of loud voices who seek to ban books and displays that reflect and elevate the experiences and views of LGBTQ+ people, people of color and other voices too often ignored in our society,” he said. “The language and misinformation driving these book bans sadly lead some to believe that threats of violence are an appropriate response to children’s books they do not like.”
He said the ACLU calls on people to support public libraries with patronage and speaking up at library board meetings.
The Illinois Library Association (ILA) condemned the threats and said library professionals across the country are facing threats to their safety.
“Libraries are rightfully considered the cornerstones of democracy and freedom of speech,” the ILA said in a statement. “We understand our unique role in society and embrace the responsibility of providing all residents in our state with access to reliable and accessible information.”
“In light of these threats it is imperative that we stand together and not allow them to hinder us from our commitment to continue to connect communities to resources, contribute to community development, and foster education and knowledge.”
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