Alexi Giannoulias

Chicago-area libraries forced to close again due to violent threats

According to the new law, public libraries that ban books in Illinois will face consequences

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the second time in three days, libraries in several Chicago suburbs were forced to close on Thursday due to violent threats.

According to officials, the three libraries in Aurora were evacuated at approximately 11 a.m. Thursday due to a “bomb threat and active shooter situation.”

As of 12:15 p.m., there were no active threats, but Aurora libraries remain closed until further notice.

Aurora libraries were one of nearly a dozen across the Chicago area targeted by bomb threats on Tuesday. The threats forced the closure of those locations, but they were reopened Wednesday.

Other libraries were also impacted by threats, including a branch of the Joliet Public Library, which closed for a time after a threat was received online.

The other Joliet library was also evacuated, and a local elementary school was placed on soft lockdown, according to officials.

No evidence of any sort of threat was located.

Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook was also threatened through an online chat service, forcing an evacuation and a soft lockdown at nearby schools.

Oak Park, Evanston, Addison all were threatened as well.

The threats earlier this week came as Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias testified at a U.S. Senate Judiciary hearing on the state's first-in-the-nation ban against book bans.

“…What I am concerned with is political attempts to ban books that are driving libraries to close their doors, stifle creativity, make librarians quit their jobs," Giannoulias said during Tuesday's hearing. "And just a few weeks ago, literally have to evacuate due to numerous bomb threats at multiple locations.”

The first-of-its-kind law, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 12, states that Illinois public libraries that restrict or ban materials because of “partisan or doctrinal” disapproval will be ineligible for state funding as of Jan. 1, 2024, when the new law goes into effect.

Giannoulias, who also serves as the 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 allowing certain books, like To Kill a Mockingbird, in libraries.

"The exact same time that I was in D.C., libraries here were forced to close their doors and be evacuated because of bomb threats, "Giannoulias told NBC Chicago. "And unfortunately, that's symbolic of what we're seeing, literally -- our bill was meant to protect libraries and librarians."

Last month, several other suburban libraries closed after received 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 have to remember the mental health issues that kids and teenagers are facing. Books provide a place to go, and use their imagination, and literature provides an avenue for them to understand different worlds."

According to the American Library Association, in 2022, there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois.

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