Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement
‘You know absolutely nothing’: Students frustrated with NU’s handling of academic integrity cases
NU’s Summer Class Schedule offers flexibility, opportunities for academic advancement
Community awards, advocacy headline Evanston’s fifth annual Juneteenth parade
Race Against Hate: Ricky Byrdsong’s Legacy
The Week Ahead, June 17-23: Juneteenth, Summer Solstice and Pride Celebrations in Chicagoland
Evanston Environment Board drops fossil fuels divestment, recommends updates to leaf blower ordinance
Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins
Advertisement
Perry: A little humility goes a long way

Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

June 13, 2024

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Tewaaraton Award

May 30, 2024

Advertisement

Campus Kitchens fills plates and hearts

NU Declassified: Prof. Barbara Butts teaches leadership through stage management

Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

After recent security threats, local libraries emphasize safety, intellectual freedom

A+red+brick+building+with+the+words+%E2%80%9CEvanston+Public+Library+1703+Orrington%E2%80%9D+on+the+side.
Daily file photo by Madison Smith
Evanston Public Library. Wilburn will start her duties as executive director on Nov. 13.

A series of unsubstantiated bomb threats at several area libraries sent shock waves through northern Illinois communities in late August and September.

These threats reached Evanston last week. Evanston Public Library received anonymous bomb threats via email on Sept. 12 and 14, prompting the evacuation of both the Main and Robert Crown library branches. 

In both instances, the Evanston Police Department cleared each location and determined there was no threat to visitors. But after putting library operations on pause twice in one week, EPL spokesperson Jenette Sturges said staffers and community members were left feeling angry.

“It just makes it difficult for us to be able to provide the services that are really critical here in the community,” she said.

And, for nearly a month, libraries across the Chicago area have received very similar threats, most of which have come in anonymously and digitally. Libraries in Aurora, Addison and Chicago also had to evacuate last week. Other libraries on the North Shore that received threats include those in Wilmette, Oak Park and Morton Grove.

All threats were unsubstantiated, and the libraries remain safe to visit, officials and police maintain. Sturges said both EPL branches have “highly trained” security staff and protocols in place for emergency evacuations.

But some worry the threats could be emblematic of wider tensions. The recent wave of bomb threats has played out amid ongoing national debates about book banning and free speech in local public libraries.

In a recent statement, the ACLU of Illinois said recent threats, including those against Evanston libraries, may have been motivated by “ideologically driven attacks on libraries … 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.”

Officials across Illinois, including Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, also condemned the threats.

In Evanston, Sturges said the community has been consistently supportive of EPL in recent debates about intellectual freedom. EPL has only received two requests to review content over the past two decades, she said, and the staff has a process to fully investigate each request and consistently review the books they’re providing. Statewide, there were 67 attempts to ban books in 2022.

In June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill outlawing book bans, making Illinois the first U.S. state to do so. Once the bill goes into effect this January, all Illinois libraries will be required to adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. Any library that removes or restricts books “because of partisan or personal disproval” will be ineligible for funding through state grants.

For now, Sturges said, librarians want to make sure people know that “you’re safe when you go to the library.”

“We take the safety of our staff and our patrons very seriously here,” she said, “And we have just really appreciated the outpouring of support that we’ve gotten from the community.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lilylcarey

Related Stories:

Residents evacuate after bomb threat at Evanston Public Library Tuesday afternoon

Bomb threat causes Evanston Public Library, Robert Crown to evacuate for second time this week

Following aggravated battery at main location, EPL vows to put resources into social work

More to Discover