Libraries in Chicago and surrounding suburbs were closed Tuesday after receiving bomb threats.
An employee at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., received an anonymous email saying that there was a bomb inside the building, Chicago police said. A bomb squad and canine units were sent to do a sweep of the building at about 3:50 p.m. but did not find any sign of a threat.
Library patrons were unaware that a threat had been made against the building.
Jonathan Eig, author of the new Martin Luther King Jr. biography “King: A Life,” gave a talk on his book at the library Tuesday evening.
He said the thought of canceling his event because of the threat hadn’t crossed his mind.
“Sadly, we live in a time where this seems to be happening more and more, but I did not really take it too seriously,” Eig said. “It’s sad that anybody would want to threaten a library, a place where we’re all supposed to come together.”
He added that he was thankful the issue was quickly resolved and that there was a good turnout for his talk despite the threat.
Similar threats were received Tuesday at libraries in surrounding suburbs. They came as Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias testified at a Senate hearing about the state’s first-in-the-nation ban against bans. The bill was signed by Gov. JB Pritzker on June 12.
Noah Wright, a 20-year-old student from Columbia College Chicago who was studying at Harold Washington, said bans on books were “kind of scary.”
“Books, especially being at a library, is like free education, so it feels like we’re going backwards in time,” Wright said, adding that the measures were akin to those in Germany under the Nazi regime.
“It’s a little horrifying,” Wright said. “I’m appreciative that I’m in a location where books that are banned [in] other places I still have access to, but I’m very scared for the new generation.”
The threats made against libraries in the suburbs were also deemed unfounded.
Officers responded to a call of a bomb threat at The Addison Public Library, 4 Friendship Plaza, at about 2 p.m. As a precaution, all village buildings and the library were evacuated and closed to the public. A bomb squad searched the building and determined the threat was unfounded.
Aurora police evacuated all three of the city’s public libraries and shut down surrounding roads after receiving a similar threat through an “online source” just before 3 p.m. The libraries are located in the 100 block of South River Street, the 500 block of South Eola Road and the 200 block of South Constitution Drive.
Around 3:45 p.m., the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., also received a bomb threat, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Bomb Squad was sent to evacuate the building. No evidence of a bomb was located, police said.
In August, the Oak Park Public Library received a warning that its three buildings would be blown up. Similar threats around the same time targeted libraries in Morton Grove and Gurnee, and also in Wilmette and Park Ridge. The Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire also received a bomb threat. Libraries in Glenview and Glencoe were closed temporarily for safety reasons, even though they did not receive direct threats.
In each case, the buildings were reopened after police searches.
Steve Degenhardt, 58, who used to live in Chicago but now resides in Massachusetts, stopped by Harold Washington on Tuesday to check out a book for old times’ sake.
Degenhardt said he’s not in favor of book bans, but that there should be some rules on content for children, as there are for other media. However, he thinks some states are taking it too far.
“There should be some limitations on appropriate reading for kids, but it seems like it’s extending well beyond that these days,” Degenhardt said. “It could also be up to the parents. Movies are somewhat similar, there are restrictions on things like that. But I think they are being banned today for the wrong reasons.”
Degenhardt also said Illinois’ decision to ban book bans seemed “counterintuitive,” but added that it’s a fair response to states that are making it easier to restrict access to certain materials.
“You shouldn’t have to pass a law to do something like that, but if it comes down to that, similar tactics are being used on the other end,” Degenhardt said.