SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Secretary of State is condemning recent bomb threats against public libraries, saying the threats of violence and intimidation are “unfortunately becoming all too common” at libraries across the nation. 

Since last week, there were at least five threats against libraries in the Chicago area according to reports. Officials say the threats were not credible.

In a social media post, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias said the threats “represent a troublesome and disturbing trend that has escalated from banning books, to harassing and criminalizing librarians and now to endangering the lives of innocent people.” 

Illinois became the first state in the country to outlaw book bans at public libraries, legislation Giannoulias proposed. The law says 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’ post mentioned libraries and librarians protect our First Amendment right to free speech and our constitutional right to read. 

He then asked residents to “join together to stand up to fringe elements that resort to threats of violence and seek to destroy the fundamental freedoms that our nation was founded upon.”

The ACLU released a statement, also stressing that the recent threats result from ideologically driven attacks from a “handful of loud voices who seek to ban books and displayed that reflect and elevate the experiences and views of LGBTQ+ people, people of color and other voices too often ignored in our society.”

The group is encouraging Illinois residents to show support for their public library by increasing patronage, attending a library board meeting or sharing a message of support with your local librarians.

The new law comes into play as states across the U.S. push to remove certain books in schools and libraries. The American Library Association in March announced that attempts to censor books in schools and public libraries reached a 20-year high in 2022 — twice 2021, the previous record.