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Lawmakers increase protections for Illinois libraries and its workers

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CHICAGO (CBS) — After recent threats against libraries and their workers in Illinois and around the country, state lawmakers are putting in protections to ensure the spaces stay safe.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias is the driving force behind the legislation. Illinois State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-81st) and State Sen. Laura Murphy (D-28th) are sponsoring HB 4567, which now heads to the House floor.

"Our librarians and libraries have faced an onslaught of threats of violence and ideological intimidation for simply serving their communities," said Giannoulias, who's also the State Librarian. "In the face of these threats, this bill highlights the commitment of our state to protecting library workers, access to information, and the free exchange of ideas."

The bill gives law enforcement agencies and State Attorneys tools to charge a threat against a library or a public employee, as it does for school and elected officials.
The move comes after several libraries across Illinois, including the Illinois State Library Building, received a bomb threat and other threats of violence. 

In February, a Skokie man was charged for a fake bomb threat at a library in Crystal Lake. A state law to ban the banning of books went into effect on January 1. 

According to the Secretary of State, between July and September of 2023, there were more than 20 known bomb threats requiring state and local police. Some libraries had repeated threats. 

"Throughout the state and the nation, library professionals continue to face threats to their personal safety and welfare," said Cynthia Robinson, executive director for the Illinois Library Association (ILA). "The ILA strongly condemns all forms of violence, threats of violence, and other acts of intimidation in Illinois libraries."    

The organization said Gurnee, Morton Grove, Oak Park, Park Ridge, and Wilmette were some of the suburban communities that experienced bomb threats against their libraries.

Colorado, California, Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, and Hawaii have had similar threats to their libraries and staff.
 "This legislation will ensure our library workers have the same protections against threats and harassment as other public officials and human service providers," Stava-Murray said. "Protecting the Right to Read in Illinois also means protecting the people who make it possible."
According to the Secretary of State's office, any threat that needs local law enforcement would require the offender to "reimburse first responders for the cost associated with the threat response."

 "Our librarians and libraries provide for the most fundamental exchange of ideas and knowledge, and we will not let them be intimidated from doing so," said Murphy. "This measure protects them and the treasure of our libraries while also ensuring our law enforcement's time and taxpayer money are not being wasted."
It would also let law enforcement take action against electronic communications and social media threats. 

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