In summer 2023, a rash of bomb threats hit suburban Chicago libraries. They weren’t alone in getting these threats, as libraries in several other states also reported such email and phone calls. In Chicagoland, the threats dragged out for several weeks, with multiple libraries getting them more than once. A potential suspect was arrested, though no further details about the individual’s involvement has been shared since mid-October.
Now Minnesota public libraries have become subject to a similar wave of bomb threats. Beginning on Friday afternoon, several public libraries received bomb threats via phone call. Among them were Fergus Falls Public Library, which closed for the remainder of the day out of an abundance of caution, as well as East Central Regional Library system, which received the call late afternoon and closed several branches of the library on Saturday.
Northfield Public Library also got a threat on Friday and closed their library early.
Jessica Faust, marketing and communication manager for the East Central Regional Library system told the Pine County News that they “received two separate phone calls, it appears the calls came from the same person who seemed to be reading from a script.”
Bomb threats continued into this week. On Tuesday, Heritage Library in Lakeville, part of the Dakota County Library System, received a threat. The library closed early in response.
Library workers across the state shared their experiences on X (formerly Twitter). They were shaken and disturbed by the threats, which come during a wave of backlash against library workers nationwide. The rise in book bans, alongside rhetoric about the types of people who work in libraries, has encouraged stochastic terrorism like these bomb threats to flourish.
Library workers and educators have been under attack for three years, and while it is unfortunate to note that bomb threats aren’t new, their escalation over the last month demands attention and action. These should nationwide headlines, but they are hardly making a blip in their own local media. This stochastic terrorism is not only shutting down public institutions, but surrounding the few public goods in terror for workers and for users–this is, of course, the point, and yet, it should absolutely enrage every taxpayer who helps fund these institutions.
The threats across Minnesota are a stark reminder that none of this is limited to “bad” or “red” states. Bad actors aren’t just in states that folks like to malign; they’re even in “good” states where there are new laws protecting libraries from book bans or where library workers have been preparing for these possibilities. The belief that we should only care about “good” states plays right into the very systems that the christian nationalist book censors create. They’ve done enough gerrymandering and have disenfranchised voters so deeply that saying “this is what Florida/Texas/fill-in-the-blank” state voted for only adds fuel to their fire. It also deeply harms those living in those states who, through no choice of their own, have had their voting power stolen from them.
It is likely the list of libraries above which received bomb threats are not the only ones. Several others likely have not reported and/or their local news, if they have any local outlets, haven’t written about it. It is also likely we will see more calls shutting down these public institutions.
So let’s return to the question here that continues to go unanswered but, every day, seems more and more likely: how long until a library worker is killed for doing their job?