Chicago Tribune: “Chicagoans of the Year for Books: Librarians and Library Workers of Illinois Fight for Dignity During a Year of Challenges”
It was hard to work at a library in 2022.
Once the quietest place in town, public libraries across Illinois were battlegrounds this year for (mostly) far-right organizations and even hate groups, opposed to everything from mask mandates and LGBTQ rights to YA novels about racism. In the village of Glen Carbon, the question of whether libraries should include drag events even made it onto the November ballot. (Nearly 70% of voters rejected drag-themed events.) A school board near Rockford removed “Gender Queer” (a frequently challenged book) from its libraries. Protesters wandered St. Charles libraries with cameras, protesting mandatory masks. Closer to Chicago, libraries in Lincolnwood, Oak Brook, Barrington, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and the Niles-Maine district (for starters) faced scraped events, book bans, possible defunding, staff firings and casual threats to call the police on librarians. Not always, but often, contested material concerned books directed at LGBTQ readers and people of color.
What offers some perspective is the sheer volume of challenges coming from conservative groups, said John Chrastka, executive director of the Riverside-based EveryLibrary, a national organization that works with libraries on funding and voter referendum issues. “We have quite the hefty portfolio these days,” he said. “Because the petition process is being weaponized. When a library is fielding 300 challenges at once — and that is happening — it’s no longer about the content of a book, it’s about grinding the gears to a halt. When Proud Boys are showing up at library board meetings in Illinois, depending on how armed they are, that’s somewhere between harassment and domestic terrorism.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.