After a group of more than three dozen people earlier this month protested the St. Charles Public Library’s decision to follow the statewide indoor mask mandate, employees received “hundreds of communications” some that included threatening comments, according to officials.
Days after the protest, library officials decided to pause in-person visits on Jan. 20 and have not yet reopened. Communications released to the Kane County Chronicle this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request also help shed further light on the nature of the threats against library employees over its masking policy.
“Since January 18, the Library has received hundreds of communications and social media commentary. Many of these communications and posts threatened a form of physical retaliation against the Library including statements that unmasked large groups would enter the Library,” according to a statement posted on the library’s website. “We have been diligently working with the St. Charles Police Department to put safety and security measures in place prior to reopening the Library.”
While the library has been closed to in-person visits for more than a week, officials released a statement on Friday saying that they are working to reopen “as soon as we finalize the hiring of additional security services.”
Since it closed, patrons have been asked to use the library’s virtual services and drive-up window.
The library follows the state’s mask mandate, which requires those over the age of 2 who can medically tolerate a face covering to wear face masks. Gov. JB Pritzker reinstated the mask mandate last August in the face of a growing surge of COVID-19 cases.
“Our number one goal is the safety of our patrons and our employees,” St. Charles Library Board President Robert Gephart said during a virtual board meeting Saturday.
In replying to the Chronicle’s FOIA request, library officials sent a photo of an Instagram post that says, “Apparently these people need to be shown what an actual ambush looks like.”
The post was in reference to the Jan. 18 maskless protest in the library when about 15 parents and 35 children participated in the protest.
The documents also show a picture of a tweet that says, “Imagine the reaction if you all went in there with loaded guns.” St. Charles Library Director Edith Craig said she has filed a police report about the tweet.
In addition to that tweet, a man left this voicemail message for the library on Jan. 20:
“Hey, concerned citizen here. Really disturbing that I got put to this line because obviously you don’t want to answer my questions, but that’s crazy. Freedom rules. You guys are going to go down. Thanks.”
Library officials also documented a tweet that states, “Apparently these people need to be shown what an actual ambush looks like.” In addition, an email was sent to the board on Jan. 21 that ends with “Watch out – we’re coming!”
Other reports document library employees being placed in confrontational situations because a patron wouldn’t wear a mask. One such incident happened the afternoon of Jan. 14.
“She told me that I was going to hell and that when I die and go to the gates of heaven, I’d be going to hell for my actions,” the report states, in talking about a patron’s response to being told to wear a mask.
St. Charles resident Alyse Daccardo took part in the maskless protest with three of her children. She said her 7-year-old-twins earlier this month were told they would have to leave the library because they were wearing face shields rather than masks.
She said her sons have a medical condition and cannot wear a mask. According to Daccardo, she told library employees that she had a doctor’s note for both of them stating why they couldn’t wear face masks.
After Daccardo and her family were escorted from the library, she emailed Craig about what had happened.
“I think you need to reevaluate your policies for children that truly have a medical reason to wear a shield,” she said in the email. “It’s not OK to exclude them from enjoying the library like everyone else.”
In her reply, Craig said the library tries to make the best decisions for the community, including its patrons and staff.
“Taking into account our community risk level and other factors, we feel that this is the best decision to help mitigate the spread,” Craig stated in her reply.
Daccardo has been banned from the library for 90 days for violating the library’s patron code of conduct and violating the library’s mask and video recording policies during two visits to the library, including the day of the maskless protest. She previously said she is sorry if the library has been receiving threats.
“If they’re getting threats from other people, I feel terrible that’s happening to them,” she said.
The library also has released other examples of messages about its policy, such as: “They don’t even know what a threat to safety is yet.”
In its statement, the library said, “We certainly hear the frustration of our community members, and we understand that the mandate requirements have been difficult for many. However, we are a unit of government and are required to follow Governor Pritzker’s mask mandate.”
According to a post to the library’s website on Friday, the library is working on “hiring additional security services” so it can reopen “as soon as possible.”