St. Charles library temporarily closes in-person services after threats over mask policy

St. CHARLES, Ill. (WLS) -- The St. Charles Public Library is now closed to in-person visits after backlash over the library's mask policy.

"We are masked; follow the rules, and it's the ones who don't who cause something like this," said library patron Ute.

Officials at the west suburban library said they stopped letting people come inside the newly renovated facility after an incident earlier this week.

The library's director, Edith Craig, said police were called after a group of about 35 to 40 adults and children stormed inside the building and refused to wear masks.

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After the incident is when the threats to library staff members over the library's mask policy began.

"Unfortunately, the incident kind of escalated from that day, and that, as I said before, voicemails and emails started, and the library felt that at this time we're going to take a pause," Craig said.

The St. Charles Library follows Illinois' mask mandate, which was reinstated by Gov. JB Pritzker in response to a COVID-19 surge.

It requires anyone over the age of 2 to wear a facial covering in indoor public settings, regardless of COVID vaccination status.

"I think it's really sad that people resort to threats of violence," said Sam Farley, a St. Charles resident. "I understand that everyone is very frustrated after two years of the pandemic."

It's an issue that's again divided the west suburban community between public health measures and personal freedoms.

Nearly 200 people logged on to a special virtual public meeting Saturday night, submitting comments venting about the library's mandate. Some also expressed strong support for the librarians' decision to enforce the governor's statewide indoor mask mandate.

While the library is shuttered, its taxpayer-funded services are still available online, and books can still be checked out and returned through the drive-thru window.

In an effort to keep the library's staff of roughly a hundred workers, as well as patrons, safe, the library is offering its virtual services

"We strive to make sure that we are in touch with our community wants and what services they ask for," said Pam Salomone, communications and marketing manager at St. Charles Public Library.

"It's not very convenient, but if it has to be, it has to be," said library patron Robert Cunico, who hasn't quite warmed up to it yet.

The library's board voted to keep the building closed to the public, for now, while they work with the St. Charles Police Department to come up with a plan to enforce the mask mandate, and keep patrons and staff safe.

There's no date, yet, on when they will resume in-person services.
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