Why Libraries Nationwide Are Receiving Threats

Libraries in cities across the nation have been receiving bomb and active shooter threats via a Sales As A Service (SaaS) software known as Springshare, in some cases, the threats are thought to have been motivated by prejudices against the LGBTQ+ community.

By Gabriella Acuna | Published

Libraries across the United States have been receiving threats over the last two weeks. Nearly a dozen libraries had to cancel events and close down due to bomb and active shooter threats. Some of the public libraries that were targeted are located in Nashville, Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Boston. 

The threats were ruled out as hoaxes, but library workers and patrons who were affected are still trying to shake off the scare they received. Some of the libraries that received the threats were hosting LGBTQ events, leading many to believe that the hoaxes may have been prejudicially motivated. Another library near Chicago was also targeted and was forced to cancel its drag queen bingo night, while a scheduled book reading in a Bronx library that was supposed to be held by a teen drag star was also canceled after receiving homophobic threats. 

Some of the threats that the libraries received didn’t seem to have an underlying motive. However, as of late, libraries and their workers have become targets of harassment. In Hawaii, all libraries statewide were closed last week after receiving an “unspecified threat,” reported Vice

The public libraries in Denver, Nashville, and Boston all stated that they received the threats through an online Springshare platform that allows library workers to communicate with patrons. Springshare, which is SaaS designed specifically for libraries, provides a way for library workers and patrons to communicate with each other through different channels. Communication tools Springshare offers include chat, email, and SMS. 

libraries threats

Employees at the Denver Public Library were unsure how to proceed after getting the threats. A few workers claim that they weren’t getting straightforward answers about next steps, and the remote library workers claim that they were asked to stay logged on about an hour after the incident occured. Many libraries do not have standard protocols for situations like violent threats, leaving those in charge unsure of what to do. 

Fortunately for the employees at the Denver Public Library, management eventually gave them the green light to take a paid day off. As bomb threats and shootings in public places have become common in the US, DPL employees aren’t sure how libraries aren’t better prepared. According to Vice, one employee stated that DPL’s “preperation or response to safety issues…isn’t great overall.” 

Many library workers across the country feel the same way, and a recent study conducted across urban libraries seems to confirm workers’ fears. According to a study from New York Library Association, Urban Librarians United, and St. John’s University, public libraries tend to neglect the well-being of their employees and instead focus entirely on the communities they serve. The study, which revolved around libraries in urban centers, also found that librarians juggle more tasks than they are supposed to. 

An executive director of the Texas Library Association, Shirley Robinson, also expressed disappointment at the way that libraries perpetually seem to disregard providing support for workers. She says that library administrators must remember that in order to properly serve the community, they must strive to keep libraries open and focus on educating those who elect city council leaders. Robinson believes that library administrators do not take threats seriously, as is evident from the disjointed communication that resulted between workers and management after the threats. 

Many of the threats that libraries have faced have come from out-of-state. This leads some to believe that the threats could be coordinated attacks. In the meantime, some library workers realized they may have to accept that hoax threats are part of the job.