Cook Memorial library board president resigns over homophobic statements

Embroiled in controversy over homophobic statements she had made, Cook Memorial Public Library District board President Bonnie Quirke on Tuesday resigned from the panel.

The resignation, sent to the other board members and Director David Archer, was effective immediately.

Quirke, 80, of Libertyville, had served on the board since 2005 and had been its president since 2009. An outspoken advocate for library services in the district, Quirke helped oversee the construction of the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills in 2010 and its expansion last year.

Libertyville's Cook Park Library also is part of the district.

Quirke came under fire this month for a speech she made to a conservative group nearly 10 years ago. The speech didn't cause a stir until a video of it circulated through the Cook Memorial community and on social media.

"The library abounds with the homosexual agenda, especially in the children's department," Quirke is seen saying in the video. She also said "we have abdicated local politics, and the predators have taken over."

Quirke also was denounced for some racially inflammatory Facebook posts and for homophobic comments she made in a 2013 Daily Herald interview.

Although she had some defenders, more than a dozen patrons and some fellow library trustees called on Quirke to step down during last week's library board meeting.

In response to Quirke's comments, Archer published a message on the library's website declaring "equality, compassion and inclusion" are important values for the library and its staff.

The board was expected to discuss Quirke's comments and what action, if any, to take on them during a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

Board member Jennifer Banek called Quirke's resignation an "appropriate decision, given the context of recent events."

During last week's meeting, Quirke cited her free speech rights and said she's never allowed her personal positions to influence the library.

Quirke restated both those points in her resignation letter, a copy of which was acquired by the Daily Herald. She also said it was shocking "to see a 10-year-old video used for political reasons to discredit the work that has been done over the years to promote the library."

In the letter, Quirke insisted she was not racist or homophobic. She accused her critics of orchestrating the public lambasting last week, going as far to say "the anger and hate expressed really does not fit the Mission Statement of Cook Memorial Public Library."

"The fact that I have different religious, political or personal opinions (has) been used to discredit my name and reputation," Quirke wrote.

But board member Karen Singer felt Quirke's comments "demanded action."

"This isn't about expressing a different opinion," Singer said. "These are views that are hurtful and cause people distress."

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