St. Charles library board stands by decision to close amid threats over mask requirement
The St. Charles Public Library will remain closed for in-person visits following a near altercation between patrons Thursday afternoon as well as phone calls threatening staff and patrons over the library's mask policy.
"Our number one goal is the safety of our patrons and our employees," library board President Robert Gephart said during a virtual board meeting Saturday. "Late Thursday afternoon, we narrowly avoided a patron-on-patron altercation. Afterward, the library started receiving phone calls threatening the health and safety of our staff and patrons. Looking at social media amplified our level of concern. At that time, with the cooperation of the St. Charles Police Department, it was determined that it was in the best interest of public safety to close the library."
It is not yet known when the library will reopen.
"We are continuing to work with the St. Charles Police Department to determine the proper steps to safely reopen the library," Gephart said. "Until then, the library will remain closed to in-person visits. Our virtual services and drive-up window will remain available to patrons."
Alyse Daccardo of St. Charles said she was one of the patrons involved in the near altercation, which she accused the library board of blowing out of proportion. The incident happened after she entered the library Thursday not wearing a mask, leading to a confrontation between her and another patron.
"A woman shouted at me that I wasn't being harassed and that she wanted to stay as a witness for the police," Daccardo said. "For which I replied that when five people approach one person like they did, that's harassment. I then proceeded to tell her I was vaccinated, not wearing a mask and not getting into it with her. She said, 'I'm not either, have a good day.' And I said, 'You, too.'"
Daccardo also took part in a maskless protest at the library Tuesday with three of her children. She said she joined the protest after her 7-year-old-twins were told last week they would have to leave the library because they were wearing face shields rather than masks. She said her sons have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing masks, and offered to show library employees a doctor's note explaining that.
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 one.
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 her visit Tuesday and Thursday.
Almost 200 people watched the virtual meeting Saturday, during which the board unanimously approved a motion supporting the enforcement of all current policies, including closing the building when the safety of patrons and staff are threatened.
They also unanimously approved a motion supporting library Director Edith Craig's efforts.
Pam Salomone, the library's communications and marketing manager, said in the last couple of months the library has experienced "heightened incidents" almost on a daily basis regarding the mask mandate and people not adhering to it.
"It's unfortunate that this is what's happening right now," Salomone said. "We are just trying to keep our staff and patrons safe and provide service as we can."