Nashville public libraries close due to bomb threat, police investigation ongoing

Nashville is one of many city libraries to receive bomb threats during “Banned Books Week.”


Miguel Beristain

Bookshelves in Central Library, as photographed on Nov. 16, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Aaditi Lele and Brina Ratangee

Nashville Public Library (NPL) received a bomb threat over email on the morning of Sept. 22. The threat did not specify a location, prompting a city-wide library shutdown of all 21 branches across the county. NPL tweeted at 1:40 p.m. on Sept. 22 that all libraries would remain closed until Sept. 23, citing an “operational issue.”

MNPD media relations director Don Aaron told the Nashville Scene that the threat was sent to an email account that is shared by library staff. MNPD said in a Sept. 22 tweet that the bomb threat was “not deemed credible” because it likely originated out of state and no suspicious items were found. The MNPD investigation is ongoing. 

Nashville mayor John Cooper expressed gratitude for MNPD’s “fast response” and reaffirmed that libraries would remain closed for the remainder of the day.

“Making a false report is a crime, and our investigation remains active,” Cooper tweeted.

The bomb threat comes midway through “Banned Books Week,” an annual celebration of open access to information and free expression. Sponsored by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, the event was first held in 1982 in response to growing censorship of books in schools and libraries. This year’s theme is: “Books United Us. Censorship Divides Us.” 

Nashville was not the only city to face bomb threats this week. Fort Worth Public Libraries in Fort Worth, Texas closed on Sept. 20 in response to a similar bomb threat received by a library employee. The employee reported receiving three separate emails that threatened bomb-related violence, and Fort Worth police are investigating with the support of the Department of Homeland Security. 

The Denver Public Library system also received bomb threats on Sept. 20. Similar to Nashville, the source of these threats was determined to have originated from out of state, and the Denver Police Department determined them to be a hoax.

Odessa Kelly, a candidate for Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, reacted to news of the bomb threat by criticizing the ideologies she considers responsible for the threat.

“Domestic terrorism. All over To Kill A Mockingbird. Ignorance, hatred, and violent extremism has no place in Nashville.” Kelly tweeted. “I pray that staff at @NowatNPL can feel safe at work again soon.”