September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin: Attempted Library Censorship

According to a female resident of Wasilla, Alaska who wishes to remain anonymous writes:
While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

The New York Times corroborated the attempted firing, as does Shannyn Moore, an Anchorage-based radio talk show host, as revealed in an interview of Ms. Moore by DemocracyNow'a Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: I was just looking at a New York Times piece, “Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics as Usual.” Wasilla, about, what, 7,000, 8,000 people. And it says, “Shortly after becoming mayor [1996], former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.”

“The librarian... pledged to ‘resist all efforts at censorship.’” Palin then fired Ms. [Mary Ellen] Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course when residents made a strong show of support.

SHANNYN MOORE: Yeah, that was—that wasn’t a statewide issue but certainly came up during the campaign with—when she was running for governor, and this whole censorship and this fundamentalism. I mean, when you’re running for mayor in a town in Alaska and one of your platform issues as a nonpartisan mayor is your pro-life stance, that tells you a lot about the town you’re in. And it is a pretty fundamentalist type of town, and—you know, and that plays very well in those towns. You know, this sort of censorship, this sort of “vote for me is a vote for Jesus,” it’s very George Bushian, and it’s very Sarah Palin.

This revelation will hit people in different ways. Some will react negatively to the fundamentalist Christian implications. Others will react mostly to Palin's willingness to censor information that doesn't fit her views. But, those who know of Palin's track record of firing people might be most disturbed by her penchant to abuse power and surround herself with loyalists.


Boston Herald, Palin asked Wasilla librarian about censoring books, September 4, 2008.


Personal e-mail correspondence with resident of Wasilla.

DemocracyNow, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Accepts GOP Nomination, September 4, 2008.



libhom said...

Does book burning make someone a "maverick"?

GDAEman said...

libhom, you're always food for a laugh or a bit of insight. Thanks.

christinemm said...

I'd love to know the titles of the books that Palin had an issue with.

A number of books on the market today for preteens and teens have content that may shock some adults. These are not the same books that were on the market in the 1980s and prior, not the ones I grew up with. Some in my opinion qualify for the definition of child porn that is illegal in this country and clearly is against the ALAs rules of what is allowed in public libraries.

I wanted to mention that some parents of kids and some parents of kids in schools are working with school libraries and libraries to clean up their collections. This is generally recommended in "Home Invasion Protecting your family in a culture gone stark raving mad" by Rebecca Hagelin and in a new book "From Crayons to Condoms the ugly truth about America's public schools" by Steve Baldwin and Karen Holgate.

I am no longer quick to cry out about banning books when some of what is published for preteens is actually illegal material (child porn) and when public libraries are circulating stuff that they are not supposed to be.

The children's (and young adult) book publishing industry is very different today!

GDAEman said...

Christine: The corporate culture has definitely exploited sex to make money. This subtle form of exploitation has certainly worked its way into the book market, not all of which make it into libraries. But corporate rule of our culture, political institutions and economy is a broader topic.

In the case of Wassila, AK, a Boston Herald article reports librarian Emmons' responding that, ’The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size.' If you happen to follow up on these criteria, I'd be curious to know what you find.

Parents have a responsibility to know what their children read. They should also have access to the library records of what their children have checked out, and be able to place a block on a list of books for their children.

In a free country, parents don't have the right to know or control what other children read unless a legitimate democratic process leads to a mutual community decision. That's one price of "freedom."

A public campaign to influence a library's book list, supported by a decision-making process accepted by the community, is a legitimate democratic exercise. Exercising democracy is a lot of work, and as Bush said in December 2000, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

Using intimidation tactics, e.g., abusing executive power to fire the local librarian, is "un-democratic." To the degree we define America by our democratic ideals, one could say such abuses are "un-American."

Apparently the people of Wassila, reported to be have strong conservative Christian values, agree. Sarah Palin's attempt to fire the town librarian was rebuffed by the town's people.

Anonymous said...

christinemm & GDAEman,

Thanks both for such thoughtful responses.

I'm a mom of a 14-year old boy and a reading teacher for students with language-based learning disabilities.

I'd like to first say, as a mom, that I take responsibility for what my son reads. I don't care what the library has, but I review what my son's reading before he reads it. I'm opposed to censorship (and one of my favorite books is Fahrenheit 451), so I don't mind if the library has things I don't want my son to read. The responsibility is my own to make sure he reads what is appropriate.
I agree, GDAEman, that
"The corporate culture has definitely exploited sex to make money," and agree also that "Parents have a responsibility to know what their children read."
I will forever dispute censorship (perhaps for the same reasons that Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorites).
Christinemm, I share your concern that "what is published for preteens is actually illegal material," but I again feel the government cannot legislate what is legal here. Perhaps we need to have website references for books about which we have concerns?

Anonymous said...

Remind me to never, ever vote for this woman. To forbid a certain idea or point of view is the definition of evil. that librarian sounds like a hero, hope he keeps his job long after Palin loses hers.

Anonymous said...

^^ her job. mistyped.