Palin’s Book Banning

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http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/2008/09/05/palin_book_banning.html

In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose.

Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship. Emmons, now Mary Ellen Baker, is on vacation from her current job in Fairbanks and did not return e-mail or telephone messages left for her Wednesday.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

“Sarah said to Mary Ellen, ‘What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?” Kilkenny said.

“I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, ‘The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.’”

Palin didn’t mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.

Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head “about understanding and following administration agendas,” according to the Frontiersman article.

Were any books censored banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files Wednesday and came up empty-handed.

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6 thoughts on “Palin’s Book Banning”

  1. “Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship” – Probably not a popular opinion here, but a much better answer would have been to simply explain the book challenge process… it sounds like the library didn’t have one (but every library SHOULD have that policy in place).

    Much better to to say “here’s our process” than to get all defensive. IMO

  2. The City of Wasilla has also posted a “Banned or Censured Books Response” as a .PDF on its website – it’s in the folder marked “City Documents – Materials Recently Requested – Former Mayor Palin.”

    http://www.cityofwasilla.com/index.aspx?page=136

    I wish Mary Ellen Baker would make a statement, and soon, but if I were her, I’d be lawyering up first, just in case…

  3. Would an accurate summary of this issue, on the basis of the information available in the article, be that Palin did not ban any books, and Mary Ellen Baker’s response at the time was not in accordance with the library’s current policy, presuming then Mayor Palin held a valid library card?

  4. I don’t think it matters whether Palin held a library card at the time or not, Alan. According to everything I have read so far about this issue, Palin was inquiring about the policy, not requesting that it be implemented for any specific books. So far, I can’t find the policy to request reconsideration of library materials listed anywhere else on the City of Wasilla’s website – particularly on the library’s web pages. Seems to me a newly-elected mayor might legitimately inquire about such a policy (whether s/he holds a library card or not), since his/her constituents might be asking about it as well.

    And I agree with David Lee King above (and Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran) that Emmons/Baker could have given a better answer –assuming Kilkenny quoted her correctly.

  5. It’s possible that she was just inquiring about the library’s policy (and certainly every library needs a policy on challenges) but Kilkenny’s quotes seem to have a more sinister overtone to me. Especially given Ms. Palin’s later attempt at firing Emmons for not being in line with ‘administration policy’. My understanding is community support was the only thing that kept Emmons in her job. As for Emmon’s actions in the situation, in my mind it all comes down to what ‘hat’ Palin was wearing for the conversation. If she was asking as a patron, by all means lead off with the libraries policy on challenges. If she was asking as the Mayor (which is what Palin’s statement seems to suggest) I find her comments much more appropriate. Politely pointing to the layers of bureaucracy that Palin could avail herself of if she so chose would not likely have garnered a favorable response from then-Mayor Palin.

    Like most of the other respondents, I find myself eagerly awaiting more information as there seems to be plenty of room for misinterpretation currently. As a library employee, despite the wealth of more pressing issues, I have to confess that this news story makes me very uneasy. Both for the attitude that (if proven accurate) it would show toward library’s, but also in the attitude that it would show toward freedom of information in general.

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