Cataloging Sarah Palin's Attempted Book Banning
It has been widely reported, by Time
magazine and The New York Times
, among others, that Sarah Palin as mayor of Wasilla was the author, (in the broadest sense of the term) of an effort to ban books from her town's public library. While that much seems to be true, and undenied by Palin, there is an apparently bogus list
of her proposed banned books in circulation. The facts are, as far as anyone has been able show, that while Palin did apparently want to ban some books, she did not say which ones.
All this is an unfortunate distraction from the real issues. In this atmosphere, it can be easy to believe every far out thing one reads about Sarah Palin. Even things that might be untrue and are nothing more than internet rumors. But there is enough well substantiated material of real concern to focus on without letting hysteria and misinformation get the better of us.
Here is what Time reports:
"[Former Wasilla mayor] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor."
McClatchy newspapers has a more thorough, and arguably fairer report on the flap
WASILLA, Alaska -- Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so.
According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn't fully support her and had to go.
Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.
It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. It has been mentioned in news stories in Time Magazine and The New York Times and is spreading like a virus through the blogosphere.
But this is also an excellent moment to remind ourselves that Banned Books Week is coming right up. The annual event sponsored by the American Library Association and the Ameriican Booksellers Association for Freedom of Expression enourages the freedom to read, and highlights efforts like those of former Mayor Palin to censor books from America's public libraries. Such efforts are usually (but not exclusively) led by elements of the Religious Right.
During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2008 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 27 through October 4.