ABC Investigates Friday, Sep 12 2008 

ABC Investigative Report on Sarah Palin, Mary Baker Emmons, Wasilla, Ann Kilkenny, Howard Bess, Pastor, I am Gay, and a new title has been raised: Go Ask Alice.

I always find it funny that people think Go Ask Alice is not appropriate for children. It is a somewhat fictionalized, ‘anonymous’ account of a girl who becomes addicted to drugs. It always struck me as a pretty basic morality tale intended to scare children.

Towleroad, 9/8/2008 Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

The blog Towleroad had a guest blogger on 9/8/2008, Ryan Quinn. Mr. Quinn grew up in Wasilla, and corroborated much of what we have heard in other sources. Sarah Palin Was My Mayor:

But she did try to use her power to ban books. Wasilla’s popular public librarian rightly objected, and the community rightly backed the librarian. The books were never banned, though Mrs. Palin did fire the librarian for not agreeing with her political views, then rescinded the firing after it was clear she’d made an unpopular decision. Sarah Palin’s behavior is revealing: in a state as isolated as Alaska, in a town as small as Wasilla, books are vital to the culture and to the education of its residents. The small town values I learned growing up included attending story hour at the public library. Those values most certainly did not include trying to ban books that the mayor’s church friends didn’t think other people should read.

Thank you for your insight, Mr. Quinn!

And thanks for the tip, Gwen!

Tess Gerritsen Supports Librarians Against Palin! Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

The immensely popular physician-turned-thriller-author Tess Gerritsen supports the cause!

True, this does not shine any new insight into Wasilla, c. 1996, but it’s Tess Gerritsen!

Check out her blog post here: The Librarian Who Said No to Sarah Palin

Thanks for the support, Tess!

That word doesn’t mean what you think it means… Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

Or does it?

According to the Miriam-Webster College Dictionary (2003): Rhetorical means:

  • rhe*tor*i*cal \ri-ˈtȯr-i-kəl, -ˈtär-\ also rhe*tor*ic \ri-ˈtȯr-ik, -ˈtär-\ adj (15c) 1 a : of, relating to, or concerned with rhetoric b : employed for rhetorical effect ;esp : asked merely for effect with no answer expected <a ~ question> 2 a : given to rhetoric : grandiloquent b : verbalrhe*tor*i*cal*ly \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adv

Our friends at posted on 9/9/08 : The Answer to Sarah Palin’s Rhetorical Question: Book Burning. The blog is partisan, and it may fall into the slippery-slope argument of censorship-first, fascism-next.

BUT – The discussion of what a ‘rhetorical’ question is entertaining. Here’s the gist of it: Rhetorical Questions are not meant to be answered, but to pursuade the listener to an opinion (as in definition b. above) So when Sarah Palin said that her asking the librarian about banning books was ‘just rhetorical’, how was she trying to pursuade Mary Ellen Baker?

The word Palin probably meant was ‘hypothetical’, but even banning books ‘hypothetically’ is unseemly.

Politifact – A List?!?! Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

I found this article from Politifact, a segment of the St. Petersburg Times. It’s called Story of Banned Books is Murky, and it has no author or date.

Politifact did its own investigation into the story. It led to some suprising conclusions, too! Politifact interviewed Paul Stuart, the author of the authoritative Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman article .

This is what he had to say:

But the Frontiersman reporter who wrote that article in 1996 now says Emmons told him Palin did mention three books that she wanted removed from the shelves.

Paul Stuart is semiretired, though he still occasionally contributes articles to a weekly paper, the Mountain Ear, in Conway, N.H., where he lives.

Stuart told PolitiFact that in a conversation with Emmons after his article ran, she listed three titles. He said he could recall only two, and initially said they were I Told My Parents I’m Gay and I Asked My Sister. We looked for these titles; they don’t appear to exist.

“Mary Ellen told me that Palin asked her directly to remove these books from the shelves,” Stuart said. “She refused.”

Asked later if the first book could have been Pastor, I am Gay, a controversial book written by a pastor who lives just outside Wasilla, Stuart said that was it.

Howard Bess, author of Pastor, I am Gay and former pastor of Church of the Covenant in nearby Palmer, recalls that his book challenging Christians to re-examine their ideas about and prejudices against gays and lesbians was not well received in Wasilla when it was published in 1995 — the year before Palin was elected mayor.

Virtually every book store in Wasilla refused to sell it.

Bess said he gave two copies to the Wasilla Library, but they quickly disappeared. So he donated more copies.

The controversy over the book was part of the context of that time period, he said. “Knowing Sarah’s religious connections and the people involved, I would be surprised if my book was not one of those at issue,” Bess said. “But I don’t know that for a fact.”

“I don’t think anyone has the facts except Mary Ellen, and she ain’t talking,” Bess said.


Were titles really mentioned? The reporter’s memory is hazy, and it was 12 years ago – and there was already controversy surrounding the title at the time.

But a lot of this story does make sense, especially about the censorship of Pastor, I am Gay. Simple theft is the most common form of censorship of library materials. Books, ESPECIALLY dealing with sexuality, regularly disappear. Maybe this is the book that Palin thought might incite picketers outside of the library?

Makes you think…

Seattle Times 9/7/08 Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

Hello Everyone!

It’s back to school time, which is an extremely busy time at libraries! I’ve got a few updates in store for you all. I’m happy to see the spirited commentary on the boards. In a day or so I will post a chart of what we know, what we know is false, what has been suggested (unconfirmed), and what we would like to know.

A few great articles have popped up recently, as have a lot of articles that have just repeated what’s already out there. We’ll try to keep in new & fresh. Thank you for all your suggestions, too!

First, there is Sarah Palin had Turbulent First Year as Mayor of Alaska Town, By Ken Armstrong and Hal Bernton, in this past Sunday’s Seattle Times.

The article does not shed any new light on the issue of this blog, but there is something interesting in it:

Six years of her executive experience came as mayor of Wasilla, a city north of Anchorage that had about 5,000 residents when she took over. As much of Palin’s hometown rallies with pride around her, 1,400 miles away — in a National Archives warehouse in Seattle — three boxes of documents help capture the quality of her mayoral experience.

These records, from a federal wrongful-termination lawsuit, include the minutiae of municipal governance, with memos to administrators and personnel records stamped “confidential.” The documents, combined with accounts from her hometown newspaper, show how Palin’s first year as mayor could easily have been her last.

Librarians have been dispatched to investigate the archives. If they find anything, it will be reported on this site.

Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman – 12/18/96 Saturday, Sep 6 2008 

The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman has republished the BEST article we have about Palin’s conversations with Mary Ellen Baker (Emmonds) regarding censorship of library materials! Local reporting, at the time, including quotes from both Mary Ellen and Sarah Palin.

The Whole Article can be found here: Palin: Library Censorship Inquiries ‘Rhetorical’ by Paul Stuart.

Here are some interesting snippets. It is ALL interesting, and I hope that the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman doesn’t mind my liberal quoting:

WASILLA — In the wake of strong reactions from the city’s library director to inquiries about censorship, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin on Monday was taking pains to explain her questions about censoring library material were “rhetorical.”

Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons last week said Palin broached the subject with her on two occasions in October – once Palin was elected mayor Oct. 1 but before she took office on Oct. 14, and again in more detail on Monday, Oct. 28.

Palin said Monday she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons.

But on Monday, Oct. 28, Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. This was during a weak when Palin was requesting resignations from all  the city’s department heads as a way of expressing loyalty.

Emmons said Palin asked her on Oct. 28 if she would object to censorship, even if people were circling the library in protest about a book.

Palin called Emmons into her office Monday [12/14/1996] to discuss the censorship questions again.

Emmons said the current Wasilla policy, which she described as written in more general terms than the borough’s, also worked procedurally in a book-challenge case last year. Emmons said then-council-woman Palin was distressed about the issue when it came up, indicating she was aware of the city’s book-challenge policy.

Emmons said in the conversations with now-Mayor Palin in October, she reminded her again that the city has a policy in place. “But it seamed clear to me that wasn’t really what she was talking about anyhow,” Emmons added. “I just hope it doesn’t come up again.”

Wow. It seems that Palin was VERY pre-occupied with censorship & the library challenge policy. I cannot believe that this was just Palin studying library policy. Palin questioned Emmonds Three Times, and seemed to force the issue. ‘What if people were picketing…’ ‘Could you live with books being censored…’

I would love to know what the meeting on 12/14/96 was like.

Mary-Ellen, if you’re reading, you seem like a very strong and proud librarian, standing up for the rights of ALL community members against censorship. I understand your present dilemma – If Palin isn’t elected Vice President of the United States of America, she is still in the powerful position of Governor of Alaska. I would imagine that for your well-being, and the well-being of your library and community, you would be very careful to speak out against her. Nevertheless, your aplomb and defense of ‘freedom to read’ presented in this article are laudable, and we appreciate the stand you took in 1996.

Finally : Thank you to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. I have been trying to access this article for days.

A Call for Insight Saturday, Sep 6 2008 

Hello friends,

This comment was posted yesterday from Lucy in Alaska:

  1. Lucy Says:
    September 5, 2008 at 3:41 am editTo the best of my knowledge and the verbal recollection of others around the state who knew Mary Ellen in her Wasilla years, her relationship with Sarah Palin remained difficult and book censorship was a continuing issue. Mary Ellen is not a combative person by nature…she is smart and funny and rather quiet. Not someone who would make waves without a reason.

This comment suprised me. The news media, and this blog, focused on Palin’s pressure on Mary Ellen Baker (nee Emmons) during the beginning of Palin’s tenure as Mayor.

I had assumed that Palin backed off of Baker after the public outcry of the early years, and perhaps it was an early executive misstep of Palin – which betrayed her oppenness to ban library materials.  However, Lucy’s posts suggests that Palin CONTINUED to pressure Baker until she resigned.

Lucy mentions she knows this from her personal connection with Baker, as well as other verbal sources. Would any other verbal sources please come forward, and perhaps reveal some new insight into Palin’s relatinoship with the Wasilla Public Library during the Mary Ellen years?

Are there any Wasilla Public Library past or current STAFF that would like to add some insight?

What was Palin’s relationship with the library between the years of 1999-2002?

Finally, I contacted The Frontiersman, which published the blow-by-blow accounts of the events in 1996-1997. They have not digitized their archives before 2000, but offered me an invitiation to visit their offices to read their bound archives. Is there anyone up in that neighborhood that would like to do some research & report back to us all?


Wall Street Journal, 9/4/08 Friday, Sep 5 2008 

From the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal. Focus Turns to Palin Record by Jim Carleton, Michael M. Phillips, Elizabeth Williamson & Laura Meckler

[Gov. Palin] floated the idea of pulling books she considered offensive from a local library.

While of course, WE know this, what’s interesting is that this is not a quote from a community member, but this is presented as fact, on the front page of a right-leaning newspaper.

HOWEVER – Book-banning is NOT a right/left issue. Books are banned for for being perceived as racist, or to remove religion from schools  (ie, Huck Finn, The Bible), as well as for ‘obscenity’ and sexuality (ie. Lolita, And Tango Makes Three)

Libraries allow people to make their own decisions.  By having a wide spectrum of ideas and perspectives, Libraries fight ignorance and mitigate extremism.

It still is interesting, though, that a conservative paper would publish that the Republican VP candidate has suggested banning books.

School Library Journal 9/4/08 Friday, Sep 5 2008 

Thank you to School Library Journal for publicizing the blog: Library Blog Blasts Palin by Debra Lau Whelan

While it did not offer any new information about the Palin/Emmonds case, it did have this interesting quote:

“[Palin] essentially forced Mary Ellen out,” says June Pinnell-Stephens, chair of the Alaska Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee and a friend of Baker’s. “She all but fired her.”

It doesn’t appear, however, that any books were actually banned, says Pinnell-Stephens,  who documents book challenges in the state but couldn’t find any evidence in her files and doesn’t remember any conversations with Baker about the subject.

Although Pinnell-Stephens hasn’t had personal contact with Palin, she doesn’t think the Republican vice presidential nominee is up to the job. “There are many, many issues of which she has no understanding at all [like] the role of libraries in a democracy,” she says. “I certainly have no reason to believe she’s ever been a strong supporter of libraries, partly because she [forced out] a very competent and wonderful director.”

School Library Journal – thank you for the publicity, as well as your research and the interview with Pinnell-Stephens

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