Anchorage Daily News 9/4/08 Friday, Sep 5 2008 

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Palin’s attempts at censorship today. Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian

A lot of stuff we already know – however, this is new:

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.

Pinell-Stephens also had no record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.Books may not have been pulled from library shelves, but there were other repercussions for Emmons.

Four days before the exchange at the City Council, Emmons got a letter from Palin asking for her resignation. Similar letters went to police chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton and finance director Duane Dvorak. John Cooper, a fifth director, resigned after Palin eliminated his job overseeing the city museum.

The comments section is quite shocking, though. It seems that many people have no problem with ‘cleaning up the smut’ at a public library, or that it takes a certain ‘moral authority’ to stand up to the public library, and that books and librarians must be banned from time to time.


What books did Sarah Palin want banned? Thursday, Sep 4 2008 

So, what titles did Sarah Palin attempt to censor from the Wasilla Public Library?

Short answer – I don’t know. I am going to need all your help with this one.

I do have a couple of leads

– The best bet would be if we could get Mary Emmons to make a statement. However, she appears to be very media-shy.

– Ann Kilkenny was active in the backlash against Palin during the censorship battle, and also reported that Palin brought up censoring books at a city council meeting.

  • I have e-mailed Kilkenny to see if she can recall titles, and have invited her to visit the blog.
  • Can anyone access the Minutes from the Wasilla City Council meetings? We’re looking in the 1996-1997 time-frame.

– Another lead is the Frontiersman article regarding the book banning from 12/18/1996. I have not had any success in getting the original copy of the article, or any articles from the paper. Does anyone have access to it? To our friends in Alaska – microfilm/fiche?


Lucy in Alaska. Thursday, Sep 4 2008 

This is a comment that was posted on the ‘Reconsideration Policy of Wasilly Public Library‘ thread. I thought it deserved front-page status.

  1. Lucy Says:
    September 4, 2008 at 5:45 pm editI have worked in Alaskan libraries for 20 years and can assure you that the story about Mary Ellen Emmons is true. After Palin was elected she did her darndest to work with her but the pressure to censor materials got to be too much and Mary Ellen resigned and moved across the state where she rebuilt her life and continues to work in a library. She is reluctant to bring up that part of her past. We all wish she would make a statement to the press, but you forget that Palin is still our Governor and she is one mean, small minded woman and we may need her support for our libraries in the future. There is SB119 waiting for funding right now, which would provide matching funds for new library construction and $$$ for our school libraries, for instance. Once you cross Ms. Sarah, she keeps you on her list for life.

LUCY-if you would like to comment any further on this issue, we would love to hear from you. Thank you.

Bumper Stickers! Thursday, Sep 4 2008 

I did not make these, but I guess that I’m not the only one who feels this way…

Librarians Against Palin Bumper Stickers!



Reconsideration Policy of Wasilla Public Library Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

All libraries have systems in place if a library user would like to remove a volume from the collection.

Wasilla, in particular, has a strong statement regarding reconsideration of library materials. I will let it speak for itself:

In accordance with the Wasilla Public Library Collection Development Policy, the library, “…strives to achieve a balanced collection of materials in the major information categories, as well as a fiction collection calculated to satisfy the widest possible variety of tastes. All viewpoints and opinions on controversial subjects will be represented whenever possible… Wasilla Public Library recognizes the right of every citizen to read and gather information, and his or her right to freedom from censorship by other persons. Many books are controversial and any given item may offend some persons. However, selections for this library will not be made on the basis of anticipated approval or disapproval, but solely on the merits of the material in relation to the building of the collection and to serving the interests of all readers. This library holds censorship to be a purely individual matter and declares that – while anyone is free to reject for himself books and other materials of which he does not approve – he cannot exercise this right of censorship to restrict the freedom of others.”

The statement almost brings tears to my eyes!

The full policy statement has been provided by the City of Wasilla, interestingly enough, under a special section of their website devoted to requested documents about Sarah Palin’s tenure as Mayor. Reconsiderations Requests of Library Material

Rough Timeline Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

It seems that we have enough information here to put together a rough timeline of Sarah Palin’s attempt to politicize the Wasilla Library, as well as to Ban books from the library.

October 1996 – Newly Elected Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin asks for the resignation letter of librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, along with other city officials, as well as her resume and letter of intentions. It seems that Palin would like Emmons to re-apply for her job of seven years. (Source: Daily Sitka)

December 1996 – This is when the book banning situation arose. According to the New York Times , Ann Kilkenny reported that Palin brought up the idea of banning ‘objectionable’ books at city counsel meetings. According to the Frontiersman, Palin approached Emmons directly and asked how she would feel about banning books. Emmonds reported: “This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy. … She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.” Emmons refuses.

January 1997 – Palin informs Emmons that she will be terminated on February 13. The letter of termination was drafted. (Anchorage Daily News) During this period, there is a public outcry, as reported by Ann Kilkenny. The Anchorage Daily News article reported a councilman, Nick Carney, suggested a recall petition against Palin.

February 1997 – Palin withdraws the written termination letter, stating that she feels that Emmons now supports her. (Anchorage Daily News)

1999 – Emmons leaves the Wasilla Public Library

Daily Sitka Sentinal 10/28/96 Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

This article in the Daily Sitka Sentinal marks the election of Sarah Palin to Mayor of Wasilla, and details one of her first acts: asking for letters of resignation from the chief of police, head of the city library, public works head, museum head, and the finance director for the city. Wasilla’s New Mayor Asks Officials to Quit


Anchorage Daily News 2/1/97 Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

The good people at Anchorage Daily News republished an article from 2/1/97. Wasilla Keeps Librarian but Police Chief is Out.  by Zaz Hollander and Rindi White.

Here’s a clip:

City librarian Mary Ellen Emmons will stay, but Police Chief Irl
Stambaugh is on his own, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin announced Friday.
The decision came one day after letters signed by Palin were dropped on
Stambaugh’s and Emmon’s desks, telling them their jobs were over as of
Feb. 13.

mayor told them she appreciated their service but felt it was time for
a change. ”I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to
govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your
employment …” the letter said.

said Friday she now feels Emmons supports her but does not feel the
same about Stambaugh.
As to what prompted the change, Palin said she now has Emmons’
assurance that she is behind her. She refused to give details about how
Stambaugh has not supported her, saying only that ”You know in your
heart when someone is supportive of you.”

said she asked Emmons if she would support efforts to merge the library
and museum operations. Emmons said she would, according to Palin.

Both Stambaugh and Emmons publicly supported Palin’s opponent,
long-time mayor John Stein during the campaign last fall. When she was
elected, Palin questioned their loyalty and initially asked for their

Emmons, who has been the city’s library director for seven years, would not comment about the affair.


We have gathered reports that Emmons was threatened to be fired because she wasn’t “loyal” enough to the mayor, Sarah Palin, most probably because Emmons refused to ban books for Palin!


Need some Primary Source Research Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

Hello Librarians!

Can anyone access the Frontiersman or Anchorage Daily News to get the original reports of Sarah Palin censoring the Wasilla Public Library? Or perhaps information regarding the librarian Mary Ellen Emmons  – her perspective, or maybe some information regarding her retirement in 1999.

In the spirit of respecting intellectual property, please do not cite articles in full. I believe that theAnchorage Daily News charges for archive access, so we want to respect that.

New York Times / More Kilkenny Wednesday, Sep 3 2008 

The New Tork Times interviewed Ann Kilkenny about Palin. The relevant part of the article follows:

Shortly after becoming mayor, 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.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were “rhetorical.”

Ms. Emmons was not the only employee to leave.

Yardley, W. (September 2, 2008) Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics as Usual. The New York   Times. Retreived online at

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