Mighty Red Pen

September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Case of the Resigning Librarian

There’s a lot that’s interesting about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin but, as a word nerd, I’m most intrigued by the Case of the Resigning Librarian. From a recent Time magazine article:

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.” That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

Mary Ellen Baker (Emmons at the time) eventually resigned. According to the Anchorage Daily News, “Palin pressured Wasilla librarian“:

The stories are all suggestive, but facts are hard to come by. Did Palin actually ban books at the Wasilla Public Library?

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.

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. Four days before the exchange at the City Council, Emmons got a letter from Palin asking for her resignation.

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.

As with many of the stories emerging about Palin, the details of the Case of the Resigning Librarian remain a little murky. For example, exactly which books Palin was hoping to have removed isn’t clear yet (a supposed list posted at librarian.net has proven to be a fake but the discussion there is interesting). Librarians Against Palin is tracking this issue, and you can also follow it at Library Journal, which isn’t that probing in its analysis but has some good links.   

So, who wants to send Sarah Palin a Happy Banned Books Week card?



  1. It’s common to hear reports of Republicans wanting censorship. It’s usually stated when Republicans ask organizations to be responsible for what they deliver to the public (e.g. song lyrics). But I know of no Republican that sought censorship. Though I do know Democrats that have suggested censoring. Nonetheless, Republicans are labeled with a desire to censor things. Thus, I find this report suspicious.

    Comment by Frank Drone — September 7, 2008 @ 10:39 pm | Reply

  2. Did you see this, in the last paragraph of the story in the Anchorage paper?

    “Kilkenny’s e-mail got bounced through cyberspace and ended up on news blogs. Now the small-town mom and housewife is scheduling interviews with national news media and got her name on the front page of The New York Times, even if it was misspelled.”

    Comment by TootsNYC — September 12, 2008 @ 11:41 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for posting this, MRP. As a fellow word nerd and a former library worker (in the children’s department of a public library), this subject is of great interest to me.

    Comment by Editrix — September 12, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  4. Am I on the right side? My elementary, my junior high and my senior high schools banned the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue each year, and I protested (whined, really) fervently.

    Comment by helen's dad — September 17, 2008 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

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