Monday, September 08, 2008

Guest Blogger: Tess Gerritsen

Today, What Fresh Hell is extremely fortunate to host NYT Bestselling Author and Generally Awesome Person Tess Gerritsen. This post was originally intended for the gang-blog upon which we both appear, Murderati, but since Murderati isn't an explicitly political blog, there was some discomfort with the subject matter. So I invited Tess over here, where we do discuss politics, once in a great long while..... take it away, Tess!

THE LIBRARIAN WHO SAID NO TO SARAH PALIN

by Tess Gerritsen

It has been my practice to avoid any political commentary when I blog. There are good people on both sides of the aisle, and I have no wish to offend anyone. But this column isn’t really about politics; it’s about censorship, which most writers claim to be against, even though most are oddly and tellingly silent about this particular instance of it. It’s also about our country’s guardians of free thought, those fearless foot soldiers who have long protected our right to read what we want to read. (So long as we keep our voices hushed while browsing the stacks.)

I'm talking about librarians.

Librarians don't usually make it into the news, but these are unusual times. There's been a lot of excitement over Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President, and no wonder. She's clearly intelligent, she has a compelling personal story, and she even knows how to kill and field-dress a moose. But in all the hoopla, another woman's name has quietly surfaced from Sarah Palin's political past, a name that many may have missed: Mary Ellen Emmons.

She's the librarian who once stood up to Sarah Palin. And got fired for it.

In case you haven't been following the story, here's a summary from the New York Times:

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."

This story has also been covered by a number of other sources, including Time Magazine, the Boston Herald, and School Library Journal. It's been picked up by library blogs. The Frontiersman, the Alaska newspaper covering Wasilla, has provided an article from its 1996 archives detailing the clash. And here's what Ms. Emmons said at the time:

"I'm not trying to suppress anyone's views," Emmons said. "But I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves."

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 week when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way of expressing loyalty...

Emmons recalled that (during) the Oct. 28 conversation she pulled no punches with her response to the mayor. "She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied 'Yup,'" Emmons recounted Saturday. "And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union would get involved, too."

Imagine that -- a librarian against censorship. The gall! The insubordination!

And the incredible, steely courage. Yes, we are talking courage. By taking a stand, one that principled librarians have taken again and again in defense of the public's access to information, Ms. Emmons faced consequences. She was fired. It was only because of the public's outcry that Ms. Emmons was able to return to her job.

This is more than a story about one librarian's heroism. It's also a story that should give every writer, every publisher, every reader, a chill up the spine. Since when do mayors dictate which books are in their town libraries? Since when do public officials in our America believe that banning books is a politician's prerogative? What sort of control freak even considers such a demand appropriate? What else would such a person choose to censor? Newspapers that disagree with her? Scientists whose studies don't align with her beliefs? Government officials whose facts and figures make her look bad?

And if those government officials insist on doing their jobs and standing by the facts, will they too be fired?

I fervently want a woman in the White House someday, but that desire does not make me blind to a candidate's flaws. And if you think it's okay to fire a librarian who refuses to go along with censorship, you are indeed flawed.

Librarians have always stood up for writers; now it’s time for writers to stand up for librarians – even though there will almost certainly be repercussions. No doubt there are some people who will never buy another one of my books because of what I've just written. Perhaps they'll demand that my books be banned from libraries. Perhaps they don't think that censorship is that big a deal. Or they don't mind being told what they can and cannot read. Or they want a woman in the White House so badly that they're willing to take the first one who comes along.

So let me offer an alternative candidate for the White House, a woman who's already proven her courage. A woman who's taken a principled stand against powerful political forces. She even hails from Alaska.

I nominate Mary Ellen Emmons for President.


Thanks for being here, Tess, and that's one I'd vote for, I think. I do love me some librarians.....


Tess' latest book is The Keepsake, and if you haven't checked her work out before, now's a good time to start. She writes some of the best thrillers in the business. A list can be found here.

78 comments:

Tasha Alexander said...

Great, great blog, Tess. Censorship cannot be part of any decent society--particularly one with the stated values of the United States.

JD Rhoades said...

Damn skippy. And it doesn't matter a whit to me if the would be censors are Republicans, Democrats, Cahtlics or Muslims. I'm an Obama supporter, but if someone provides me credible evidence that he's tried to get books banned or pulled from libraries, that would end. I've never cared much for one issue voters, but on this issue, I am one.

Pari Noskin Taichert said...

Tess, this is a brilliant post.

I'm right there with you, Tasha and JD about censorship.

Libraries often become the front lines in this battle AND librarians are the first defenders of our Consitution.

That a mayor, or anyone else in public and elected office, would make book banning a central issue -- the fact that she'd want it willy-nilly, just in case -- horrifies me.

Fran said...

I'll tell you in person on the 1st, Tess, but here and now, let me say THANK YOU for saying what needs to be said. Censoring what goes into our libraries is the hallmark of dictatorship.

Charlie Stella said...

Let's not get hysterical kids ... even if you buy the story(ies), the censorship didn't happen.

I applaud the librarian for standing up, but come on ... it's not like she had an incumbent Democrat removed from a Congressional election just because the incumbent's petitioner signatures were in script (and/or not block printed). Anyone who would go so far to access power is ... well ... not very inclusive. Or maybe that's fair what Obambi did to win his first election.

JD Rhoades said...

Charlie, Charlie. You guys are always trying to change the subject. Only reason she didn't get the librarian fired is becuase people stood up and hollered about it. Which is the point.

Charlie Stella said...

JD 2x's ... "you guys" ... I'm an independent ... just because I'm not voting for Obambi, doesn't make me a Republican ... in fact, I was a registered Dem when I voted Republican the last two elections.

My point (made earlier) was book banning won't happen. Congress would kill it. People, like the librarian, would kill it. I think we're safe.

Now, if the librarian can run a lemonade stand, I'm all for her.

Doug Riddle said...

It is not in question that Palin would be stopped from banning books, but the idea that she thought she had right to ban books.

As for the librarian being able to run a lemonade stand, heck if she can do that we should put her in charge of FEMA.

Gerard Saylor said...

Well, it looks like Gerritsen is a damn dirty liberal hippie as well. I'd consider banning her books but her titles circulate too well.

Her books have legs too: Harvest from '96 is checked out right now and has gone out 63 times. 63 is a good number for a small library. Keepsake was delivered this morning for tomorrow's release and has 50 holds across the library system.

Charlie Stella said...

Good point, Doug (about FEMA), but why stop there? My point exactly ... I'm fine with the librarian running things. I'm not fine with professional bureacrats stroking us ad infinitum. Palin seems to have run a few things well (whether you agree with her personal whackiness or not).

As for her attempts to ban books (the thought she had the right to do so) ... shows executive traits (or hutzpuh), you ask me. Think of all the "executive priviledge" claims through the years. She pro-active, maybe too much so ... but that's what Congress is there for (because I can't figure out for the life of me what else they're there for).

becky hutchison said...

Hi Tess. I'm glad to see your post here. And thanks to you too, Dusty, for encouraging Tess to present her issue here.

To follow up on Charlie's post...

"My point (made earlier) was book banning won't happen."

Books ARE being banned in public libraries and on school reading lists. If the threat of banning books wasn't out there, then the American Library Association wouldn't be presenting its Banned Books Week for the 27th year from September 27th to October 4th. Here's a list of books banned or challenged in 2007-2008:

http://www.ila.org/pdf/2008banned.pdf

Charlie Stella said...

Thanks for this, Becky (seriously). I didn't know it could happen in 2008, but ... (there's always a but) ... I'm pretty sure (not positive) one could use the library system to access a book banned in one locality from another). Should one have to? Absolutely not.

But ...

Gerard: What's your point? I already said I'm a half-assed author ... you'll get no arguments there from me.

Toni said...

Excellent post, Tess, and brilliantly written. It's a critical issue that we all need to be aware of as the debates over the candidates continues.

Chris said...

Hear, hear. I mean, when has the side that bans or burns books ever been in the right? It seems Palin lacks the good judgment to run a book club, let alone a nation.

becky hutchison said...

You're welcome, Charlie.

Charlie Stella said...

Tell it to the 80% approval rating she has in Alaska. Somebody up there (no, not heaven) likes her. Apparently even CNN says she "accomplished" a few things. Maybe if Keith Olbermann admitted it, you'd feel better?

Gotta take the #1 train to the ferry to the other train (SIL) to my car to get home ... so I'll pro'lly see yous later ... buona sera

Gerard Saylor said...

Charlie: I had no point. I just got to thinking about Gerritsen's books since one came in the mail. I thought her argument was well written.

Book banning and challenges are always going on. The banning story on Palin came as no surprise to me. Not because I expected it of Palin but because I read about these stories regularly in library literature.

John Dishon said...

If we want to talk about civil liberties, why don't we talk about the ones we've already lost?

How about we talk about the Patriot Act, which both McCain and Obama supported, or the FISA bill, which Obama said he would oppose and then turned around and voted for it.

We have Bush giving himself all kinds of executive powers he has no Constitutional right to do.

We have riot police on every street corner in Minnesota it seems, just waiting to tear gas and pepper spray every peaceful protester they see. Can we not assemble freely anymore?

What about monetary policy? Neither Obama nor McCain will even touch that one. Obama wants to socialize health care, which runs against the philosophical basis of this country, that individual rights are to be emphasized, not community rights. "I am my brother's keeper", he said. That's socialism, not democracy.

McCain wants to drill more oil which won't do anything to help us out; there's just not enough oil there and anyway we need to get away from oil. Yet so many people are mesmerized because he's a war hero, a war hero would crashed five fighter planes before he was captured. Seems like that was a failed mission, yet somehow being captured and tortured makes you a good leader. It makes him a hero for his country, but it doesn't mean he can govern well.

So there are lots of important issues that few people even bring up, and certainly the mainstream media doesn't address it. But our country is already under attack, right now, yet you guys are getting upset over censorship that never happened. Palin didn't even try to ban any books (maybe she would have if the public hadn't reacted to the librarian's firing, but still).

It's these distractions that's turned this election into a farce, just like it usually is. We need to read the Constitution again and demand that our elected officials follow it.

tess gerritsen said...

john,
I have no argument with anything you've brought up. Yes, many of our civil liberties are under attack -- but including all of them would require many, many columns. My point of this post was to take this one particular incident and ask what it tells us about this particular VP candidate -- and what we might expect from her in the future. Someone who thinks it's all right to ban books is probably someone who doesn't respect other civil rights, either.

David Terrenoire said...

Thanks for inviting one of my favorite people in this generous community to enliven the discussion, Dusty.

That's all. You know how I feel about this.

John Dishon said...

Tess,

There's no question, Sarah Palin is not qualified for any high office position. She didn't even know what Fannie and Freddie Mac do. A VP should be able to talk at length about just about anything remotely involving politics. This "elitist" whining has got to stop. If "hockey mom" is all you're bringing, then get out. We don't need the lowest common denominator in high office. We need intelligent people who know about how government works.

And it's not because she's a woman either. Hillary Clinton is more qualified then any of them running, in terms of experience.

Sarah Palin, in her speeches, recites word for word the same lines and jokes she had written for her in her acceptance speech. She makes a great puppet, but does she know anything herself?

We probably won't get to find out. She finally is going to do an interview and it's with softball Charlie Gibson.

So yeah, Sarah Palin is not right for the job. I do agree that censorship of any kind should set off warning bells.

Celine said...

Given a conversation about librarians resisting censorship, this seems appropriate:

http://www.instantattitudes.com/shirts/t052.html

"Guild of Radical Militant Librarians" T-shirt (also available in tote bags) from Instant Attitudes.

(Dusty, you know I don't spam at random. If you'd rather I didn't plug our stuff on your blog, just tell me.)

JD Rhoades said...

Well...seeing how it's on topic and all, I'll allow it.

Brett Battles said...

Tess,

Excellent post, well thought out. As a writer (no matter of which political persuasion), the possibility of banning books and censorship should get our blood boiling. There is NO place for it in our country. The U.S. was established as a free nation where different ideas were to be tolerated. It hasn't always worked that way, but it is the ideal that we should all be fighting for and defending. You've said here what most of us should have also been saying.

Thank you for standing up and writing this.

JT Ellison said...

Regardless of what side of the fence you're on, banning books is ridiculous and shouldn't happen in this day and age. Free speech should be just that, free for ALL.

Louise Ure said...

Hey, it looks like the whole Murderati party moved to the bar down the block!

Thanks you Tess, for writing this, and J.D. for posting it.

Your comment, Tess, says it all. "Someone who thinks it's all right to ban books is probably someone who doesn't respect other civil rights, either."

Steve Allan said...

Palin's attitude about censorship (and her failure to ban books doesn't excuse her intentions in the first place) is pretty scary. An elected official proposing governmental censorship is a little too Fahrenheit 451 for me. After 8 years of eroding civil liberties, can we really afford to have someone in the White House who has already proven that she wants to take more away from the American public? The first barrier in stopping an elected official from banning books is to not vote for them in the first place.

JD Rhoades said...

Hey, it looks like the whole Murderati party moved to the bar down the block!

I'm gonna need more chairs.

Tom said...

Tess, thank you. Dusty, thank you.

Palin is mighty quick to want to control other people's lives. I find this All-Governing attitude at odds with basic Republican tenets, to say nothing of the basic tenets of The Republic.

Place sure got crowded. Lluggie says you can use him for a couch if you want, J.D.

Charlie Stella said...

John: Hillary Clinton married slick willy and wound up in the white house as 1st lady ... then she walked into the senate seat in NY (that is her "experience"). Her claims to fame on getting things done total a goose egg. She couldn't even manage a compaign she was expected to win by February.

This experience thing is a bit over rated, I think. And so is this hysteria over the book banning; it was kept in check. Do you really think she'd be able to ban books from the white house? Do you see amazon going out of business? Borders, B&N, etc.

You guys on the left are starting to sound like the fear mongers on the right ...

Compromise at least ... find somebody who can run that lemonade stand who also reads dirty books ...

Pat Mullan said...

Dear Tess,

Excellent! I am so glad that you had the courage to speak openly about this. I'm afraid that those who would ban books (or even think of it) would attempt to mould our world to fit their own belief system. And if they became President (and that's possible when one's partner is up in years) I shiver to think of the possibilities.

And, Dusty, I'll hoist a glass to you this evening :)

Slan go foill,
Pat

By the way, did you know that Ms.Palin has on-the-ground foreign experience: yes, yes, she actually made a stopover at Shannon!

John Dishon said...

Charlie,

Eight years in the White House is not nothing. I'm no Hillary supporter, but that time as First Lady means something, even though she wasn't the one in charge.

Charlie Stella said...

John:

Eight years in the white hosue is squat unless you're the President. By those standards, the Chef should run (and I'd probably vote for him/her).

Enough with the "courage" nonsense ... bejessus ... are yous kidding me? "Courage" to post on a blog? Where are you living, Pat, in some Gulag?

Pamie said...

Thanks for the nudge (reminder) Tess!

Censorship -- is nothing new in U.S. societal sectors. Google ACLU (that evil liberal group ;-)) and censorship and you'll retrieve 3 mil plus abstracts. Visit ACLU e-sites and you'll note tons of cases that ACLU handled on behalf of varied groups/individuals.

Palin is one of many who attempt to quell free speech/action in the U.S. And thank goodness for librarians that advocate against it.

Charlie Stella said...

The only censorship I ever experienced was when I was too young to buy Playboy and when I tried to run a craps game in 6th grade (catholic school); I was precluded from doing so in both cases. Maybe my social sector isn't included in the ACLU's studies.

But good for them if they can stifle book banning. Maybe someone from that operation can run a lemonade stand.

Pamie said...

Charlie, if ya get yourself caught in a nasty book-ban situation, the ACLU will help you and even pour you a tall, cool glass of tart lemonade ( topped with fresh raspberries) and then some.

Charlie Stella said...

Pamie, it's a beautiful thing.

Peace to you all ...

John McFetridge said...

Just to clarify what JohnD said, democracy and socialism aren't opposites; socialism can be as democratic as regulated capitalism.

But the really interesting point John brings up, and the one that will likely be huge in the coming years is, "the philosophical basis of this country, that individual rights are to be emphasized, not community rights."

How that gets worked out in an increasingly crowded world with fewer and fewer resources (which bears pretty much no resemblance to the country in which that philosophical basis was founded) is what's it's all about isn't it?

John Dishon said...

One thing I find interesting is that the rebels in America revolted against the British Empire over much less oppression than exists in America today under its own government.

John McFetridge said...

Well, John, the size of the population, the amount of land and the available resources probably have a lot to do with what people are willing to put up with.

What's "right" for one circumstance may not work at all in another.

But you're right, people should at least be talking about what they're giving up.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Tess. I am finding little tidbits of information about Palin that have definitely dimmed my initial enthusiasm for her. We need to be careful about not getting swept away by the rhetoric and losing sight of reality. "Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear." Alan Corenk

Peter in AK said...

What makes Tess' post about this much talked about issue different, and in fact far more valuable to all of us, is that the essence of the issue is captured rather than focus on the people involved.

There are some of us who are perfectly happy with censorship, because we find the material that is subject to censorship offensive or irrelevant anyway.

There are some of us who are perfectly happy with other forms on civil liberties infringement, because we agree with the premise and original intent (i.e. give up liberties to gain perceived safety and security, or give up the right to bear arms to gain an environment of fewer violent crimes).

We are all well served by disassociating the issue of censorship from the current election, and in fact from party lines as well, and consider it as Americans.

As Americans, how does censorship (implemented or attempted) align with our core value of Freedom?

Republicans value Freedom, Democrats do, as do Blacks, Whites, Jews, Christians, heck, even Atheists value Freedom.

Are there any cases in which censorship is alright? If so, who is to make that decision? Is it up to a parent to censor what one's kid reads, or is it up to the teacher, the Mayor, the Governor, the President?

Palin and then Emmons discussing censorship is not a deal-breaker of the McCain/Palin ticket. There are plenty of other, and arguably more important, positions that will make or break the Palin VP pick.

Regardless on how the election turns out, the issue of censorship remains relevant, and thus all of us should openly discuss how we feel censorship should be handled.

JD Rhoades said...

One thing I find interesting is that the rebels in America revolted against the British Empire over much less oppression than exists in America today under its own government.

The erosion of American liberty has been much more gradual. It's like the old parable of the boiling frog: turn the heat up slowly, and the frog won't try to jump out of the pot until it's too late.

Emily Lloyd said...

Hi--I write a library web comic, "Shelf Check," and today's strip covers this issue: http://shelfcheck.blogspot.com/2008/09/shelf-check-266.html

Want to stress that I think it's basically irrelevant that no books were banned. We're talking about an abuse of power here, about a public official asking a librarian how she personally would respond if the public official wanted some books removed. It was not a "policy" question, or Palin could have asked, "How does a citizen go about challenging a title held by the library?" etc...

Maryann Miller said...

J.D, I'm with you. Let's have a tea party. :-)

Casual Observer said...

ABC's take on it: Did Sarah Palin Try to Ban Library Books?

Anonymous said...

Factcheck.org (an nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate")

http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/sliming_palin.html

Casual Observer said...

Anon, factcheck.org is all good and well, but in the end "no books have been banned" is a lot like Clinton saying that he didn't have sex with Monica, since oral isn't defined as sex.

I am sure that we can agree, regardless on our views on Palin, that inquiring about the same subject on two distinctively separate occasions is a reasonable indicator of intent.

That's all that really matters. It's irrelevant whether books were banned, what's relevant is whether there was intent to remove books from the library. In addition, if there was intent, then what was the motive?

Those are fair questions to ask of a soon to be Vice President. If the intent was to remove them, and the motive was of religious nature, then we have a problem. All of us have that problem, no matter on which side of the aisle we are on, and no matter which religion we practice (if any).

tess said...

For John Dishon: I should probably clarify my earlier comment in response to yours. I meant to say that I had no disagreement with what you said said about the general erosion of our civil liberties. Re: your opinion about the evils of socialism, etc, you and I will just have to respectfully agree to disagree!

Anonymous said...

From FactCheck.org - the whole story, including the fact that several of the books supposedly on the banned list weren't even published when any of this took place. There's still enough of this open to interpretation, but that at least makes it seem like there is some creative spinning is going on...

Not a Book Burner

One accusation claims then-Mayor Palin threatened to fire Wasilla’s librarian for refusing to ban books from the town library. Some versions of the rumor come complete with a list of the books that Palin allegedly attempted to ban. Actually, Palin never asked that books be banned; no books were actually banned; and many of the books on the list that Palin supposedly wanted to censor weren't even in print at the time, proving that the list is a fabrication. The librarian was fired, but was told only that Palin felt she didn’t support her. She was re-hired the next day. The librarian never claimed that Palin threatened outright to fire her for refusing to ban books.

It’s true that Palin did raise the issue with Mary Ellen Emmons, Wasilla’s librarian, on at least two occasions, three in some versions. Emmons flatly stated her opposition each time. But, as the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (Wasilla’s local paper) reported at the time, Palin asked general questions about what Emmons would say if Palin requested that a book be banned. According to Emmons, Palin "was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library." Emmons reported that Palin pressed the issue, asking whether Emmons' position would change if residents were picketing the library. Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny, who was at the meeting, corroborates Emmons' story, telling the Chicago Tribune that "Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?' "

Palin characterized the exchange differently, initially volunteering the episode as an example of discussions with city employees about following her administration's agenda. Palin described her questions to Emmons as “rhetorical,” noting that her questions "were asked in the context of professionalism regarding the library policy that is in place in our city." Actually, true rhetorical questions have implied answers (e.g., “Who do you think you are?”), so Palin probably meant to describe her questions as hypothetical or theoretical. We can't read minds, so it is impossible for us to know whether or not Palin may actually have wanted to ban books from the library or whether she simply wanted to know how her new employees would respond to an instruction from their boss. It is worth noting that, in an update, the Frontiersman points out that no book was ever banned from the library’s shelves.

Palin initially requested Emmons’ resignation, along with those of Wasilla’s other department heads, in October 1996. Palin described the requests as a loyalty test and allowed all of them (except one, whose department she was eliminating) to retain their positions. But in January 1997, Palin fired Emmons, along with the police chief. According to the Chicago Tribune, Palin did not list censorship as a reason for Emmons’ firing, but said she didn’t feel she had Emmons’ support. The decision caused “a stir” in the small town, according to a newspaper account at the time. According to a widely circulated e-mail from Kilkenny, “city residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter.”

As we’ve noted, Palin did not attempt to ban any library books. We don’t know if Emmons’ resistance to Palin’s questions about possible censorship had anything to do with Emmons’ firing. And we have no idea if the protests had any impact on Palin at all. There simply isn’t any evidence that we can find either way. Palin did re-hire Emmons the following day, saying that she now felt she had the librarian’s backing. Emmons continued to serve as librarian until August 1999, when the Chicago Tribune reports that she resigned.

So what about that list of books targeted for banning, which according to one widely e-mailed version was taken “from the official minutes of the Wasilla Library Board”? If it was, the library board should take up fortune telling. The list includes the first four Harry Potter books, none of which had been published at the time of the Palin-Emmons conversations. The first wasn't published until 1998. In fact, the list is a simple cut-and-paste job, snatched (complete with typos and the occasional incorrect title) from the Florida Institute of Technology library Web page, which presents the list as “Books banned at one time or another in the United States.”

Update, Sept. 9: We have revised this section dealing with accusations that Palin wanted to ban books from Wasilla's library to include more detail about what transpired at the time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tess! (As a librarian I promise to never remove any of your books from the shelves of my library!)

The issue here isn't what the books were and it isn't that those books were never removed (Thank you, Mary Ellen!). What IS important is the intent and willingness to censor a library by a government official.

Being a librarian is the greatest job in the world but it requires passion. We certainly don't do it for the money. What we do scrimp & cut corners to pay the bills so the library can stay open all the while trying to provide better services & programs for our communities. We provide activities for children who don't have anyone home after school and we scrub the toilets. We also stand up for your rights when challenged.

Librarians can't fight the fight alone. Everyone should be outraged at Palin's attempt at censorship and you need to make your voices heard. Vote for whatever candidate suits you but please don't stand for such blatant attempts to eliminate your rights.

Jean

SafeLibraries.org said...

Tess,

You said, "And if you think it's okay to fire a librarian who refuses to go along with censorship, you are indeed flawed."

That is not what happened, as other commenters have said.

But I can't blame you for being wrong.

I started watching this issue first. I detailed how it jumped from the Politico to many blogs where the story changed to include purely made up material. I predicted how the "main stream media" would then pick up on the distorted version from the blogs. It did. Then I watched as library blogs picked it up from the MSM as distorted as it was. Then I predicted the American Library Association [ALA] might get itself in trouble by possibly violating 501(c)(3).

Sure enough, the ALA got involved and opposed Governor Palin based on the false information that had been growing by leaps and bounds. Now concerns for 501(c)(3) violations are swirling within the ALA itself. ALA Councilors are accusing the ALA President and others of being "censors."

Censors! ALA members are accusing each other of being censors over discussion of this Governor Palin matter! How serious can the ALA be on this issue if what the ALA President is doing is censorship according to some ALA Councilors? Are censors claiming Governor Palin is censoring? Might it be the meaning of censorship is also growing by leaps and bounds?

Think, Tess, true censorship is a serious matter, but is censorship really involved here? Yes, the media says it is, but is it really? Is the ALA President really a censor?

As a former ALA Councilor said, "It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don't talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it's totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all."

"Totally different," Tess. Is it possible what Governor Palin did is "totally different" than how it is being portrayed in the main stream media and now on your own blog?

See my leading-edge blog post from August 31 on this, "Sarah Palin Outed by Library on Rhetorical Question About Censorship; An Investigation of Library's Action May Be Warranted." Watch as the controversy grows.

Falsely crying "censorship" does not advance the interests of opposition to true censorship. Consider rethinking your position on this matter.

Fran said...

Isn't it the point that it was not Palin acting as a concerned parent but as a government official who posed the question? There's a substantial difference. And since Palin had power over the librarian, asked the questions more than once (which does imply intent, sophistry notwithstanding), and then terminated Emmons, I see a plan of action being implemented. That it was thwarted speaks highly of the ocmmunity, but it doesn't change the precipitating actions.

Parents censor for their kids, but when the kids are adults, they step into the ring with the rest of us and have to make their own decisions. I'd rather have choices than restrictions when it comes to any type of art.

tess said...

I'd like to remind you all that I NEVER mentioned any list of supposedly banned books -- I discovered very quickly that the purported "list" was not real. So please don't bring that faux list into a criticism of my blogpost; it is irrelevant and merely a dishonest way to try to dispute what I've written.

As for whether or not Palin fired Emmons for her intransigence, the word "fired" was used in the NYT article I quoted. It was not a word I made up. If you don't agree with it, take it up with the NY Times and Time Magazine and the Boston Herald and any number of journalists.

The contemporary article from THE FRONTIERSMAN makes it clear that when Emmons was asked by Palin about the possibility of book banning, Palin was in the process of determining "loyalty" among the city employees -- and Emmons surely understood that this was a loyalty test. And stood her ground anyway.

There's a lot of excusing of Palin for her actions. The point still stands. A mayor who even asks a librarian whether she can ban books is asking a completely inappropriate question -- and is overstepping her authority. You can't spin that away.

John McFetridge said...

"Palin initially requested Emmons’ resignation, along with those of Wasilla’s other department heads, in October 1996. Palin described the requests as a loyalty test..."

A loyalty test?

Is this common in America? Is it legal?

JD Rhoades said...

And why is the mayor so concerned with the "loyalty" of the town librarian? What does she think a "disloyal" librarian is going to do? The only logical answer is: not put the books in, or take the books out, that the Mayor wants. Which is not the Mayor's job, unless she sees it as her purview to control at least one of the sources of information to which people have access.

Dale McGowan said...

Of all the revelations about Palin, this one worries me most. It belies profound ignorance of how a democracy works. Equally troubling is that she seems to abuse her power the moment she has it -- or even before she has it.

(P.S. Why are y'all feeding that troll in the comments? Let idiocy speak for itself.)

JD Rhoades said...


But I can't blame you for being wrong.


You should probably wait until she is wrong before you pretend to grant absolution from your imagined throne, you condescending twit.

Gerard Saylor said...

Safe Libraries is misnomer. The organization (which is likely one dude) is mostly concerned with griping about the ALA - evident in the post here - and telling everyone the sky is falling.

JD Rhoades said...

Safe Libraries is misnomer.

Imagine my surprise.

Actually, considering the use of typical Rovian right-wing tactics like misrepresentation as to what was said, attacks on organizations who weren't even mentioned in the original post, and an arrogant, condescending tone, I figured this "SafeLibraries" ninny was some RNC shill.

The real proof will be when this poster starts up with the crocodile tears about "name calling" and the "tone" of the discussion. That's always a dead giveaway.

SafeLibraries.org said...

Gerard Saylor: Griping is not what I do. Informing people that ALA policies may be endangering their children, that is perfectly legitimate. Do you think it's right that the ALA advises media manipulation to prevent local control of libraries? Am I not allowed to speak out when that's exactly what is going on? By saying I'm "griping," are you suggesting media manipulation is perfectly acceptable?

JD Rhoades: My political persuasion is irrelevant. People of all political parties oppose exposing children to s3xually inappropriate material. Naomi Wolf, for example. Indeed, Democrats are usually the best at protecting children from harm since Republicans have that extra hurdle of the usual Alinsky-style false attacks that have absolutely nothing to do with the issues.

The issue here is that falsely crying "censorship" does not advance the interests of opposition to true censorship. Do you agree? I suggested Tess rethink her position based on that.

Do you have anything of substance to add to the discussion?

JD Rhoades said...

safelibraies, as far as I can tell, you've added nothing to this discussion except your attempt to hijack a discussion about a VP candidate's attempt to censor public libraries and use it to grind your own axe against the ALA, which wasn't even mentioned in the original post.

And by the way, referencing your own conclusory and hysterical blog posts as support for a proposition such as the ALA's alleged "media manipulation" proves nothing.

SafeLibraries.org said...

JD Rhoades:

Everyone opposes censorship. True censorship. Keeping s3xually inappropriate materials from children is not censorship. By combining false censorship with true censorship and decrying both as censorship, people devalue their own arguments against true censorship. Can you not see that? Such false claims about false censorship makes the work much harder for those truly opposing true censorship.

"The ... elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny. .... [T]he reality is that it is those who cry 'Censorship!' the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others." By Dan Gerstein, an independent consultant, former communications director for Joe Lieberman and a senior strategist for his presidential campaign.

As to "referencing your own conclusory and hysterical blog posts as support for a proposition such as the ALA's alleged 'media manipulation' proves nothing," actually, it proves you did not actually read the blog post. I provided in the post and especially in the main underlying link the exact text from the ALA where the media manipulation is recommended. Further, I provided the context to preclude any claims that I presented material out of context.

So my support for my conclusions comes from the ALA's statements, not from mine. I actually back up my statements with links to reliable sources such as the ALA itself, unlike those with false claims of censorship with links to media sources that "report" the made up material of politically motivated bloggers.

Stacy Alesi said...

Thanks for speaking out, Tess. Needless to say, librarians are outraged about this to the point where the American Library Association, nervous about losing funding, has asked that discussions about it be moved off the official ALA listservs which of course pissed off a lot more librarians.

The information I've read that made the most impact on me was from another librarian in Alaska who claims to be a long time friend of Emmons. Basically she says that Emmons stayed in her job after she was reinstated but was under such pressure from Palin for the year or two after, that when she eventually found another job, she "retired" and moved away. She wished to be left out of this whole mess, which saddens me, but I do understand she's already been through one shitstorm when Palin was simply the mayor, and being in the national spotlight is not everyone's cup of tea.

Nonetheless, it heartens me to see authors just as outraged as the librarians. But I'm still scared that the diversionary tactics, AKA Sarah Palin, being employed by McCain will once again put a Republican in the White House.

Gerard said...

As an aside (Palin related) this morning's news had a short mention on the Alaska assembling deciding whether to pursue subpoenas related to Palin's "TrooperGate".

Imagine the party pressure being placed on those state reps by both political parties for that vote. They have to be getting calls from all sorts of national level party officials making promises and twisting arms.

Craig said...

You should be fired for this post. I am telling Sarah.

Anonymous said...

This is the VP Candidate and you guys are all worried and nervous. Libraries and librarians have been controlling books for years. I can go to a number of libraries and see them display books that favors their agenda. I see Obama's book in a special upfront display, while McCain's book is buried on some shelf. Liberal libraries around the country prohibit books & magazines (like Gun & Ammo) to be available.

All of you have an agenda, It's anti-Republican. Wake up and see what this Obama will really do for America. The neighborhoods he represented in Chicago are the most crime ridden the the country. He did nothing there, he will fail as a president. (I challenge anyone of you to go to his past district and walk the streets, see what your man has accomplished)

JD Rhoades said...

All of you have an agenda, It's anti-Republican.

Actually, we're anti-ignorance. It's not our fault the Republicans have chosen to ally themselves with the forces of ignorance.

Wake up and see what this Obama will really do for America. The neighborhoods he represented in Chicago are the most crime ridden the the country.

Cite, please?

Craig said...

Spoken like a true champion and I would also recommend that libraries start carrying books such as Atomic Bombs for Dummies, the how to for the home enthusiast. Let's face it there are too many people on earth today and we need to support all measures that reduce this.

Joseph Travis Garnett said...

JD: Did you ever consider a guest blogger that sits on the other side of the fence politically? I think an intelligent discussion representing both sides would be informative.

Joseph Travis Garnett

JD Rhoades said...

Joseph: see my friend Charlie Stella's guest blog immediately below Tess's.

Anonymous said...

Tess you could not have said it any better. I am a librarian and an aspiring author and when I heard the Palin 'banned books' story I was furious. This is not the making of a leader of this country. Anyone who is truly educated would not ban books and fire someone who believes in the freedom of Americans to read what they want. Is she now going to censor movies? She should be glad that people want to read. I am proud of the librarian who stood up to her. She is a real inspiration to me and I feel a hero for librarians. She stands for everything that librarians believe in. It took bravery and guts. Just too bad it took Palin running for this to make national news. Emmons put herself on the line to defend the core beliefs of our profession. A true hero and role-model for librarians. I can not support Palin. She is an enemy to librarians and she has no right becoming a leader of this country.

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