Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

« Previous | Jacket Copy Home | Next»

Sarah Palin didn't try to ban list of books, article says


News that Sarah Palin made inquiries about banning books shortly after becoming mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, has quickly been followed by speculations of what books she might have targeted.

Lists of books have been circulated in blog comments and via e-mail. They haven't been reported in papers like The Times because there is no evidence that they are accurate.

In fact, one widely circulated, very long list (which appears, among other places, on Librarian.net's comment string and has been disavowed by the website's owner) is obviously false because it includes four books that had not yet hit shelves when Palin became mayor in 1996 — "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," all by J.K. Rowling.

The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, the local Wasilla newspaper, has reposted a 1996 article covering the censorship inquiries that Palin put to local librarian Mary Ellin Emmons. This piece clearly states that "Palin said Monday she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons." That should put an end to the inaccurate lists that are circulating.

Here's what the Valley Frontiersman says: "Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. This was during a weak [sic] when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way of expressing loyalty."

The article continues: " 'This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,' Emmons stressed Saturday. 'She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library.'"

Palin described her inquiries as "rhetorical" and told the paper, in a written statement issued in 1996, that "she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff at the time."

Rhetorical? Well, OK ... if she says so. Still, it seems like an odd getting-to-know-you question to me.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

Comments () | Archives (26)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Even asking the question, rhetorical or not, shows she is unfit to be in office because she doesn't understand the First Amendment.

Then again, considering the police state in St. Paul last weekend, is that really surprising when it comes to the GOP?

If it was rhetorical, what point was she trying to make through the insinuation/innuendo implied in the question? Given the context of asking for department heads' resignations as a "show of loyalty," the only inference apparent is that it was to be Sarah's way or the highway (to nowhere?)

the level of desperation on the part of the so-called library community and the literary world in general to sustain their vicious assault on anything that breaks the received wisdom is astonishing... one must remember that the library community has been especially critical of those seeking freedom in Cuba from the rule of the great libriarian himself Fidel Castro

Ban the New Testament and the Koran for depictions of incest, rape, bestiality and sodomy, and for the wars they cause.
Then ban C students from high office; send them into the Marines instead.

Have any of you ever run for a hotly contested mayoral spot? Have any of you ever lived in a small town? Do any of you follow any coaches or sports teams?

Well, all Palin was doing, orthodox or not, is to test just how loyal those appointed by the prior mayor would be to her. It's nothing new. I bring up the sports angle because what do all new coaches hired by a sports team pro or college do? They BRING IN PEOPLE THEY KNOW THEY CAN TRUST and usually let go of the old staff.

Oh, what do all new presidents do when they get elected? I'll let you idiots think about that for a while. Don't hurt yourself doing so.

To Steve: Coaches aren't democratically elected state executives obliged to serve ALL constituents in the state, even those friendly to the previous executive. Your view of democracy is both dim-witted and dull. Perhaps its tyranny you'd prefer?

To Thomas McGonigle: Hilarious! Without providing evidence to support such a clearly warped view of things, one can only put your absurd conspiracy theory as the result of strong drink or other intoxicants, unless of course you are posting from the UCLA psych ward.

Palin, like so many Americans these days, would prefer to ban anything that challenges her narrow little mind or her preferred world-view. It takes courage and strength to stand up for freedom, especially the freedom of those who disagree with you. This country, once strong, has gone weak in the knees and soft in the teeth. Laying the blame on liberals or conservatives merely shows your stripes: in a democracy, all are accountable, and we have all done our part to bring about the fall of America.

Of course she denied having an intent to censor, but Palin 1) asked the librarian if she would censor; 2) fired the librarian therafter (yes she demanded resignations of many, but didn't fire them all): and 3) was compelled by the subsequent public reaction to re-hire the librarian. The people of Wasilla though Palin had overstepped her role in an attempt to control the town library.

So like you, I take the denials with a grain of salt.

Asking for blanket resignations of appointed officials after a change of administration is common practice Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. In our democracy, appointed officials serve at the will of our elected officials, which is the way it should be.

It is very sad that the GOP is counting on the dull brained to put them over the top. When grown Republican men start acting like 13 year-olds in heat at the very mention of this Governor Nobody we are in a sad state of affairs. What's next? Maybe a State of Georgia representative calling Obama Uppity! It is only a matter of weeks until the GOP starts pulling out the Racial hatred ads. GOP formula for success: add a little more Vanilla for the Racists & add a little youth to offset Grandpa McCain & throw in a Miss Congeniality for good measure - What a Joke!

Richard-Maybe asking for blanket resignations is common practice, however don't you think we should be getting to the point where winner doesn't take all, especially since the country is so divided. I for one am sick of tyranny and cronyism. Time to heal this broken country.

I attempted to post a comment on the Palin book banner, piece but I guess because I couldnt remember my URL (which I never use) my comment was deemed possible spam, which it was not. So refer back to that particular article Anne, and you will be able not only to read my comment but possibly post it. I think Ms. Palin has thrown this whole election on it's ear. In other words no matter how we vote We're SCREWED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Maggie/ Indianapolis, In.

The Seattle Times released an article in their Sunday paper about this and many other questionable actions that Palin made as Mayor and Governor of Alaska.

The article says that when the city attorney stopped her when she tried to fill 2 vacancies on the City Council herself (even though an ordinance said that wasn't her perogative), she said she'd merely engaged in a ploy. "It was brilliant maneuvering I had to do to deal with the impasse" she told The Frontiersman.

She has a (dumb) excuse for everything (dumb) she does.


This is absurd. Why would a mayor of a small town need to determine if the librarian would be loyal to her. Someone making important policy choices in agencies must show loyalty. A librarian? What - need to ensure that she'll toe the party line when they want to raise the late book fees from $0.25 to $0.30 per day?
Start paying attention, folks.

I am changing my vote for Obama to McCain after hearing Governor Palin's speech and I am amazed at the audacity of the Democratic Party and the Media.

For so many years they have been pushing equal rights for women and said absolutely NOTHING when Hillary was disrespected and mocked in front of the entire nation and then overlooked for VP nomination. Obviously, the powers that be in the democratic party never had any intention for a women to take on such a responsible position.

And now, they ridicule the one woman, Sarah Palin, who actually has a chance to hold the second highest office in the world. And look at Hillary; beaten down and answering, yes sir, to Mr. Obama while listening to Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man. What a sell out!

Give her a break, people!!! It's was a HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION. It's like asking the building code inspector whether he'd be willing to construct an extermination camp for undesirables. It's just one of those standard human resources questions you're supposed to ask.

Our emotions are not a tool for making decision or placing judgment. Can we just look at the facts and then make a decision? Look for the answers to the questions yourself. It's not about a woman or any woman running the country. The question should be who is the woman and is her character, ethics and values in line with what is CLEARLY most important to run my country, in case the president is not able to. Sen. Hilary would have made a great VP had she not crossed the "emotional" line and starting acting out of desperation. We know of her and a lot of her values are in line with mine [democrat or not]. Gov. Palin sounds like a descendant of Hitler’s from what I’ve heard and read about her. She has close family connections/ relatives who are closet skin heads. She wants to control/ keep information from people. Not allowing people to be educated on any subject is communistic [controlling] by nature. Over exerting your power more than once without real correction is unacceptable. Let's not sound like a cult; the lady can do no wrong and all is well with our souls because she is a woman running for VP? Nor is it a direction we really want to continue. The country is headed/ in the worst position with itself and around the world. We don’t own our own communications anymore and if we keep doing what we have done, expecting a different result is insanity... just crazy. I thought we were to leave things in better position than when we got them, at least a little for everyone. We’re in debt up to our ears to China and others, Rupert Murdock has control/ ownership of our communications and the oil company’s are making over 300% profit while most company’s are loosing profits and closing down. The financial infrastructure is crumbling and you all are telling me that Gov. Palin could be our next president? And that is OK? I guess the Bush’s haven’t burned us enough [S&L scandal and state of our country]? It’s like a bad dream that continues on but WE CAN wake up!

Here is what I find interesting about reposted 1996 Wassilla article. Palin was not interested in how library policy works, nationwide really. She simply hammered Emmons with the question of censorship. She didn't seem interested in the constitutional nature of this question. She didn't seem satisfied with typical complaint procedure. She also didn't seem interested in the fact that good library collection policy usually entails acquiring books that support the educational needs in the community and adhere to nationwide standards, so umm you know kids can have access to books that will allow them to go on to higher education etc, no matter how "dirty" the book may seem to some, ex: Chaucer. The Wasilla paper has a disclaimer that states no books were banned. Yet we don't know what happened with the library once Emmons resigned. A more pliant director might have banned books simply by excluding them from acquisitions. That is also unconstitutional.
I do not believe Palin's questions were rhetorical. All she had to do was some simple research on libraries and collection policy. Or at least show some curiousity as to how the "thing" works. She did not. That signifies more than just rhetoric to me.

I am amazed at the outrage over Palin yet there is no consideration of Obama's complete and utter lack of experience to lead a country. Have any of you actually seen HIS votiing record (or lack there of)? You all are so quick to stomp on someone who is on the ticket as a VP while you completely ignor the facts about Obama - who if I might remind you is actaully running against McCain!!!! Do you not see the problem with that? Americans can loose their focus so easily - and the press depends on that.

Back to the matter of books...A few comments about the First Amendment were thrown out there regarding Palin even asking the question. Please read the Constitution. It permits speech that will do no harm. If Pallin is governing a state she is expected to make sure public libraries aren't putting out "literature" that is harmful. For example, pornographic or potentially harmful language/subject matters for children - unless the library has an "adult" only section, she is absolutely correct to determine what is in the library.

I don't think she was trying to see if the Librarian would be "loyal". She asked how she would respond - sounds like...a question. You people are really reading into this crap put forth by the press. Anything to try and discredit this woman and the left is all over it. Laughable, really.

In response to Jill G.

Saying that people should vote for Palin simply because she's a woman is like saying that Germany needed to elect Hilter simply because they needed more Austrians.

Speaking as a former librarian, the profession tends to assert a kind of Divine Right of Librarians, that they and only they -- and not taxpayers or parents or elected officials -- have the right to censor what is in public libraries. (Do public school teachers have the free-speech right to teach whatever they want, or to be as biased as they want about what they teach?)

It would seem that elected officials -- unlike librarians, selected by the people -- have a better claim, where there is controversy.

It's because most librarians are liberals -- certainly the case when I attended one of the leading library schools in the country -- while local governments may not be, that liberal organizations and the media tend to support them. If librarians were more conservative than local governments, those same organizations would be backing the local goverments.

And yet a good collection policy will try to ensure that the needs of the community are met and are up to national standards in terms of size, etc. That is not censorship. That is professionalism. I see books that make me puke in the libary re: Sean Hannity, Bill O'reilly, Ann coulter. Would I want them pulled from the shelves? No, because I understand that collection policy are often includes books that have become bestsellers, no matter how inflammatory the content may be for someone like me. I understand it someone's constitutional right to be able to read right wing shlock, no matter how offensive it is to me and no matter how inflammatory it is.

would seem that elected officials -- unlike librarians, selected by the people -- have a better claim, where there is controversy.

A librarian is a professional, as you know. Professionalism and politics are not supposed to mix although they often do. Handing decisions over to elected officials would politicize the library further and do no service to any community. It would be like putting James Dobson in charge of women's health in this country.

Any person in a position of power that uses a book censorship from the public library as a sign of loyalty has no business in the Whitehouse let alone being the Mayor of a town of 7000 citizens Bill Yoak GG CA.

One asks a rhetorical question as a tactic to distance oneself from being quoted as actually asking the question and to avoid taking responsibility for introducing an issue into public discourse that may or may not be acted upon...An examples of rhetorical questions might be, "What would you say if you were asked to round up all of the (fill-in the name of an ethnic group) and sent them to concentration camps?" or "What would you say if it you were allowed to pay someone of one gender more than someone of the other gender for equal work?" These examples are extreme, but they illustrate how the person voicing such rhetorical questions must take responsibility for what it means to state them, particularly as a mayor addressing an employee whose position is lower on the "organizational chart." If attitudes about rhetorical questions are not examined now, it will be too late to examine them after a candidate is voted into office and says to someone in the Justice Dept., "What would you say if you were asked (name the issue)?"

I believe that Palin wanted to control what books are in the local library. Whoever thinks otherwise is surrenduring some of their Constitutional freedom. Palin wanted to censor books that her Evangelical church did not approve of. I don't have to wait until Palin has banned a book to know that she will. Bush through the Justice Department did censor books in prison libraries according to the guidelines of the Standard Chapel Library Project. The action was taken prevent prison libraries from becoming "recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups." Non-Christinian books were purged from the the prison libraries.

First things, first. Some of you extolling the virtues of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and slamming Palin's alleged actions (guilty by inference, apparently) demonstrate, within your post, that you do not understand the First Amendment, its application in this context (or lack thereof), and its interpretation. In a society that is now all too quick to label anything and everything from a "syndrome" to an "outrage," "Book Banner" can be added to the list of slick soundbite barbs that, while baseless and pejorative, conjur imagery that demeans, purposefully, but without any justification, whatsoever.

Too many are too quick to judge candidates based upon the fodder that springs forth from the "everyone's a journalist" and "everyone knows something about everything" crowd.

Is Palin's "actual" query to a librarian the main theme for this election? Is it really? Oh, I'm certain some will shout, "Well if she tramples on the Constitution as a mayor of a little town in Alaska, she'll do it as Vice President!" There's a leap in logic that shows a) a complete lack of understanding of the facts - yes, the actual facts - of the librarian query and b) a complete lack of understanding of the basic workings of our governmental system and the very document that established (and continues to dictate) how the government is supposed to work.

Reasonable people would ask questions. They would learn the facts. They would not draw upon rhetoric and hyperbole to make irrational and unfounded points about a candidate.

But this is where we are today (and frankly we've been in this place for such a long, long time).

I doubt Palin is a "Book Banner." I also doubt that she does not honor our Constitution. I may not agree with her policy opinions, but for Pete's Sake, I'm not throwing her under a bus because of a misguided, misreported, widely misunderstood and downright erroneous censorship story.

Wake up.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Explore Bestsellers Lists





Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.