Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ban The Books - Did Sarah Mean It?

Here's a topic for Banned Books Week: Did she mean it?

That's the central question about Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's pointed questions about banning books from the Wasilla city library in 1996. No one knows for sure--you have to look into those perfectly-painted eyes and ask yourself if you trust her when she says her challenge to then-Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons was "rhetorical."

The Frontiersman, the newspaper in Wasilla who broke the story on December 18, 1996, said this at the time:

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. Besides heading the Wasilla City Library, Emmons is also president of the Alaska Library Association. The issue became public last Wednesday, when Palin brought it up during an interview about the now-defunct Liquor Task Force. Palin used the library topic as an example of discussions with her department heads about understanding and following administration agendas. Palin said she asked Emmons how she would respond to censorship.
The question apparently came up the first time before Palin was sworn in as mayor. On Monday, October 28, 1996, during a week when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way to test their loyalty, she asked the librarian outright if she could live with censorship of library books. According to the Frontiersman, Palin later issued a statement saying she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff that week. The paper quotes her as saying, "Many issues were discussed, both rhetorical and realistic in nature."

It could be argued, of course, that rhetorical questions asked while you're firing someone carry a little extra impact, but who's to say what was really going on in Sarah's mind at the time? Or now?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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SafeLibraries® said...

Here's a topic for Banned Books Week: Should it be called "National Hogwash Week"?

Dave Donelson said...

Hogwash is in the eye of the beholder. Fortunately, those who resist the efforts to ban books make it possible for all views--hogwash included--to be seen and heard. Personally, I celebrate that right by observing Banned Books Week.

SafeLibraries® said...

I totally understand. But why aren't they just honest about BBW? As one 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."

By the way, sexually inappropriate material for children is not a "view to be seen and heard," unless the parent thinks it is appropriate for his own child. We're not talking about political ideas or viewpoints here. We are talking about inappropriate sexual material for children.

In US v. ALA, a case the ALA lost and lost big, the US Supreme Court said:

"The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."

Personally, I tend to trust the US Supreme Court more than I trust the ALA's Banned Books Week that the ALA uses to promote the idea that what the US Supreme Court said is irrelevant because of the "age" discrimination section of the ALA's "Library Bill of Rights."

I see you are honest. I just wish the ALA would be honest.