Vice-Presidential candidate,Sarah Palin, former mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Alaska, may have waited as little as eleven days after after assuming office before precipitously firing Mary Ellen Emmons, Director of the Wasilla Public Library, over Ms. Emmon's steadfast refusal to ban books.
In 1996, Palin first ran for the Office of Mayor of Wasilla. According to articles in the Alaskan newspaper, The Frontiersman, Mayor Palin asked the director of the town's free public library if she "could live with censorship of library books." Palin was not specific about which books, what topics or passages would be questionable in nature.
Rindi White reports in today's edition of the Anchorage Daily News that in December of 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." White goes on to further state that "Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship."
In response to the firing of Emmons, the well respected former Wasilla mayor, John Stein, told local newspapers that Palin felt some voters thought the library held inappropriate books and "asked the library how she could go about banning books," Stein further stated the head librarian, Emmons, was "aghast" at Palin's question.
"The librarian, who resisted mayoral censorship, was fired shortly after Palin took office." [CBS News]
Several of the conversations between Palin and Emmons took place within a new and very radical political environment for the small town of Wasilla, one wherein Palin, during her very first days in office, asserted her newfound authority by instituting a mandate requiring all department heads obtain her direct permission before talking with any reporter on any subject at any time.
"She put a gag order on those people, something that you'd expect to find in the big city, not here." [The Frontiersman]
A visit to the Wasilla Public Library website reveals that the current "hottest" library book in town is "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer, one in a series of books about how Bella, a young sweet mortal, and Edward, the handsome teenage vampire, deals with their ongoing emotional struggle between desire to remain chaste and instinctive 'blood lust'.
Meyer's highly popular non-explicit story line on this unusual couple is now complete and although Bella and Edward remain virgins until their marriage in the final installment, some parents find her books quite controversial and most unsuitable for teenage readers.
Further search through the library website gives us more clues as to the quality of this small town library. An avid reader in Wasilla would find themselves among a goodly assortment of books and the ability to request even more from state library sources. There is a variety of fiction on hand appealing to the young, including Harry Potter fans, as well as many works by writers popular with adults. Wasilla Public library contains a decent reference section and their political offerings present a variety of views, even including a small number of Ann Coulter books. The Catcher In The Rye has survived ban in Wasilla to this day.
There is a small, but well selected, number of sex education books for adults and those designed for parents to teach their children about sex from the early years on, even several books on the topic of gay and lesbian sexuality. Books suitable by most standards can be found for teenage readers regarding bodily changes, self-esteem, chastity and even responsible sex. All books on sex, of course, are located in the Adults Only Section, including what is most likely Wasilla's only copy of the ancient Kama Sutra.
A review of the Wasilla Public Library policy section tells us they will not release member information to "any agency of local, state or federal government except pursuant to such process, order or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of federal, state or local law relating to criminal, civil or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigatory power."
This little library takes the privacy of Wasilla's citizens seriously as they will resist even a subpoena for information "until such time as proper showing of good cause has been made in court of competent jurisdiction."
The Wasilla library affirms "the right of each individual to have access to constitutionally protected materials," the "right and responsibility of parents to determine and monitor their own children’s use of all library materials and resources" and further affirms their willingness to help parents develop guidelines to protect their children on the Internet.
Finding lengthy and detailed positions in all library policy areas, it was puzzling to discover the current Materials Selection Policy states only that the method for selecting library materials is "in the process of being revised and finalized." It is just as puzzling what Sarah Palin found objectionable in the town's public library or why she could not articulate to Emmons exactly what she found offensive and why.
Anne Kilkenny, a resident of Wasilla, who has known Palin for many years, was troubled enough by the firing of Mary Ellen Emmons, that she told her own story of Sarah Palin. Per Kilkenny, Palin brought up the idea of banning some of the library books during a City Council meeting in October of 1996. Per Rindi White, the conversation Kilkenny witnessed between Palin and Emmons went as follows: