Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: List catalogs books banned from the Wasilla, Alaska, public library by Mayor Sarah Palin.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]
Origins: One of the many political rumors swirling around Alaska governor Sarah Palin after her selection as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee had to do with the subject of books: That during her tenure as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she had wanted to remove certain books from the city's public library, or had tried to have some books censored, or had banned a lengthy list of books (as reproduced above).
According to the Anchorage Daily News, around the time Sarah Palin first assumed the mayorship of Wasilla back in 1996, she initiated some speculative discussions with the city's librarian about the possibility of removing some "objectionable" books from the public library:
In December 1996, [city librarian Mary Ellen] Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting beforeAccording to that same article, no evidence has been uncovered that any books were actually censored or removed from Wasilla's library as a result of these discussions:
When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.
Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.
"Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?" Kilkenny said.
"I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, 'The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'"
Palin didn't mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.
Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head "about understanding and following administration agendas," according to the Frontiersman article.
Were any books censored [or] banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files and came up empty-handed.Given that, as yet, there is no documentation of any books having been banished from the Wasilla library by Mayor Palin, or even of which books she may have had in mind when she broached the subject, whence comes the considerable register of tomes now being circulated as "the list of books Palin tried to have banned"? The purging of the selections enumerated here from a public library would surely outrage any educator or book lover, with the listing including classics of literature by authors from William Shakespeare to William Faulkner, works by popular contemporary writers such as Stephen King and
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.
One obvious clue that this list must have been cobbled together from some source other than discussions that may have taken place in Wasilla in 1996 is that several of its entries (most notably the books in
Political debate over why Mayor Palin was inquiring about banning books has become a major presidential campaign issue in 2008, with different parties involved in the dispute providing conflicting information:
Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said that Palin asked the head librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, on three occasions how she would react to attempts at banning books. He said the questions, in the fall of 1996, were hypothetical and entirely appropriate. He said a patron had asked the library to remove a title the year before and the mayor wanted to understand how such disputes were handled.Last updated: 12 September 2008
Records on the city's Web site, however, do not show any books were challenged in Wasilla in the
Palin notified Emmons she would be fired in
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