Library News

Library Blog Blasts Palin

By Debra Lau Whelan -- School Library Journal, 9/4/2008 5:26:00 PM

Mary Ellen Baker, the librarian at the center of the Sarah Palin book-banning controversy, may not be talking to the press, but librarians around the country are voicing their concerns about having an alleged censor on the Republican ticket—through a blog called Librarians Against Sarah Palin!

Launched on September 3, the blog has interesting information (some speculative)—and lots of questions—about what exactly happened in 1996 between Palin, then mayor of Wasilla, AK, just outside of Anchorage, and Baker, former director of the Wasilla Public Library.

“[Palin] essentially forced Mary Ellen out,” says June Pinnell-Stephens, chair of the Alaska Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee and a friend of Baker’s. “She all but fired her.”

Press reports ranging from the New York Times and Time magazine to the local Frontiersman and the Anchorage Daily News say that the newly-elected Mayor Palin asked Baker (whose name was Mary Ellen Emmons at the time) about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose. Baker refused to consider any kind of censorship and replied, “This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,” reports the Frontiersman.

A few months later, the librarian received a letter from Palin saying she would be fired, without any mention of the censorship issue. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Palin told Baker that she appreciated her service but felt it was time for a change. ''I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment,”' the letter said.

But after a public outcry in support of Baker, Palin eventually reversed her decision and let the librarian keep her job.

It doesn’t appear, however, that any books were actually banned, says Pinnell-Stephens, who documents book challenges in the state but couldn’t find any evidence in her files and doesn’t remember any conversations with Baker about the subject.

Although Pinnell-Stephens hasn’t had personal contact with Palin, she doesn’t think the Republican vice presidential nominee is up to the job. “There are many, many issues of which she has no understanding at all [like] the role of libraries in a democracy,” she says. “I certainly have no reason to believe she’s ever been a strong supporter of libraries, partly because she [forced out] a very competent and wonderful director.”

Those voicing their opinions on Librarians Against Palin! have similar views. “I am a public librarian who is concerned about having Sarah Palin in the White House,” writes the author of the blog. “I do not want a book banner in the White house!”

The blog is for “library staff, library lovers, and anyone who cares about public libraries and freedom to read!” says the site.

Baker, who is on vacation this week and didn’t respond to telephone and email requests for an interview, is currently the public services manager in charge of the reference department, youth services, and circulation for the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks.


Original Source Here