More information, please

I don’t tend to get into politics too much on this site.  However, there has been much written in the last few days about a Time magazine article in which Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is quoted as questioning whether a book could be banned at the public library.  The pertinent paragraph is:

Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

Unfortunately, that’s all we learn about the situation.

I have a few questions: Was that all that was said?  How did the librarian answer?  Was the answer sufficient?

When I was the public library director in a small western city, I would get a variation on this question fairly regularly.  The questioner was usually in a position of authority in the city or county – city council members, county board members, the city manager – and was usually as a result of a question or complaint that they had received from a constituent on a book that the library had.  Once we discussed the function of a public library and collection development (as opposed to collection development at a school library), what steps the constituent could take to challenge a choice, and why all of this was important, the discussion was usually over.

We get none of this in the paragraph.  We learn that the library director was threatened with being fired for not giving her “full support.”  What does that mean?  Was it over this issue or another?

Library professionals are about information – and not just pieces of it.  Let’s get the whole story before we grab the pitchfolks pitchforks.



Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

6 responses to “More information, please

  1. Susan V

    For the same reasons — the same questions you’ve raised — I’ve been hesitant to jump on the “she banned books” bandwagon (even though I oppose her for other reasons). I haven’t yet seen anything truly convincing one way or the other on this particular issue. I think it’s a good issue to investigate, but not to jump to conclusions just yet.

  2. Very well written. I have been scouring the net trying to find more info about this, but there seems to be very little information, let alone enough to pass a judgment on Palin. It’s never wise to judge someone for asking any question, for opening up a dialogue. In fact I think it should be encouraged.

    I believe the misinformation swarming around this topic is dangerous. I am not a Palin or Mccain supporter, but I’m not going to jump on this topic until more facts are known.

  3. Amen. I’m always reading the news thinking, “Is this all? Is that it? I need more information? And I certainly need some idea of where this little bit of information came from.” I would love it if news outlets had to source any and all information. Never gonna happen, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

    However, despite my philosophy degree trying to make it into one, this is not a philosophical arena. This is politics. (Thank god I’m in Canada where politics NEVER get this interesting… LOL) She should know very well about how this looks for her. And she’s got the power of the whole Republican party behind her now. Have they made any statement about her views on this incident or even book banning in general? I don’t think so. The possibilities are threefold: (1) they don’t know about the little stir this is causing (which is unlikely given her position now and their probably desire to control all information about her), (2) they know and don’t care (which is kinda damning in that this encroaches on issues of censorship and therefore free speech), or (3) they know and they have no problem with the public view that she promotes banning books.

    Sure, we don’t know the truth. But we NEVER know the truth regarding politicians and governments. There is never enough information to make a truly well-founded decision. You have to either not vote or go with what you have, even if all you have is suggestions of who you DON’T want to vote for. I actually voted for the Green Party last time (yes they’re in Canada too) but our system is a little different than yours so… um… good luck! lol

    (Oh, and it’s pitchFORKS, not pitchfolks. Hoping that was just a joke I didn’t get. lol)

  4. Oops! I did mean pitchforks….though it’s an interesting word the other way!

    Actually, Matthew, I’m not sure they (meaning the Republican party) DO know what a stir this is causing, since I’m mainly seeing all this kerfuffle in the ranks of librarian blogs. I’m not sure we’re on their reading list. ; )

  5. DBF

    Given the inaccuracies and misinformation flying around about Sarah Palin, not to mention the almost tangible malice aimed at her, it would be wise to take this story with a grain of salt. She was also reported to have cut spending on children with disabilities because the source was her local political opponent, when, in fact, she had hugely increased such spending. And that was ABC news, who ought to know better.
    Given her reputation for going public when she sees something wrong–this is a woman who challenged and took down a governor, an attorney general and the head of her own party–you can bet that she has a few enemies. Take a deep breath everyone, and try to figure out what’s true.

  6. Mary Beth,

    Well stated post. Asking about the procedure for banning books and banning books are two very different things. Public officials have to field questions of all sorts and the library is the source for much of the needed info.

    I suspect that if she has initiated a banning of books it will be revealed, but all of the allegations I see floating around the web include lists that have books that weren’t even published in 1996.

    I have not seen any proof yet and for now consider this issue a dead horse.

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