Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin Fired the Librarian

Public lending libraries are one of the bedrocks of American freedom. Benjamin Franklin founded the first one in this country. They invite everyone to read what they want, to explore and sample views that may be new to them, at no charge. We may not like some books in any library, but that's actually part of the point. Maybe we'll understand a political opponent a little better, find something of interest in a boring subject, when a book we weren't looking forward crops up on a shelf.

Rumors are all over the Internet about Sarah Palin banning books in the Wasilla library. The rumors are not true.

But what Palin did as Mayor is in some ways much worse than banning a book. She fired the librarian, after several conversations with the librarian about tastes in books.

The New York Times tells the story:

Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Anne Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.


A town librarian fired by the Mayor because the Mayor found some books "morally or socially objectionable".

I want to ask any Republican readers I have, or anyone at all thinking of voting for McCain/Palin - are you not at least a little bothered by this? That someone who will be just one step away from the Presidency has such a benighted view of democracy, of the role of books in our lives and culture, that she would stoop to firing a librarian over the moral content of books? Honestly, can you live with that?

It seems to me that this goes way beyond lack of experience, or differences on foreign or domestic policy. It goes to the heart of our American experiment in democracy, literacy, and freedom. It's no coincidence at all that the first public library in America was founded by one of our greatest Founding Fathers.

I know the Obama campaign is thinking let's stop talking about Palin, and focus on McCain. But this firing of a librarian by Sarah Palin was aimed at one of the very foundations of America, and should not be forgotten.
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