Anne Kilkenny comments on the Sarah Palin book banning story

Well, she comments a little bit.
Anne Kilkenny is the Wasilla, AK resident who wrote a lengthy email to friends about Sarah Palin. The email has gone viral. has verified it and it is posted on the Anchorage Daily News website. Mrs. Kilkenny is a registered Democrat and appears to be in the 20% of Alaskans who do not approve of Palin’s work as Governor.
In her email, Mrs. Kilkenny said Sarah Palin tried to remove the town librarian, saying:

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

I wrote Mrs. Kilkenny to ask on what books she thought Palin wanted removed. Critics have protrayed this episode as censorship. On the other hand, it is possible that the books in question were inappropriate or books about which many people would disagree. Mrs. Kilkenny wrote back with what at first seemed like a canned email.

Hello, My name is Anne Kilkenny. I wrote a piece on Sarah Palin which is posted on the following website with my permission: I’m sorry that I cannot reply personally and directly to your email, but email is coming in faster than I can even read it. I applaud you for trying to verify the things that you receive before you send them around the internet. I have learned several things from this experience. #1) I’m impressed with how hard the press is working and how fast they have gotten up to speed on this very small town’s political history. The people in the regular media are doing a pretty doggone good job. The reports I’m reading in the newspapers and seeing on the major networks are as close to totally accurate as is reasonable to expect, given this imperfect world and the fact that everyone has had to go from zero to 60 in under 2 seconds, #2) How wonderful my fellow American are. People are NOT into the Karl Rovian politics of personal destruction. Americans are idealists; we desperately want to find someone to vote FOR and to believe in, and we keep looking for that perfect candidate.

It is hard to miss her clear political views here. I think her email regarding Palin should be read with this in mind. However, then she answers my questions about the books at issue.

I’m sorry I don’t know which books Sarah Palin wanted removed from the Wasilla Public Library collection. Censorship is censorship: what difference does it make which books? Over the years, City Librarians had selected books for the colletion [sic] based on standard professional guidelines. Thank you for taking your responsibilities as a citizen so seriously, Anne

A couple of observations here. Probably any lists which are being circulated on the web are not accurate. I do think it matters which books were at issue. I am not as trusting as Mrs. Kilkenny in the “standard professional guidelines” of librarians. Periodically, books are purchased which are not appropriate for kids and parents have valid concerns. Raising these concerns about what kids read is not censorship in my view, it is an effort to have a voice in establishing kid-friendly community standards.
Socially liberal and conservative people conflict over this matter frequently. Is it censorship to restrict sexually explicit movies to adults? Or is it proper guidance of youth? Knowing the books Palin was concerned about is quite relevant to charges of censorship.
UPDATE – 9/8/08
Charles Martin at Explorations continues to unearth lots of material regarding the Palin rumor. He has a link to this 1996 article reprinted in a local Wasilla, AK paper regarding the controversy over the library. I think this piece clears up most questions regarding the matter. She asked for no books to be banned, nor did she ask the librarian to engage in censorship.

19 thoughts on “Anne Kilkenny comments on the Sarah Palin book banning story”

  1. While I was in college a student and a teacher battled over a book in the library that the student felt was offensive to his “religious beliefs”. The book was “The Bible”. That was 1981. I went back to that Library and found the same bible still there. Advanced citizenship has not changed.

  2. As a library employee, I find it appalling that so many Americans think it’s okay to remove books. It’s not the censorship of library materials that’s the biggest worry, in my opinion (though it does not bode well); rather, it is the utter lack of personal responsibility on display. It is not the job of a public employee to censor books. It is the job of parents to pay attention to what their children are reading. Everyone’s list of appropriate books would be different. Do you want the librarian deciding these issues for you?

  3. Daniel M. said in post 125620:
    I find it amusing that some people find it so offensive that someone would want to monitor what is in a public library that is funded by the city.
    This discussion isn’t about monitoring what is in the public libraries, it is about censoring what is in the public libraries. These are very different things. Anyone can monitor what is in the library, simply by looking through the library catalog. It is when people start trying to dictate what can’t be in the library because they don’t like it the the problems arise.
    Further “these people” that you refer to don’t include me, because I have never supported banning video games.

  4. Warren:
    Any progress on that “I forgot to subscribe” button?
    …forgot to check the notify box again….

  5. Warren,
    Just a bit of enlightenment on what they can do nowadays to make an email seem personal. I first encountered it back in the ’70’s in the prayer and counseling center of a mega TV ministry.
    LOL. The prayer room was directly above the mail-receiving room. That way, when the TV minister said “I have personally prayed over your letter”, he or she was not lying. (I believe a lie is in the intent and that this logic is hypocritical beyond belief.) But anyway…
    I found this out when a client came in with a somewhat bizarre situation. He/she was turned down for sex-reassignment surgery. He lived as a woman and then had a charismatic conversion experience. He then believed that ‘the “God of Miracles” was going to miraculously give him the sex-change that he had been denied. I met him once or twice before he came excitedly into the office with letters he had received from the famous evangelist and how they supported his belief that God was going to change his body to match his mind.
    I had a bit more of the kind of boldness you have in those days and got through to the head of the prayer/counseling center by telephone. I had read the letters my client received several times and I had asked him what he had said in his letters to them. That’s when I learned that each paragraph or response is canned.
    Someone reads your letter. After every few sentences they key in a ‘response code’ to that comment.
    1) I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. Please be assured that I have read and prayed over your letter.
    2) (Writer mentions a specific concern. Reader codes whether it’s a compliment, a prayer request, a comment on a recent sermon, etc. Appropriate response is generated.
    3) … …Well, you get the picture.
    In the case of my client’s pouring out his heart about his transsexual dilemma (that the doctor’s couldn’t or wouldn’t help him), he got the preprogrammed responses for ‘new believer’, ‘deeply troubled’ and ‘needs a miracle’…
    I strongly suggested that they develop a hybrid letter. Several paragraphs could be ‘canned’ or preprogrammed but very specific questions or concerns would be coded so that someone would actually create a response paragraph. (Unfortunately, if it’s one that addresses a question or concern that is likely to come up again, it gets its own code for future use.)
    Anyway, I’m thinking you got a hybrid. 😉
    (Warren: Had an incredible vacation with the fam back in PA. Never traveled further than 10 miles from ‘home’ though. We’re going to make it an annual thing. Take your family to the Kipona next year and we’ll hook up.)
    It seems you and I are often adversarial. Just wanted you to know that I was nodding in agreement a number of times while reading your comments on this thread. The one I remember the most goes to the point that the books in the library are the librarians responsibility. And the follow-up logic that so many seem to be forgetting: it is the parent’s duty to supervise their children in the library!

  6. I find it amusing that some people find it so offensive that someone would want to monitor what is in a public library that is funded by the city. These same people will go on rampages to ban video games from stores. Though I have to say that it is strange how video games will unify the Left with the Christian Right.
    But I have to say that there are probably books that you shouldn’t have in a public library, and it should be up to the city if they agree. I think a city should be able to have things like “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” removed from the library, or anything that gives detailed instructions on how to commit heinous crimes. Sure, people can find that stuff and can probably buy it, but if I ran a town I’d offer to buy it from the library and ask them not to restockit.

  7. This is pretty interesting. Personally, I am a very socially liberal democrat and I do believe that having any book removed from a library is censorship. I also do have some trust in librarians, and doubt that the books could have been that bad, but I struggle to think of any book which I would want removed from a library. Self published racists tracts from some crazy racist movement? People have a right to get whatever stupid information they want, and even an awful, ignorant book like that could be interesting for its sociological implications. Sex manuals, maybe? Libraries should have adult sections, I think. Books about murder, famous murderers, or true crime books? Again, sociologically important, and fine for an adult section. I really can’t think of anything. Still, I think this is very interesting. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who think that some books don’t belong in libraries and to whom the exact nature of the books to be removed is very important. This is a pretty major philosophical disagreement, so I’m glad you’ve done your research and let us all know what we don’t know about the books! Known unknowns, as Cheney would say.

  8. The Dems sure are desperate – aren’t they? On Fox News this morning there was a report that Libs are investigating her win in the local beauty contest in 1984. Now, a local of the liberal bent, rare from what I understand in Alaska, is trying to trash her for town politics. I have never seen a VP candidate cause this much problem for the opposition for either party. Its very fun to watch. McCain has a great shot at winning and all the negative stuff the Dems are digging up gets more and more comical. Go Sarah! Palin in 2012!

  9. Marty said in post 125525:
    So it appears that Ms. Kilkenny is into “Karl Rovian politics of personal destruction” after all.
    I don’t agree with this. I suspect at worst, Kilkenny is allowing her own biases to color her recollection of events from 12 years ago. There is no conclusive (nor do I suspect there ever will be) evidence that the attempted firing of Emmons was based significantly on her stance against banning books (a stance for which I believe Emmons should be commended). It would be interesting to hear from Emmons (now Baker) on the matter. I suspect if Palin where asked about the book banning questions now, her response would be along the lines that she was “testing” the librarian’s integrity or some political dodge.

  10. So it appears that Ms. Kilkenny is into “Karl Rovian politics of personal destruction” after all.
    Is anyone suprised?

  11. According to this story from the Anchorage Daily News there were no specific books. From the article:

    Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so.

    However, another article from the Anchorage Daily News, originally published in 1997 and republished here . It makes no mention of book banning.
    One thing to note is that the timeline of the article is this. Thurs. Jan 30, Palin sends termination letters to Emmons (the librarian) and Stambaugh (the police chief), citing a lack of support from them. Friday Jan 31. Palin withdraws Emmons termination letter, claiming she now feels she has Emmons support.

  12. @Lynn David:
    Not sure why you would say that Lynn David. It is relevant that Kilkenny is a Democrat. Doesn’t mean she is wrong but it does mean that some things that she objects to are ideological differences.

  13. This is no evidence that Sarah Palin tried to remove any specific books.
    She did want an answer to a hypothetical question – who gets the final determination on what books are not suitable for a town library.
    Maybe she was thinking of sexually explicit books?
    Who says that “it is the job of librarians, not mayors, to determine which books should be in a library.” Isn’t it up to the individual town what the policy is?
    BTW this Anne Kilkenny seems incredibly petty. She talks about “rumors” regarding how “ruthless” Palin was in getting a point guard position on the basketball team! How Palin “hates” her because she was one of a 100 people on a petition regarding the library affair. Anne sounds spiteful and jealous.
    She’s pathetic.

  14. Warren said:
    I do think it matters which books were at issue.
    No Warren, what the books were is totally irrelevant to this issue. What matters is did Sarah Palin inappropriately use her position as mayor in an attempt to impose her views on the library. The questions that should be asked are what exactly did Palin and the librarian do. The claims make it sound like Palin simply ordered the books to be removed. The questions that should be ask are did Palin follow proper grievance procedures? Did the librarian respond appropriately?
    it is the job of librarians, not mayors, to determine which books should be in a library.
    Raising these concerns about what kids read is not censorship in my view, it is an effort to have a voice in establishing kid-friendly community standards.
    the US Supreme Court disagrees with you. It has ruled (in both Communication Decency Acts cases), that you may not censor what ADULTS can or cannot access, based on what child can or cannot access. Removing books from libraries does more than stop children from accessing the books, it stops adults from accessing them as well. If parents are concerned about what books their children might see in the library, then they should supervise their childrens library access. Not attempt to deny everyone the ability to access materials that some find objectionable.

  15. There’s also the question (as Warren implies) as to whether library policy is to adhere to local community standards, or to some questionable “national” standard. The American Library Association does not have the best reputation among majority conservative Americans.

Comments are closed.