Wasilla Library Rejects “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate”
KJ Martin-Albright, Director of the Wasilla Library, announced that the library will sell the donated copies of Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate through its Friends group. Gay and lesbian citizens donated the children’s books to the library after hearing that in 1996 then-mayor Sarah Palin repeatedly asked then-library director Mary Jane Emmons (now Baker) about banning books.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="301" caption="Wasilla Public Library"][/caption]
During that time, members of Palin’s church pressured stores to remove certain books, including Palmer author Howard Bess’ Pastor, I Am Gay, which disappeared from the Wasilla Library shelves and was not replaced.
Library Journal interviewed Wasilla Library Director KJ Martin-Albright recently. Her comments on the donated kids books and the Bess book are instructive for others who donate LGBT books to public libraries:
Tags: books, censorship, Daddy's Roommate, Heather Has Two Mommies, Howard Bess, libraries, Pastor I Am Gay, Sarah Palin, Wasilla Public Library
You had already stated that one reason that Heather Has Two Mommies isn’t in the library is that a book has to earn its real estate.
The library strives to achieve a balanced collection of materials in the major information categories, as well as a fiction collection calculated to satisfy the widest possible variety of tastes. All viewpoints and opinions on controversial subjects are represented whenever possible. Wasilla Public Library’s collection development states that materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation and that the library should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
In the past, Wasilla Public Library held both Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate, although the books are no longer on the library’s shelves. Wasilla outgrew the size of its library about 20 years ago. Library collections are dynamic, and anything on the book shelves has to earn its real estate. If it is not circulating, it does not stay. This is not the ideal, but it is the reality. The books were removed as part of on-going collection development and not due to the subject matter presented in the books. Wasilla Public Library holds many titles that deal with the same subject matter, including the popular And Tango Makes Three.
All one has to do is look at the books in question next to Tango, or any other well-made picture book, to see that Heather and Daddy’s Roommate are poorly constructed, lack engaging illustrations, and have too many words on the page to be useful to young readers. The books are poorly manufactured; they are insubstantial paperbacks that would not withstand repeated use. Moreover, the books are dated in illustrational style and content. Since they were published, several better-made books which are more appealing to children that deal with the same subject matter have been released. Wasilla Public Library houses quite a few of these titles on its shelves.
While the library agrees that Heather and Daddy’s Roommate are important books because they were ground-breaking and because of the controversy and discussions that have occurred in the 15-plus years since they were published, there are better choices for a dynamic, current, and appealing children’s collection. The donated materials, in accordance with our Donations Policy, will be given to the Friends of Wasilla Library for its annual book sale. You are the first reporter who has asked since the decision was made, so I guess this will be our first public announcement.
I understand that copies of Pastor, I Am Gay were in the library once but disappeared. Do you know when the library last had copies?
In regard to Pastor, I am Gay, by Howard Bess, the Wasilla Public Library does not have a copy; however, there are three libraries in the Mat-Su Library Network that do. Since the network provides intralibrary courier service, these copies are available to any library patron. I don’t know when the library last had copies—even if our library automation kept information on deleted materials, which it doesn’t, we migrated from Dynix to Sirsi in August 2004, so there’s no way to mine that data.