Articles tagged with: censorship
Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read, while simultaneously pointing out the dangers of censorship by spotlighting books challenged and often actually banned from libraries in the U.S. As usual, books challenged for LGBT content or themes are well-represented.
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.
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:
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.
Two popular gay-themed children’s books, “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate,” were donated to the Wasilla Public Library in Alaska, where Sarah Palin was mayor, by gay and lesbian Americans concerned with attempted censorship.
The full press release was posted earlier: Gay Americans Donate Children’s Books to Wasilla Library, On Eve of Banned Books Week.
I called the Wasilla Public Library when they opened today.
“Karen Davis, the youth services librarian, will decide if the books will be accepted and placed on the shelves, or be given to the Friends of the Library and sold at a book faire.”
“Rest assured that we are not dodging him,” said Ms. Martin-Albright. “He should be hearing from us soon.”
Bent Alaska thanks Mr. Petrelis for this generous donation, and encourages Ms. Davis to accept these wonderful children’s books. We look forward to seeing “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves of the Wasilla Public Library.
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Gay Americans Donate Children’s Books to Wasilla Library, On Eve of Banned Books Week
Gay and lesbian Americans concerned with attempted censorship at public libraries recently donated copies of “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate” to the Wasilla, Alaska, public library. This show of support for diversity and First Amendment rights is a pro-active direct response to reports that former mayor and now GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin may have tried to remove the children’s books from the shelves in the 1990s.
The two gay-themed books were given to the library to guarantee they were available for the Wasilla community to read and enjoy. The donation was made in anticipation of Banned Books Week, which begins on September 27.Ultimately, the gay and lesbian citizens would like to place copies of “Daddy’s Roommate” and another gay-themed children’s book, “And Tango Makes Three,” on the shelves of Alaska’s one-hundred-and-one public libraries. (“Heather” is out of print, which is why “Tango” was chosen.)
San Francisco activist Michael Petrelis and his longtime partner Mike Merrigan gave the books not only to insure local kids would have access to them, but also to strengthen diversity in Alaska.
“When we first became aware of this story concerning Palin’s possible call for literary censorship, it dismayed us,” said Petrelis, who blogs at PetrelisFiles.com. “If Palin’s attitude towards literary freedom, not to mention her respect for diversity, have not changed since the 1990s, then her qualifications for vice president are certainly to be called into question.” Local gay support for the donation came from E. Ross of BentAlaska.com, a gay news and activities service web site based in Anchorage.
“Giving gay books to the Wasilla public library is a wonderful, pro-active way to foster communication and encourage reading. Many libraries and schools have been pressured to ban ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ and ‘Daddy’s Roommate’ over the years, proving that citizens against diversity and tolerance pose a danger to education and unity everywhere. These two titles are prime examples of books that should have a secure place on many public and school library shelves,” said Ross.
Ross will be contacting the Wasilla librarian after the donation, to confirm that the library will place the books on the shelves, and will write a follow-up report on BentAlaska.com.The director of the Wasilla library, KJ Martin-Albright, last week posted a note to the Publisher’s Weekly blog regarding these issues:
At one point, ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ was challenged at the Wasilla Public Library and it was decided to keep it on the shelf. So, why is it no longer there? Well, Wasilla out grew the size of its library about twenty years ago . . . Along with the fact that library collections are dynamic and not static, anything on the bookshelves has to earn its real estate. If it isn’t circulating, it doesn’t stay. I know this is not the ideal, but it is our reality. The library no longer has ‘Heather’, but we do our best to offer materials encompassing all different points of view and presenting every side to an argument.
For approximately $2,300, the gay activists, in collaboration with the Lambda Rising gay book store in Washington, DC, will purchase and ship two gay children’s books to every one of the state’s public libraries.
When Sarah Palin returns to being the full-time governor of Alaska on November 5, we’d like for her to find her public library system has welcomed these gay-themed children’s book as a gesture of respect for equality and diversity, which is a true American value.