This post has been updated to include the actual date of the first National Book Festival in Washington, DC.
I’ll never forget the first National Book Festival. It was September 8, 2001 (pre 9-11 event). The tents and tables were spread all along the Capitol and Library of Congress fronts. People strolled from tent to tent listening to authors, poets, getting books signed, posing for photos. It was a booklovers paradise. Laura Bush, showed up in a powder blue pants suit. Just a few secret service men around her. She made a stop in front of the Library of Congress’ Madison Building to have a taco. The weather couldn’t have been better that day.
That was then, this is now. The National Book Festival has moved to the National Mall here in Washington, DC. Open space, still the tents, but it’s still here post 9-11. The date is September 27. I won’t miss it.
But enter the new RNC “It Girl, Sarah Palin. As the unofficial and I now assume more comprehensive vetting process conducted by the press and other interested parties continues, I find yet another show stopper for the book lover in me: Sarah Palin supports book banning. Hold my earrings!!!
Today’s New York Times has a story about her Wasilla activities as Mayor of the small Alaskan town.
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.
Ann 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.
Laura Bush was a librarian. She loves books because she loves books. She brought us the National Book Festival and she’s the national chair of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts.
If anything I’m impressed with the citziens of Wasilla who support their librarians and library. For small communities, the library may be the center and only source of cultural life and life-long learning. Post 9-11 it was the librarians who defended first admendment rights and civil liberties without fear.
If you believe in democracy, keep an eye on how leaders treat and view your local library.