I have this naive, idealistic notion that librarians, moreso than the members of most other professions, should be particularly scrupulous about facts. My idealism is often tested. The latest disappointment comes from the rising tide of hysteria in the biblioblogosphere over Sarah Palin's attempts to ban books when she was mayor of Wasilla and for trying to fire the city librarian for failing to do so. But a careful reading of the facts reveals no evidence for either of these charges.
The fullest account that I'm aware of is in the Anchorage Daily News, but even a careful reading of the Time magazine article, which appears to be where most people picked up the charge, gives a subtly different picture.
Palin clearly inquired of the librarian, at least three times, what her position would be if she were asked to censor books. The librarian was aghast at the very suggestion. Given Palin's background, I think it is reasonable to assume that if a case had arisen where a citizen wanted something removed from the library, Palin would have supported it. My guess is that her questions to the librarian were intended, at least in part, to get an idea of how big a fight she'd put up and what kind of process was in place. But there is no indication that an attempt to ban or censor anything ever actually occurred.
Palin definitely tried to fire the librarian, as she did other city officials. She did fire the police chief. Both the librarian and the police chief had publicly supported her opponent in the mayoral election. The police chief had nothing to do with banning books, and Palin backed down on firing the librarian. Did the librarian's response to the inquiries about banning books add to Palin's concerns about her "loyalty"? It certainly didn't do her any good. But there isn't any evidence that it was the primary cause for the attempted firing.
Palin's speech on Wednesday was a breathtakingly cynical array of exaggerations, misleading statements and outright lies. There are lots of good reasons to be opposed to her election as Vice-President, and I would not want to be misinterpreted as trying to defend her. But I suffer from this quaint devotion to the facts and it's hard for me to see how claiming that Palin attempted to ban books and then tried to fire the librarian for failing to do so is any different than claiming the Michelle Obama hates America or that Barack is going to raise everybody's taxes or any of the other ridiculous claims that set democratic supporters frothing over the terrible misdeeds of Republicans.
If those who support Obama can't do any better than that, one could almost be forgiven for sitting this election out. I won't, because I think the issues are too important, but I'm often not much happier with those who are supposedly on "my side" than I am with those on the other.