• Palin books generate mixed levels of interest; Homer Public Library makes copies available this week
By Jenny Neyman
Sarah Palin, once at the center of book-banning controversy while mayor of Wasilla, is causing a bit of a headache for libraries this week as they decide how much shelf space and budget to devote to her new book – as well as the multiple other titles being released about her.
“Going Rogue: An American Life,” is Palin’s story of herself as Alaska’s governor tapped to be the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and running mate for presidential candidate John McCain. The book was set to be released by HarperCollins on Tuesday.
In 1996, when Palin was voted mayor of Wasilla, she allegedly asked the city librarian about censoring books in the library. The librarian said she wouldn’t do it, and a few months later, got a letter from Palin saying she was going to be fired. The letter did not mention the conversation about censoring books, the librarian ended up keeping her job, and the books in question stayed on the shelves. Still, the controversy reared its head in the 2008 national campaign.
Deciding how many books about Palin to stock on their shelves turns out to be a tricky question. On one hand, libraries have limited budgets for ordering new materials and limited space to shelve them. On the other hand, they want to meet readers’ demands.
Terri Burdick, director of the Joyce K Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna, said the library got an inquiry about Palin’s book on Friday. Burdick said she’s ordering two copies of “Going Rogue,” and is considering ordering a few other Palin books as well.
“I’ve got two other titles of Sarah Palin on order that have pretty good reviews of them,” Burdick said. “They should be here in the next week or so.”
Burdick said she plans to order “Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar,” by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, and “The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star,” by Matthew Continetti.
She said she’s also considering ordering a copy of “Going Rouge: An American Nightmare.” The book is a response to Palin’s book from the editors of The Nation magazine, published by OR Books. It’s a collection of essays about Palin, including from two Alaska writers.
Burdick said it’s difficult to order books on hot topics, like Palin. She said there tends to be demand for them when they first come out, but it fizzles quickly.
“I don’t like to get too many because then, after their one month of bright shine, they sit and gather dust,” she said. “I don’t have that kind of a budget to do that.”
Burdick said she figures the Palin book will be a fast read, as people often just scan through hot-topic books of the day. That translates into quick turnover.
“People will be interested to kind of thumb through it and take it back,” Burdick said. “Although, I guess there won’t be an index, so they’ll have to actually read it.”
Burdick is also counting on the Palin books having a definite Alaska factor.
“Since this is also Alaska, our Alaska collection is kind of your holy grail in Alaska libraries. With that kind of stuff, we might get a little bit more,” she said. “Just for historical sake. Further on down the road someone might say, ‘Who was that governor that all that stuff was going on about?’”
With controversial subjects, Burdick said she tries to stay neutral and balanced in the books she orders.
“On controversial stuff, I like to have it pretty even on both sides,” she explained. “That’s my theory on all materials in the library. I want to have a nice balance, then you have harmony. I’m all for harmony.”
Kenai Community Library Director Mary Jo Joiner said Monday that she has gotten only one request for Palin’s new book so far.
“I was going to place my order with Amazon today, but I guess with only one request – I’m thinking maybe two copies,” Joiner said. “I thought there would be like a million requests.”
Joiner said the Palin biography, “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down,” by Kaylene Johnson released in September 2008 during the campaign, didn’t get as much attention as she thought it would, either. She said she is still considering whether she’ll order a copy of the book of essays, “Going Rouge.”
River City Books in Soldotna already has a waiting list of about 50 people requesting a copy of Palin’s “Going Rogue.” Peggy Mullen, owner of River City Books, said it’s common to have a waiting list for new books due out by major, popular authors. However, this amount of demand is unusual for a book from a first-time author.
Still, Mullen said she’s not surprised.
“Not at all,” she said. “I think a lot of people are interested, just to find out what her story is. She still has quite a following in this area, I think. She’s still quite the public figure.”
Mullen said she ordered 100 copies of the book to start with, and can get more in as needed.
“We’re crossing our fingers that it gets here in time,” she said, adding that said, she’s also ordering 50 copies of “Going Rouge” that should arrive at River City Books the first week of December.
“We’ll stack them together and people can read and read and read,” Mullen said.
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