A librarian who wrote a fictional account of library patrons in a made-up town has been fired from her position at the Mason County, Mich., District Library and is appealing the termination.
“The absolute irony is that the public library is a pillar of free speech and leads me to wonder why the administration is so upset. It’s fiction,” Sally Stern-Hamilton told the Ludington Daily News.
Over the course of three years, she wrote “The Library Diaries” under the pen name Ann Miketa. According to the newspaper report, the book is written as a series of vignettes about “mostly unsavory” characters in a library in a fictitious “Denialville.”
However, the book publisher used a small photograph of the Ludington Library on the cover, and in the book’s introduction, “Ann Miketa” said, “After working at a public library in a small, rural Midwestern town (which I will refer to as Denialville, Michigan, thoughout this book) for 15 years, I have encountered strains and variations of crazy I didn’t know existed in such significant portions of our population.”
She was notified of her dismissal in a letter from District Library Director Robert Dickson, when he referred to a prior “Suspension Pending Investigation” letter he wrote.
In that, he stated, “The cover of your book includes a picture of the Ludington Library. Each chapter is devoted to a specific library patron or patrons. Your book portrays these people in a very unflattering manner. You describe individual patrons as mentally ill, mentally incompetent, unintelligent, and unattractive. You label several as ‘perverts.’ While you stop short of naming the individuals you targeted in your book, your detailed descriptions of their unique characteristics and mannerisms make them easily identifiable in our small community.”
Stern-Hamilton told the newspaper the book draws on her personal experiences but remains fiction.
“Most writers, anyone who writes something, some of it’s going to come from, be rooted in, your personal experience. I don’t think I could have come up with (the characters) on my own. They’re bizarre, idiosyncratic, so they are based on some real experiences, but of course there are embellishments,” she told the newspaper.
The library picture was just “a great picture,” she said. “It epitomizes the American idea of a library.”
She doesn’t know how Dickson became aware of the book but said she wrote it because of “what goes on in public libraries everywhere.”
She specifically cited instances of known sex offenders using library computers to view pornography – “Sometimes in close proximity to children,” the report said.
The publisher, Publish America, is a grass-roots group that publishes “people who are unknown, without charging the person thousands of dollars some self publishers charge,” Stern-Hamilton said.
On the Ludington Daily News comment page, a reader wrote, “Instead of taking pride in a local author, we are criticizing her work of FICTION? What happened to free speech?”