On 23 June, 2008, a review was posted at Amazon by someone called “Speakthe truth.” It was Speakthe truth’s first and so-far only review at Amazon.
The five star review, labeling the book “insightful,” says:
A must read! New ways of thinking and looking at the world. You will not believe the funny, crazy & demented people at the library.
The book being reviewed was The Library Diaries by Ann Miketa. The Library Diaries had come out on 9 June, 2008, from PublishAmerica. The reader may be forgiven for suspecting that the review was written by the author herself. Few others would have known that it existed.
So far it’s an old story: Vanity press author fights hopeless odds to drum up publicity. Then things got interesting. Two days after that review appeared, on 25 July 2008, a librarian in the town of Ludington, Michigan, was fired.
Let’s turn now to Ludington, population 8,000. Here’s a bit from the Ludington Daily News, dated August 9, 2008:
Sometimes a pen name isn’t cover enough, Sally Stern-Hamilton has learned.
The publication of her controversial book, “The Library Diaries,” written under the pen name Ann Miketa, resulted in her termination as a Mason County District Library employee after 15 years on the job. She is appealing that firing.
Written in the first person and set in what she calls a fictitious Lake Michigan town of Denialville, “The Libraries Dairies” is a series of vignettes about mostly unsavory characters encountered daily at the library
Not that the pen-name was particularly obscure: “Miketa” was Ms. Stern-Hamilton’s maiden name, PublishAmerica had sent a letter announcing the book to Ms. Stern-Hamilton’s family and friends, she’d sent a copy to the newspaper for review, and, as one commenter on the newspaper story said, “I was able to pick out every character in this book.” In addition, a photo of the Ludington Library appeared on the book’s cover.
District Library Director Dickson, in a letter to Ms. Stern-Hamilton, said, “… 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.”
That sort of thing does get attention in a small community, you betcha. Observe the book’s description at Amazon:
Open this book and you’ll meet the naked patron, the greedy, unenlightened patrons, destination hell, the masturbator, horny old men, Mr. Three Hats, and a menagerie of other characters you never dreamt were housed at your public library.
Let us turn now to a local forum, Ludington Talks (Photos, videos, blogs and more. Join in.) The same day the newspaper story ran, 9 August, a discussion started. The top post reads;
I can’t put this book down. This book is a cut to the quick, tell all about OUR little hamlet we call home. If you read this you don’t you in a whole new way, YOU do live in Denialville!!! Ms. Miketa, you did a great job! Thankyou
That forum is up to eight pages of comments now and still gaining steam. While many of the comments are questions on where one can get a copy of the book, others are … more heated.
The author herself hit the web to give her side of it on 11 August, over at iReport (Unedited. Unfiltered. News.):
Library worker fired from library job for writing a book. After working for fifteen years at a public library in the rural midwest, I wrote a fictionalized account of a woman’s experiences working in a public library. My director found the book offensive, probably because it doesn’t show the director in the book in such a bright light, but ostensibly I was fired because my little 150 page book might make, “some of our patrons uncomfortable” or “some patrons may not come to the library anymore because of my book.” Nevermind the fact that the particular patrons he is referring to would come to the library even if it were burning down to access their porn, terrorist groups, pedophile, or alien sightings sites.
Uh-oh. Alien sighting sites.
She laments that she is unable to find a lawyer to take her case. The comment thread there is only four posts long right now, with half of them from the author herself.
We’re up to 11 August now, when WorldNetDaily printed a condensed version of the Ludington Daily News story. Should the WorldNetDaily or Ludington Daily Press stories vanish from the web, they’ve both been reprinted at the SafeLibraries blog, “Educating people and politicians about public libraries and who controls them. Hint: local citizens should, not the American Library Association. If your local library is run by ALA acolytes applying ALA policy, this blog will provide examples of what can be done to reverse that.”
Interested in how The Library Diaries is doing saleswise? Here’s a graph of the book’s Amazon Sales Rank starting on 13 August.
I learned about this story from a thread, started on 13 August, called PA author, a librarian, gets fired from job because of book, in a forum where folks who think that PublishAmerica is the worst thing since mangel-wurtzel bread gather. PublishAmerica is well-known for not bothering to read submissions before they offer contracts. Possibly relevant: The $200K judgment against AuthorHouse
Like many places on line, if you don’t read the comments at the various sites you’re missing half the fun.