In the wake of mounting controversy over highly sexualized and extremely graphic books available to children in Mat-Su school libraries, the district is now on the cusp of assembling a parent-heavy book review committee to determine which titles are unfit for children. More than 300 people applied to sit on the committee, and the district will soon conduct a lottery to select seven parents, two librarians, two educators and two school board members to serve on the 13-member body.

Some librarians, however, are upset by the idea of empowering parents with the ability to vet controversial library books.

Houston High Librarian Janelle Maki

Janelle Maki, a longtime librarian at Houston High School, has been working to mobilize fellow librarians in an attempt to stack the new committee with those who oppose vetting controversial books.

Last week, during school hours, Maki sent a mass email to librarians across the school district urging any who “care about protecting the right to read” to apply for the committee as soon as possible.

“Your voice and student voices matter!” she emphasized. “I heard it from a good source yesterday that there are over 300 applicants that have applied.”

Maki attached a document from the Alaska Library Association, which criticizes the Mat-Su’s decision to assemble a library book review committee.

“This policy will allow a small group of people to make decisions for the district as a whole,” the library association’s document states. It then calls into question the main purpose of the committee, which is to determine whether certain books are in violation of Alaska statute against providing sexual material to minors.

“A book’s literary or educational value cannot be determined based solely on whether it contains materials that are ‘indecent’ per Alaska Statute 11.61.128,” the Alaska Library Association document claims. “However, the district has listed this as the only criteria that will be considered.”

With numerous parents requesting the district to publish the titles of books that are being formally challenged, the district released a list of all 56 controversial titles on April 24.

The association’s pamphlet then coaches educators on how to publicly undermine the review committee at the next Mat-Su School Board meeting, May 3.

On April 24, the school district posted an update on the library book committee. It notes that a “randomized lottery” will take place to determine who serves on the committee.

With numerous parents requesting the district to publish the titles of books that are being formally challenged, the district released a list of all 56 controversial titles. This list includes fiction and nonfiction books containing detailed descriptions of masturbation, anal and oral sex, sex toys, pole dancing scenes, sex parties, dominatrix, foul language, descriptions of graphic and violent rape, gay teen sex encounters, gender transitioning characters and much more.

The controversial books largely appear in various middle and high schools throughout the Mat-Su, with the most challenged titles coming from Valley Pathways, Career and Technical High, Wasilla High, Mat-Su Central, Burchell High, Palmer High, Su-Valley Jr./Sr. High and Glacier View.

There are, however, some controversial titles in elementary schools as well. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robin Harris, is one such book located at Talkeetna Elementary School. It encourages children to masturbate, praises “heavy petting” and “making out,” and discusses heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual sex. It also mentions abortion as an option for “ending a pregnancy.”

The book dismisses religious objections to masturbation, stating that “some religions call masturbation a sin. But masturbating cannot hurt you. Masturbating is perfectly normal.” It then provides detailed instructions on how readers can engage in the practice with pillows or other items.

“When the penis is touched and rubbed, a males body feels good both outside and inside – kind of tingly, kind of warm and nice,” the books states. “It feels sexy.” Female masturbation is described in similar terms.

Throughout the book, there are drawings of naked teens touching and arousing themselves, and depictions of adults engaged in sexual intercourse. Talkeetna Elementary includes children from pre-K through fifth grade.


— The next Mat-Su School Board meeting is on May 3. Click here for details on how to participate.

— Click here to contact school board members.

— Click here to read reviews of some of the most controversial school library books across the nation.

— Click here to look up books that are available in Mat-Su school libraries.

— Click here to contact Mat-Su School District Superintendent Randy Trani

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

Librarians plot to undermine Mat-Su’s school library book review committee

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.