A series of internal emails obtained by the Watchman, reveal how a long-time library assistant at the Palmer Public Library has been working behind the scenes with librarians in Anchorage to thwart mounting community concerns about a controversial teen sex guide.

Earlier this year, library assistant Joy Bailey reached out to Mike Robinson of the UAA Consortium Library, asking if he could help the Palmer Library push back against a formal challenge against the book, “Let’s Talk About It.” The book, which has sparked heated controversy in Alaska and around the country, includes graphic advice on how minors can engage in anal sex, find their favorite internet porn stars, create sexy photos of their bodies to share online and explore myriad sexual fantasies and identities.

In a Feb. 10 email to Robinson, Bailey indicated that Palmer’s Library Director Beth Skow advised her to reach out to him for tips on how to deal with challenges to the book.

“Beth is away from the library for the next several days,” Bailey wrote to Robinson. “She suggested I reach out to you about a book challenge that is unfolding here in Palmer. The book is ‘Let’s talk about it: the teen’s guide to sex, relationships, and being human.’ by Erika Moen. This graphic novel style book has favorable reviews and is marketed for teens 14 and up. We chose to add it to our adult non-fiction collection because the material has adult themes.”

Bailey then complained about several Alaska Watchman articles that highlighted the fact that “Let’s Talk About It” is stocked in numerous local libraries.

“A local blogger who writes on the Alaska Watchman has written three recent posts on this book, noting which libraries own copies,” Bailey complained. “He has fired up certain community members in Palmer, including some of our city council members. No one has approached the library about this book – yet. Outraged community members are going straight to council on Tuesday evening instead.”

Bailey then told Robinson that she was concerned city council members might intervene despite the fact that Palmer’s library policy does not address the role of the city council in book challenge/reconsideration requests.

“Hi Joy, I’m sorry you’re facing this. The Watchman is super annoying about riling up reactionaries.”

Rebecca Moorman, head of Technical Services for the UAA/APU Consortium Library

“We do have a recently updated policy regarding material reconsideration requests,” Bailey wrote. “Our reconsideration policy involves our city council in no way whatsoever. As such, we are confused about how this is unfolding. We are concerned about council members being vocally on board with the book’s removal despite our policy not including them in the reconsideration process. Someone is going to approach us about this very soon and we would like to be as prepared as possible. Do you have any guidance?”

Robinson wrote back the same day.

“First off, let me say I am sorry to hear that you are facing these issues in your library,” Robinson replied. “I’ve cc’d Rebecca Moorman who is current chair of the AkLA Intellectual Freedom Committee. She is a great resource and can put you in contact with ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom.”

Robinson said he had read the Watchman article about the book as well book reviews. He then offered tips on how Palmer librarians could work behind the scenes to defend the book.

“Like you said, it has received decent reviews, but it is a graphic novel about sex education for teens and some people are really worked up about these issues,” he observed. “I think it’s important to get the message out that the library has policies in place to reconsider materials. It’s really important that the community/city council/mayor know this.”

Robinson then went on to disparage the Watchman for reporting on the issue.

“This challenge is particularly difficult because it’s pretty obvious the blogger wants to stir up controversy,” he asserted. “If you have supporters in the community, you should let them know what’s going on. They can show up at council meetings and provide voices to counter this one point of view. It sounds very similar to what has been happening at Anchorage School District Board meetings, so I have also cc’d Lisa Sam who is Coordinator for libraries in ASD.”

On Feb. 11, Rebecca Moorman, head of Technical Services for the UAA/APU Consortium Library, joined the email thread.

“Hi Joy, I’m sorry you’re facing this. The Watchman is super annoying about riling up reactionaries,” she wrote. “I agree with all of Mike’s suggestions. The Office for Intellectual Freedom at ALA is a great resource, with challenge support, information on how to respond to challenges, plus a lot more. They’re busy but they’re very responsive, and they want to help libraries navigate this disturbing trend.”


A few days after this email thread, the Palmer Library’s roof collapsed on Feb. 15 due to heavy snow accumulation. The book controversy took a bit of a back seat as the library focused on relocating to its new location.

Late last month, however, the Palmer City Council directed the city attorney to work with the library to review and update the process by which citizens can challenge controversial books.

“It isn’t very transparent. People are having a hard time with the process in general,” said Deputy Mayor Pamela Melin. “There’s no checks and balances or measures to be transparent with the public or the city manager or the council in order to see what books are most in question. We did ask for that to be reviewed and that is still ongoing. It’s a work in progress.”

She added that the issue remains a priority for the city.

“With the way we’re headed, with very explicit books being out there and being pushed, it is a heavy concern,” Melin said.

As of June 15, “Let’s Talk About It,” is still available through the Palmer Library.


— Click here to contact members of the Palmer City Council.

— Click here to contact Palmer Library Director Beth Skow.

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Emails show Alaska librarians plotting to keep explicit teen sex book in Palmer library

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.