Monday, December 1, 2014

Case Study No. 1708: Sally Stern-Hamilton

"The Library Diaries" book trailer
Paperback: 143 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (June 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1605635685
ISBN-13: 978-1605635682
Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 8.4 inches
Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
Tags: library diaries ann miketa
Added: 11 months ago
From: ToonLib
Views: 8

The Library Diaries reads like
Seinfeld meets Lou Dobbs
meets Glenn Beck.

Issues that most of us are
afraid to talk about,
issues we have had to
veil through humor,
are talked about candidly
by the author,
who has seen the
terrible consequences
of us not talking about
these issues ...
children's lives.

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.



The director of the Mason County (Mich.) District Library contends that he did not violate the First Amendment rights of a library assistant he fired in late July after reading her unflattering book about the quirky and disreputable characters who populate Library Diaries. Robert Dickson told American Libraries that "every single character in the book is a specific, identifiable person with nothing changed [except their names]," some 15–20 of which are real-life patrons of the Ludington library Dickson heads and at which author Sally Stern-Hamilton worked for 15 years. "The information she's learned about these people over the years was revealed in the book, and our immediate reaction was that this was an invasion of privacy."

Stern-Hamilton said in the July 18 Ludington Daily News that she finds her firing from a public library for writing a book an "absolute irony" since libraries are "a pillar of free speech" and the book a work of fiction. Conceding in an August 26 interview [30 minutes] with ABC-TV affiliate WZZM that "some of the characters are taken from characters at the library," she explained that her motivation for writing Library Diaries was "primarily to let people know about what's going on in public libraries these days," specifically that "there's pedophiles in the library, there's sex offenders in the library."

Issued June 9 by the print-on-demand firm Publish America, the introduction to Library Diaries states, "After working at a public library in a small, rural Midwestern town (which I will refer to as Denialville, Michigan, throughout 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." While Ludington is never mentioned by name, the book cover includes a small photo of the Carnegie building's exterior as part of a collage.

Dickson told AL that he first became aware Stern-Hamilton had written a book, which she published under the pen name Ann Miketa, when "a patron brought it in [in mid-June] and said, 'Do you know Sally's written a book?'" and that Stern-Hamilton was promoting its release through postcards, e-mails, and conversations with patrons, as well as public readings at a local café. He ordered a copy for the library and after reading the book, "it didn't take me very long to realize [Stern-Hamilton] isn't cut out for public service" despite her long tenure there. He cited as typical a chapter entitled "The Bonkers," the author's fictionalized name for an overweight Ludington family that, according to Stern-Hamilton, has "not one high school diploma between the four. They check out the GED book, but none of them have successfully taken the test." She also reveals that the daughter is pregnant and opines, "There are plenty of dumb drunks who will have sex indiscriminately."

Asserting that she anticipated Dickson's reaction to the book, Stern-Hamilton told WZZM that popular culture "makes fun of people all the time," but that Library Diaries "turns the whole concept of compassion over. What is mean-spirited? Letting someone who can't take care of children have them? Letting pedophiles and sex offenders come to your library and risking children's safety?" Acknowledging that "some people say [the book] is a thesis for eugenics," she added "you cannot broach the subject without the knee-jerk reaction of 'Oh, she's a Nazi.'" At the end of the interview, she indicated she will not appeal her dismissal.



As a newly minted librarian, I occasionally stalk WorldCat, LibraryThing, GoodReads and Amazon for new or interesting materials written by, for or featuring librarians. This book was so badly reviewed on LibraryThing and here on Amazon, that while I knew I should have known better before getting it via ILL, I still ordered it anyways. Because it can't be that bad, right?


First, this book is self-published by PublishAmerica. Self-publishing in itself is a wonderful thing. I'm a huge fan of crowdsourcing and open source publishing models, such as However, self-publishing definitely becomes a negative when the author, whose spent hundreds if not thousands via PublishAmerica getting their masterpiece into print form, do not engage an editor! Seriously! There are so many typos, inconsistencies, subject-verb disagreements that I wondered if this person even bothered to read what they wrote themselves. One trick one of my undergrad profs taught us in our intro to creative writing class is to read your work out loud. Slowly. As humans, we are all definitely fallible when it comes to writing in regards to grammar and consistency since our brains process much faster than our fingers. There is your protip for the day.

Secondly, the weird topic jump within single paragraphs was beyond annoying. She would begin the paragraph on subject X, suddenly verve to subject Y and then rant and rave for pages espousing her opinion on why the people of this town were illiterate, inbred, shiftless, lazy, public service sucking humans.

Thirdly, style. This ties into point the first with the lack of editor. She would drop in and out of time period, technology, and culture inconsistencies. For example, the book is apparently "written" by the author's sister who worked at the public library in Denialville, MI and then BOOM, died of lung cancer. The sister's greatest wish evah was to have her beloved book published. The problem with this premise is that in the introduction, the book leads the reader to believe that the sister has been dead for some time but the "sister" talks about technology and current events of the now. So apparently her sister is a time traveler?

Fourthly, the bigotry of the author. On anyone that is not her (white, "upper middle class", educated). Literally. Wow. Hate much? Here are some prime examples:

"Mr. Thee Hats is not Native American as you may have assumed by his name."
"Personally, I cannot imagine why any one [note separation of words here] without a high school diploma would begin to think she or he had what it took to raise a child properly."
"Maybe having sex shouldn't be so easy since so many poor, ignorant people are having it worth any birth control."
"I know, to a lot of you, this sounds like eugenics. I have to wonder if those of you against eugenics are aware of the human suffering brought about by poor planning."

When the book was published in 2008, there was a huge hubbub about the author getting fired from the library where she worked over the content in said masterpiece. The reasoning is that it is not so much that she published a book, but that her "fictionalizing" of the patrons in the book were actually fairly identifying characteristics of actual living persons. The author, whose pen name is a pseudonym and the premise (sister dying of lung cancer who originally wrote the book) was false, was discovered because she used images on her book cover the library she worked at as well as she aptly describes specific events and activities that are only available in that geographic area. According to other reports, she also bragged about the publication of the book to everyone and sundry. These are all smart moves if you're writing under a pseudonym and attempting to keep your actual identity on the down low.

One should also keep in mind that librarians and those who work in libraries prescribe to a code of ethics and professionalism, which Miketa completely tossed out the window in the name of her "writing." I think that part bothers me more than the awful writing and editing.

Why you should read this book? I cannot think of a single identifying reason, in any instance, why I would recommend this title EXCEPT for a perfect example of how NOT to self-publish.



Ludington librarian fired over tell-all novel says her First Amendment rights were violated
By John Agar

Sally Stern-Hamilton's literary work - a disturbing look at life in the library - wound up on the shelves at Mason County District Library.

It got her shelved there as a library assistant.

Now, Stern-Hamilton, a Ludington woman whose "Library Diaries" chronicles unsavory characters in a place she called "Denialville," has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the library violated her free-speech rights by firing her.

"(Stern-Hamilton's) First Amendment interests, combined with the interests of the public, outweigh the government's interest in the efficient performance of the workplace," her attorney, David Blanchard wrote.

"(She) was explicitly fired for engaging in protected speech."

Library director Robert Dickson declined to comment. Attorney Kathleen Klaus, representing the library, Dickson, and Marilyn Bannon, president of the library board, said she would respond to the complaint next month.

The controversy created headlines three years ago when Stern-Hamilton was fired from her job of 14 years.

She wrote the book, intended as fiction, under the pen name, Ann Miketa.

"After working at a public library in a small, rural Midwestern town (which I will refer to as Denialville, Michigan, throughout 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 wrote in the introduction.

A description reads: "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."

Once the library learned that Stern-Hamilton wrote the book, it suspended her. She was then fired. The Associated Press reported Dickson wrote in a letter to Stern-Hamilton that the characters in the book were easily recognizable.

"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," the AP quoted Dickson as writing.

The book has drawn a wide range of reviews on, which had 11 used books on sale, starting at $47.99.

One reviewer, who once worked at the library, wrote: "I am deeply angered that this book led to the author's firing. I may not agree with everything she says, but she paints an accurate picture of what goes on every day at your local library."

Another said: "Excruciatingly badly written prose plus very mean-spirited accounts of patrons, thinly disguised by changing their names, and, ultimately bad taste all around."

In the lawsuit, Stern-Hamilton alleged that her complaints about older men stalking young girls in the library went ignored. She said that older men would follow girls or "otherwise make girls uncomfortable ... ."

One girl, with her grandfather, told her in 2008 that a man had been following her all day and rubbing himself. The girl, who was told by her parents not to leave the library, hid for hours under a table, Stern-Hamilton alleged in the lawsuit.

"Ms. Stern-Hamilton had complained about (the man's) actions to supervisors on multiple occasions," Blanchard wrote in the lawsuit.

"Also in 2008, a different man was stalking a different young teenage girl who was attempting to do her homework," Blanchard wrote. "Instead of dealing with the older man ... Dickson had the girl move to the back of the library where employees work."



Mason County Library Settles Lawsuit With Writer
February 18, 2012 5:15 AM

The board of the Mason County District Library has reached a $57,000 settlement in the civil rights lawsuit filed by Sally Stern-Hamilton, an ex-employee who wrote the book "The Library Diaries" under the pen name Ann Miketa.

The Ludington-based library fired Stern-Hamilton after the book was published in 2008, and she filed a federal lawsuit in 2011.

The Ludington Daily News said she has filed for bankruptcy, so the money will go to her creditors.

Stern-Hamilton said the library violated her First Amendment rights to free speech. The library said the book was an attack on easily identifiable library patrons and violated their privacy.

The book sets the story in a community called Denialville. It doesn't name Ludington, but its cover includes a small picture of the Ludington library.

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