Censorship Over ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Trilogy?

From The New York Times:

The New York Times posted an interesting piece about the hesitancy of some libraries to make copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to their patrons. Tim Coles, of the Greensboro Public Library in North Carolina told the NYT that he felt the series was of “little literary merit,” but still obtained 21 copies due to patron requests.

It is a demand that seems impossible to ignore and has  “forced exasperated library officials to dust off their policies — if they have them — on erotica. In April the trilogy, which includes the titles Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, was issued in paperback by Vintage Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, sending sales through the roof when the publisher printed and distributed the books widely for the first time.

That enthusiasm has carried over to libraries. At many, Fifty Shades of Grey, by the previously unknown British author E. L. James, is the most popular book in circulation, with more holds than anyone can remember on a single title (2,121 and counting last Friday at the Hennepin County Public Library, which includes Minneapolis, up from 942 on April 9).

But despite misgivings about the subject matter — the books tell the tale of a dominant-submissive affair between a manipulative millionaire and a naïve younger woman — library officials feel that they need to make it available.”

Cole’s assertion is that the series is a modern-day “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”  and that “demand is a big issue with us, because we want to be able to provide popular best-selling material to our patrons.”

But not all libraries can accommodate the demand: “The Brevard County Public Library in east central Florida pulled copies of the books from its shelves after library officials decided they were not appropriate for the public.”

We have criteria that we use, and in this case we view this as pornographic material,” said Don Walker, a spokesman for the Brevard County government.

Further: “In Fond du Lac, Wis., the library did not order any copies, saying the books did not meet the standards of the community. In Georgia the Gwinnett County Public Library, near Atlanta, declined to make the books available in its 15 branches, saying that the trilogy’s graphic writing violated its no-erotica policy.

Last week a group of organizations that included the National Coalition Against Censorship formally responded, sending a letter to the library board in Brevard County scolding it for refusing to stock the book alongside standards like Tropic of Cancer or Fear of Flying:

There is no rational basis to provide access to erotic novels like these, and at the same time exclude contemporary fiction with similar content,” the letter said. “The very act of rejecting erotica as a category suitable for public libraries sends an unmistakable message of condemnation that is moralistic in tone, and totally inappropriate in a public institution dedicated to serving the needs and interests of all members of the community.”

But Joan Bertin, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, told the NYT that censorship in the adult section is rare:

The vast majority of cases that we deal with have to do with removing books to keep kids from seeing them,” she said. “That’s what makes this so egregious. There are some possible arguments for trying to keep kids away from certain kinds of content, but in the case of adults, other than the restrictions on obscenity and child pornography, there’s simply no excuse. This is really very much against the norms in the profession.”

Vintage, (a subsidiary of Random House) responded by saying:

Random House fervently opposes literary censorship and supports the First Amendment rights of readers to make their own reading choices. We believe the Brevard County Public Library System is indulging in an act of censorship, and essentially is saying to library patrons: We will judge what you can read.”

What do you think, LitStackers? Is pulling books, any books from library stacks “for the public’s own good” a wise move? Even if those titles are deemed pornographic? Let us know what you think. We want to hear from you! Be sure to check out the rest of the article here.



1 thought on “Censorship Over ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Trilogy?

  1. I suppose their are two sides to the issue and personally I can see why library staffs would have concerns with the book, especially in how the book has been described, but that being said, it is a form of censorship and public libraries should reflect what the public wants to read or view, not what they feel is in the public good.

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