Thursday, May 10, 2012

Libraries banning 50 Shades of Grey...again

Do we really have to go over this again? I mean...really?

First argument out of the isn't porn. IT IS NOT PORN. 50 Shades of Grey is not porn. Erotica does not equal porn. See: and . Any argument for 50 Shades of Grey being kept out of a library that includes the word "porn" is an invalid argument. If your argument is "it is porn" or "what is next? porn?" or "children shouldn't be exposed to porn", it is an invalid argument and you are an idiot. Porn is porn. Erotica is not porn. Clear? Good? Ok, let's move on.

I am a librarian and I am going to be controversial for a moment. Not every library needs to own 50 Shades of Grey. Not every library should own it. A public library is not a repository for every book every written. Disregarding all the other aspects of libraries and focusing only on books, a library is to provide reading material for the community that it serves. Every library has a different collection because every community has different needs. A small library in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire will have a very different collection from the public libraries in Indianapolis.

Libraries have collection development guidelines that they follow. When a book comes out, the librarian reads what the book is about, reads reviews, takes a look to see if similar books get checked out currently, looks to see what books are requested from other libraries, etc. Than they decide if that book falls within the guidelines that the library has set for what books to buy. If a library has a policy in place that says that they do not buy books with explicit sexual material that could be categorized as erotica, than they probably should not buy 50 Shades of Grey as that would go against their policy. Now, the policy may be outdated and a discussion needs to happen about that, but that is not the issue at hand right now.

Now let's say that the library doesn't have a policy that says they don't buy erotica. So they buy 50 Shades of Grey. And some 200 people put a hold on it. And then someone gets offended and pulls the book. That is a problem. A librarians job is not to tell people what to read or not to read. A librarians job (in regards to collection development) is to provide books that the community they serve want to read. Obviously, people want to read 50 Shades of Grey. And not 20 people. Hundreds upon hundreds of people want to read it. Libraries are doing a real disservice to themselves by pulling or not stocking Grey. Pretty much on a daily basis you hear that libraries are outdated and dying, no one goes to the library, funding is being cut, etc. etc. etc. Here is a way to pull people in and get people using the library and librarians are worried that the sex might be too much for people and not letting them check it out. That is going to alienate their audience and further the perception that libraries are an outdated institution and are full of old maid librarians who are prudes.

And as for the arguments about "won't someone think of the children! They go to that library and could see that book"...are you shitting me? First of all, it isn't being shelved in the children's section. It is in the adult fiction section. And secondly, if a kid sees the cover, I'm fairly sure they won't be scarred for life as the cover has a tie on it. And that is it. If a kid goes and picks it up and flips through the find the good parts...well, their parent should probably keep a better eye on them. However, that is also not going to happen because all copies of the book are obviously out as there are hundreds of holds on it.

There are two libraries near me that I am a member of (because one public library is not enough!) and one of them owns a copy of 50 Shades of Grey and the other does not. Know why? Because one tends to buy a few romance novels and the other really doesn't. 50 Shades of Grey apparently has not been requested at one of the libraries. Not a big deal. It isn't like they are banning it or censoring. It just isn't the right book for that library.

So, let's all take a breather and summarize. First, erotica is not porn. Second, not every library needs to own 50 Shades of Grey. Third, not every library should own 50 Shades of Grey. Fourth, owning 50 Shades of Grey will not hurt anyone, including the children. Fifth, banning or censoring books because it has content that someone finds inappropriate is bad.

Now, can we move on to other topics and discuss books that are actually good and The Grave series by Darynda Jones... fabulous books that are fun, exciting, funny, and contain enough sexual content to make prudish people blush! Exactly my favorite kind of book.

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