May 4 2012 9:12am

E.L. James’s Fifty (50) Shades of Grey Pulled from Florida Library System

Even though they presumably purchased the books initially for their patrons, Florida’s Brevard County Public Libraries system has pulled E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey from its shelves, the library services director explains, because “It’s quite simple—it doesn’t meet our selection criteria.”

Searching in the Brevard County Public Libraries for erotic reveals titles way racier than Fifty Shades of Grey, in terms of content, if not notoriety.

As librarian Robin Bradford pointed out on Twitter in response, ”I can see if you’ve decided, as a system, not to carry erotic fiction. I don’t agree with that [policy] either, but it makes sense. But to carry The Hot Box, and not the book on top of every bestseller list? I’m having a hard time (hee) trying to figure that one out."

What do you think?

E.L. James's Fifty Shades Trilogy: ‹ previous | index | next ›
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1. CdnMrs
I think libraries owe it to their patrons to carry a diverse cross section of literature and genres. A library that only carries "literature" will have a hard time maintaining clientele. Likewise a library that only carries what is popular at the moment isn't helping patrons to expand their reading horizons and probably will soon find themselves with an out of style catalogue. I was kind of stoked to see Fifty Shades of Grey at my library. I don't live in a large town(Pop: 180K) so the library doesn't always have the books I want to read. It's nice to see books that I've enjoyed within the stacks.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
What I object to here is the hypocrisy--pull this title, which is racy, but not edgey erotic, and keep some of those other titles that are? Someone pointed out that this book is famous, so probably a patron complained about it (not having read it), and the library reacted. It's a shame that the library's patrons can't read the book they want to read.
3. eva__
I'd say that the folks who run that library are on the "what she did is not right, not is it ok" side of the controvery surrounding the 50 shades trilogy. As such they have the right to not carry those books on their shelves.
Darlene Marshall
4. DarleneMarshall
I'm proud to say that the Alachua County (Florida) Library District believes readers are bright enough to decide for themselves which books they want to check out. I've got their copy of Fifty Shades sitting on the desk in front of me.

Disclaimer--I'm also a board member and past chair of the ACLD Foundation, because I love public libraries and ours in particular.
K.M. Jackson
5. kwanawrites
I'm agreeing and saying it's probably because the book has become so famous with the media attention and some patron complained about what she "heard" on TV about that "kind of book". But if you're pulling one you need to pull them all. Leave it to Fl to bring the controversy.
Natasha Carty
6. WickedLilPixie
Why is it always Florida? Pull one "erotica" or pull them all
Tori Benson
I believe libraries should be remain neutral. They are obligated, in my humble opinion, to provide a wide varity of reading material for their readers NOT based on personal opinion. Tag it for adults only over 18 if that makes you feel better, but to take the book out of circulation period because of a customer complaint or for personal reasons is wrong and I for one will no longer patronize this library.

I'd really like to here what the critieria was.
Megan Frampton
8. MFrampton
I just saw this from the library services director:

“Nobody asked us to take it off the shelves. But we bought some copies before we realized what it was. We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn.’ We don’t collect porn.”
As someone said on Twitter, this library has more problems than this book if they didn't know what it was before they bought it. Maybe those are the people who are actually living under a rock?
Nita Gill
9. gillnit
As a librarian this makes me mad. At my library the criteria for selection includes - "Popular appeal, including, nature and frequency of patron requests". These books are definitely popular. My small library has 10 holds on our 2 copies of Fifty Shades of Grey.

If my community wants to read a book, no matter the subject, I purchase it.
10. Cupid
Considering the fact that libraries can use all the patronage that it can get since the advent of Wikipedia etc,they should thread lightly.Most libraries like the post offices are on the annihilation list,so carry the books if only to keep your jobs!..LIKE SERIOUSLY???!!
11. ChelseaMueller
It's disheartening to hear of a library -- the great equalizer -- dictacting what is and isn't OK for its patrons to read. What's even worse is the fact they had these books and then pulled them.
12. K. B.
Sadly, I live in this county and I am not surprised. Obviously they have never read any Bertrice Small or some of the author romance authors that are on their shelves - seriously, pull all of them or none. This is CENSORSHIP, pure and simple. They will be hearing from me!
Wendy the Super Librarian
13. SuperWendy
I once told a colleague of mine how elated I was that it's not "my job" to buy the political non-fiction books. Her response: "It's not so bad. The trick is to buy titles that represent both ends of the spectrum."

Fiction ain't all that different. Honestly, the quote from the library director makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. As a collection development librarian you MUST be neutral. You MUST leave your personal baggage at the door. You can't do this job otherwise. I've spent the last decade of my career banging my head up against librarians who don't want "this" or "that" at their library because it "doesn't check out." Eventually that way of thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you haven't bought any new science fiction books in 10 years? Guess what? People who like science fiction stopped bothering with you eons ago. It's hard to get people back to the library after you've ticked them off for that long.

I haven't read 50 Shades, and I'm unlikely too. Heck, it could be the biggest piece of crap ever printed on paper for all I know. But the minute those books landed all over the media and hit the bestseller lists? Guess what? It doesn't matter anymore if it's The Great American Novel or a giant turd. I often say that a book could get the worse critical reviews in the universe but if the author hits the Today Show all bets are off.
14. Lauren Harris
I actually wrote an entire blog post about this after a long discussion with one of my good friends, who is a librarian. I don't meant o link-drop, but if you're looking for an explanation that doesn't involve "it's porn", you can check out my post, explaining from the library's standpoint the top five reasons they may not carry 50 Shades.

But, to paraphrase:

1. It might be a flash in the pan.
2. Libraries have such low funding, many can't afford to buy two copies of books by authors with backlists and established fan bases.
3. The niche is already filled.
4. It's not reviewed by professional library review journals, such as Booklist.
5. It's a trilogy (which means many libraries will be obligated to purchase books 2 and 3 if they purchase the first one, even if it turns out to be a flash in the pan).

Libraries aren't in the business of buying books based on literary merit. Most likely, the reasons for the library to pull the book from its shelves are more along the lines of one of the above.
Tori Benson
Well, I sent an email to the director admonishing her for using her personal judgement in censoring a book without even obviously reading it.
Keira Soleore
16. KeiraSoleore
@LaurenHarris: But in this case, the library had already spent publix tax money buying multiple copies of the books, precisely because as @Wendy wrote above, the books have hit all the major bestselling lists.

Probably, the person buying didn't read the book, assuming that if so many people in the country are reading it, then the library as a public service agency should carry it. Once it was on their shelves, pulling it is pure censorship, because someone either in the management chain or a patron complained about it.
Keira Soleore
18. KeiraSoleore
The King County Library System, located in Seattle and reputed to be one of the best in the country, carries 230 print copies of the first book of the trilogy with 33 audiobooks on order. They have a total of 1543 holds on them. This right here is the evidence of the popular demand for the books and how a library is striving to meet the needs of the community.
19. lfacchini
OK, I was going to tell y'all to stop picking on FL, but I'm not from here originally so pick away! I live on the west coast of FL so I did a little checking in our library system and they have 36, 37 and 28 copies of the series respectively. This book is available at Target (as many of my friends have gotten it from there) and I saw it at Costco. Yes the book has some BDSM aspect, but it is a love story overall. Some close-minded person has decided this is doesn't suite their "criteria", then they better be checking all their books that closely. All they have done in stop access to people who depend on the library to provide reading material. No one says they have to check the books out, you don't want to read it, then don't look at it!
20. LindaT
I live in Brevard County and I'm completely horrified that "my" library has banned this book. My daughter and I have created a petition. If you'd like to sign it, here is the link:

Let's not set ourselves back! NO BANNED BOOKS!

Thanks so much.
21. KT Grant
They'll allow Lolita on the shelves for any patron, regardless of age, a book about pedophilia beween a 50 year old something man and a thirteen year old girl but not Fifty Shades?

How does that make any sense?
22. mjcaboose
I'll support them putting it back on the shelves as soon as they allow Penthouse Forum on the shelves right next to it. If you check the sex scenes in both, you'll find them about on par with one another. Forum might actually be the tamer of the two.

Side note to mothers reading this. If you hadn't heard the buzz about this book, didn't read in Entertainment Weekly that you were supposed to be supporting this "empowering erotica," what would your reaction be if you found your teenage daughter reading it? And then found out she'd picked it up at the library?

I dunno about you, but I'd be pretty peeved that my kid was reading porn she just checked out at the library.

This isn't Lolita, people, this is graphically described abusive sex. How many of you want your kids finding that and reading it while you think they're in the children's library checking out Goosebumps? Because believe me, they're looking for it. They saw it in Entertainment Weekly, too. We found copies of Blume's Forever when I was a teenager, the kids are going to find this. And read it. And get ideas.

Frankly, that last part wakes me up inthe middle of the night and I, for one, am glad that at least someone's thinking broadly.
23. jack sparrow
For the life of me I cannot understand...knowing the nature of this book & the so called effect it has on the reader,why on earth would anyone want to hold the thing in your hand after so many wommen have had their "fingers "all over it...from a heath issue alone it is an offensive book to check out of the library.If you want it that bad just wait a while & you you will find it in any garage sale or second hand store for "peanuts".
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