HuffPo has a quote from Don Walker, a spokesman for the library, who said, “it's semi-porgnographic.” The HuffPo article indicated that several other libraries in Florida had refused to purchase copies, but Brevard bought 19, then took them out of circulation, sending notices to the 200 or so people on a waiting list.
Library services director Cathy Schweinsberg told Florida Today: 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.”
Brevard County Public Libraries don't collect porn. But since there's no established definition of what porn is, particularly for a library, I took a closer look at their collection to ascertain the items within their collection that I knew included sexually explicit depictions.
They have over 150 different Longarm novels, and a rather healthy collection of romances, including titles by Lora Leigh, Laurell K. Hamilton, Joey W. Hill, and Emma Holly.
So how does 50 Shades of Grey qualify as porn, while those works do not?
Your guess is as good as mine.
There's a petition online featuring plenty of irritated folks telling the library not to censor what their patrons read, but if you'd like to write a letter to the Brevard County Library Director, Cathy Schweinsberg, her address is:
Library Services Director
Brevard County Public Library
308 Forrest Ave.
Cocoa, FL 32922
I don't know if any reasoned argument can sway the decision, but if you do write, please keep the argument reasonable and not attackernating, as tempting as it may be to say, 'OH COME ON NOW.' This is the letter I've sent her:
Dear Ms. Schweinsberg:
I'm writing in regards to your decision to remove 50 Shades of Grey by EL James from your circulating collection on the grounds that it is “porn.”
I am not a resident of Florida, but many, many women I know are, and we are all avid readers of romance. The danger in removing one book on the grounds that it is 'porn' is that you have not defined what it is that constitutes pornography. Is it because this book features scenes that are labeled as BDSM? Your library carries Exit to Eden by Anne Rice, which also features BDSM, as well as several other works by writers of erotic romantic fiction that include bondage and domination scenes.
Is it that 50 Shades of Grey features explicit sexuality? Many other books do as well, and not just romance. For example, I examined your catalog and found over 160 different books in the Longarm series. Are you familiar at all with Longarm? It's a popular western series known for extremely graphic descriptions of sex and violence. Here is a sampling of scenes from Longarm books:
“Longarm was able to enjoy Ramona longer, and wilder, as Carlota cuddled close to kiss Ramona passionately on the mouth and finger Longarm's ass as he long-donged her sister.”
– Longarm and the Deadly Dead Man
Located in your South Mainland Branch, currently checked out
“Longarm paid no attention to her giggling. He concentrated instead on feeling of sliding inside that sweet pussy and out again.”
– Longarm and the One-Armed Bandit
Located in your Titusville Branch, currently on shelf
I apologize for the frank and explicit nature of the excerpts included, but if you are going to remove a book based on it being “porn,” I wanted to make sure you were fully cognizant of the sexual content of several hundred other books in the Brevard County collection. If 50 Shades of Grey is porn, I'd posit that the Longarm series qualifies as well, though I remain unsure as to the specifics of your definitions.
Because 50 Shades of Grey is no more or less explicit than many other books in your collection, I conclude that pulling 50 Shades of Grey from circulation in your library is censorship. Worse, it is censorship based on an arbitrary and ill-fitting definition of pornography.
The fact that you carry books in your collection which are equally as sexually explicit means that you've removed 50 Shades of Grey on an inaccurate, ignorant, and ill-defined basis. If you're going to exclude all books with sexual content, you're going to remove many romances, works of literary fiction, and some mysteries and thrillers from your collection as well, to say nothing of Lady Chatterley's Lover and similar classics. If 50 Shades of Grey is pornography, then any book featuring sexual content may qualify. That might be more than half your circulating collection.
It should not matter what is in the books in your library. Neither censoring nor defining pornography are part of the job of a library, nor is it the responsibility of a library director to define what is and is not pornography, and to remove books that patrons have asked for. My understanding is that your job is to carry the books that your patrons are interested in reading, and to do so without judgment. I know there is a petition online regarding this matter already, with over 1500 signatures, my own among them.
Please reconsider your decision to remove 50 Shades of Grey from circulation. It was certainly not my favorite book that I've read, but I will defend the right of any person who wishes to read it, in your library, or anywhere else.
Thank you for your time,
Thanks to BigStock for the censorship image.