I was reading this story linked from LISNews about how the director of Brevard County Libraries decided to pull Fifty Shades of Grey from their collections because “…the library does not ‘collect porn’ and that the book did not ‘meet selection criteria.’” It seems that every time one of these issues comes up where a library decides that a book is sinful or obscene they always point at their collection policies and use them as a shield. That’s fine, but the thing is that these policies are only as good as the people practicing them and, usually, it’s really easy to poke holes in them.
So for a bit of an experiment I headed over to the Brevard County OPAC.
Now, keeping in mind that E. L. James’ book on sex, love, and chains is supposedly porn. That’s the very word the Brevard County Director used to describe it. Meanwhile, their collections also contain:
- Books by Zane, a popular author of urban based novels featuring lots of sex.
- Two pages of results for a keyword search for “erotica” including titles like The Mammoth Book of International Erotica and Delta of Venus.
- A good selection of titles by Shiloh Walker, well known for her Hunters series about vampires and sex.
- The complete Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A. N. Roquelaure, aka Anne Rice. This is sort of the epitome of sex and chains writing that’s very similar to the stories of E. L. James. Indeed it’s so similar that, if you’re going to pull one, you should pull the other because they’re telling the same stories.
Censorship never makes one look intelligent because there’s no way to apply it equally. There will always be exceptions that anyone with any intelligence can point at and ask “Well if X is bad and needed to be pulled then why do we have Y and Z? Aren’t those the same things?” Keep in mind, those results above are just me searching around and trying some run-of-the-mill things that I normally search for when this stuff comes up. Meanwhile, I wonder what kind of violent books and movies they have on their shelves? I’m sure there are more than enough to make all of this look even sillier.
Moreover it really disturbs me that the majority of the library’s customers seem to want this, yet the director decided that they will not fulfill that need because, I guess, the book conflicts with policy. See, I’m not a businessman, nor will I ever be, but it seems to me that one of the ways you keep the library in the minds of your users is to give them the things they ask for. I’m going to tell you, I’ve read Fifty Shades and I was marvelously unimpressed. There’s far better erotica out there but, dammit, this is what people want to read right now. And the director will force them to go elsewhere to get a copy. That’s okay, people remember being forced elsewhere and next time they want to read something, they’ll just go elsewhere first, since that’ll save them the time and hassle of dealing with the library.
It goes to show you that there’s only one way to win in the censorship game and, as it happens, it’s the same way to win a thermonuclear war — don’t play.