Fifty Shades of Censorship

Recently, a librarian posted a listserv question asking what to do about children and teens checking out Fifty Shades of Grey and other erotic works. Her library’s solution was to put Fifty Shades in the workroom whdoor2ere patrons have to ask for it, but now they’re wondering what to do about other, similar books. The question was posed, “Where is the line drawn between censorship and being interactive with patrons?”

According to ALA’s Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A, “Censorship occurs when expressive materials, like books, magazines, films and videos, or works of art, are removed or kept from public access.” I think that putting a book, any book, in the workroom and requiring patrons to ask for it is censorship. What do you think?

Amanda Goldson for the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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One Response to Fifty Shades of Censorship

  1. Danielle says:

    They say in library school that this is a slippery slope. I agree, there is a little bit of grease on that slope. If you start telling children what they can have access to, it becomes difficult to decide who can limit access and what standards should be used.

    Do you know what’s also a slippery slope? Handing children graphic pornographic DVDs. Take this to its logical conclusion. 50 Shades of Gray is considered by most to be soft porn. Until recently, most libraries did not stock pornography. It had no redeeming value and wasn’t something worthwhile to be purchased with tax payer dollars. But the public requested this book and libraries satisfied the demands of their tax-paying public. What happens when a portion of the tax-paying public starts requesting graphic pornographic DVDs? Will libraries start stocking smut because they can’t judge and they can’t censor? And when they’ve stocked these, will librarians blindly check these out to children who think it looks interesting?

    I certainly hope not. A line does need to be drawn somewhere. No, the library should not act in loco parentis. But is it our responsibility to be the smut-dispenser for children? I have not read 50 Shades, but I would venture to say that greater than 95% of adults who have read these books would not find them appropriate for children. There is a reason that children can’t drive until they’re 16, can’t smoke until they’re 18, can’t drink until they’re 21 and rely on their parents–they are still growing in their maturity.

    Of course, children can find plenty of smut on their own. But is it really the place of the library to feed these desires? I think not.

    On that note, I think many libraries are a bit hypocritical. On the one hand, they say, “Oh, we can’t tell this child he can’t check out this book. That’s the parents’ responsibility and we wouldn’t want to take that away.” While on the other hand, when parents wants to know what has been checked out on their child’s card, then the tune becomes, “Oh, we’re bastions of privacy rights. There’s no way we can share this information with anyone but the cardholder.” Do we want to give parents the power to parent and oversee their children’s reading or do we not?

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