MELBOURNE, Florida — In a letter (see below) to the Director of Library Services Cathy Schweinsberg, The National Coalition Against Censorship, a broad national coalition of groups dedicated to defending free speech and the freedom to read headquartered in New York, N.Y., expressed its concern about the removal of E.L. James’ runaway bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, from the Public Libraries in Brevard County, Florida and urged the library to honor its constitutional obligations and return the books to the shelves immediately.
In the letter, NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin called claims that the book’s sexually explicit content doesn’t “meet [the library’s] selection criteria” unpersuasive. The book had been selected by the library and subsequently removed. “Simply calling the action “selection” does not shield it from criticism,” Bertin added, citing an article by Professor Lester Asheim , Former Director of the American Library Association’s International Relations Office, which discusses the differences between book selection and censorship.
The Brevard County Library System carries many contemporary “romance” and “erotica” in addition to many “classic” holdings that were once considered “pornographic” and even “obscene,” including Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and Lolita. The Coalition says that regardless of its literary merit, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, a national best-seller, fully justifies its place on library shelves.
“Removal of the book is an affront to library patrons, who have a First Amendment right to make their own decisions about what to read,” Bertin wrote. The letter noted that as public officials, library administrators are barred from removing materials merely because they dislike them or find them offensive. The letter cited a landmark 1943 Supreme Court case, Justice Jackson stated, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”
The next meeting of the Brevard County Library Advisory Board is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at the Titusville Public Library, 2121 South Hopkins Avenue., Titusville, Florida.
While the issue of the banned book Fifty Shades of Grey is not specifically on the agenda, public comments are regularly scheduled to take place during the meeting. In fact, the minutes from the Board’s February 15, 2012 meeting indicates that there had been public discussion regarding book censorship, but the minutes do not elaborate on what was discussed during that topic.
Ironically, libraries in Brevard County often display in their lobby books that had been previously banned during banned book week which takes place in September.
Letter to Brevard County Library Re: 50 Shades of Grey ban