February 24, 2018

CA Library Director Orders Removal of Free Magazine’s “Sexuality” Issue

By LJ Staff

HopeDanceThe director of the San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA ordered the removal and recycling of hundreds of copies of the bimonthly HopeDance magazine (motto: "Radical Solutions Inspiring Hope"), which is regularly stacked on the library’s free newspaper shelves. "This particular issue seems to be dedicated to sex, including some graphical illustrations," Brian Reynolds wrote in an email to staffers. "I am not comfortable having this particular issue of the magazine on our free shelves. Please remove this one issue and recycle it." While the cover painting is explicit, and there are some sexual graphics, the magazine includes articles like "Lustful or Orgasmic Farming," in which the writer muses on "the most incredible expressions of passion and erotic possibility as folks are faced with choosing a Charenntais or Petit Gris melon." Reynolds told LJ, "There are probably materials with sexual content scattered throughout the collection, but in this case, they’re stacked in the entrances, and this is the height of summer reading program. It wasn’t easy or convenient to hide it behind the desk." He described public response as "50/50."

The publisher, Bob Banner, told LJ he would ask the library for compensation, since he could have distributed the copies elsewhere. He said a librarian had suggested to him that this was a teaching moment, and that they planned to put together a DVD with information about the controversy, including the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read policy. In a letter to the Tribune, Banner scoffed at the newspaper’s suggestion that he should have warned the library about the issue, given that the newspaper had printed the cover of the magazine as well. "Did you ask permission from the head librarian to see if you could put YOUR issue that contained a nude photo on YOUR front cover at the libraries throughout the county?" He also pointed to an Utne Reader comment on the issue: "By and large, pieces avoid mining for shock value."