May 13, 2018

Fifty Shades Returns to Brevard County Libraries

Fifty Shades of Grey coverFlorida’s Brevard County Public Libraries will return the bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey to its shelves effective immediately, Library Services Director Catherine Schweinsberg announced today. The book is already back in the catalog, and has 286 holds.

The 17-branch system had attracted widespread media attention by its decision, earlier this month, to pull the 19 copies of the book that individual branch directors had ordered because of its erotic content.

Objections arose from local resident Linda Tyndall, who started a petition that had 1921 signatures at press time; as well as the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

“It’s not going to go back on the shelf … the decision was made to take it off and that’s the decision we stand by,” Florida Today quoted Don Walker, county spokesman, as saying on May 10. But 19 days later Walker reversed himself, issuing a statement which reads, in part, “The decision is in response to public demand, but also comes after considerable review and consideration by the library system.…we have begun a review of our selection criteria and that review continues even as the decision has been made to supply the book in response to requests by county residents.”

Such a review, both of individual titles that are questioned and of the criteria in general, is part of the best practices recommended by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“We have always stood against censorship,” Schweinsberg said. “We have a long history of standing against censorship and that continues to be a priority for this library system.”

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Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. The library’s decision to violate its own selection policy came after the NCAC and ACLU (of FL) threatened lawsuit and provided false and misleading material, and omitted relevant law and information, that would have led the library to come to the opposite conclusion that the NCAC/ACLU wanted and stand by its decision to pull the bool. I’ll be writing about this soon. This is a win for propaganda, not for censorship. If the ALA does not come out with a statement supporting library selection policy and materials reconsideration policy in this Brevard County matter, in other words if it remains silent and allows this loss of local control based on propaganda to exist, I’ll be writing about that as well. Big hint: US v. ALA. Read it.

  2. Mark E Roberts says:

    A library selection policy that results in a given book not being purchased or even being removed from the shelves does not constitute censorship. Censorship refers only to government’s preventing the publication and/or distribution/sale of a publication, not the decision of librarians in public or private libraries to add or not to add a publication to its collection. If the book is in the market, it’s clearly not being censored. Most of the time that we hear the alarmist charge of censorship, censorship is not involved. But it’s such an easy bit of rhetorical demagoguery–that is, it works in gaining public attention–that people who should know better wave this bloody shirt anyway.

    • Bravo!

      US v. American Library Association, 539 US 194 (2003)

      “To fulfill their traditional missions, public libraries must have broad discretion to decide what material to provide to their patrons.”

      ” …libraries have discretion when making decisions regarding what to include in, and exclude from, their collections.”

      “Review for rational basis is probably the most that any court could conduct, owing to the myriad particular selections that might be ….”

      “Public libraries are indeed selective in what they acquire to place in their stacks, as they must be.”

      And I love this: “Most of the time that we hear the alarmist charge of censorship, censorship is not involved. But it’s such an easy bit of rhetorical demagoguery….” Reminds me of this, from Dan Gerstein, let alone what actually happened in Brevard County: “The … elites have convinced themselves that they are taking a stand against cultural tyranny. …. [T]he reality is that it is those who cry ‘Censorship!’ the loudest who are the ones trying to stifle speech and force their moral world-view on others.”

  3. As the purchaser of poptitles for an academic library, I see no reason to limit any books to anyone. The choice has and always should remain with the patron. He or she can decide what to read without a library deciding for them.