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Speak Out: Should ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Be Offered At Libraries?

One Maryland library said the book was 'pornography.'

Looking to borrow a copy of the erotic thriller, Fifty Shades of Grey, the book at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List?

You can get it at the Howard County Library System, but expect a long, long wait; it's on hold.

And at a few libraries in Maryland, you won't even find the book, which recently sold its 10 millionth copy.

Harford County Public Libraries are declining to offer the book by author E.L. James, or the entire trilogy for that matter, reports ExploreHarford.com, with one librarian calling the book “pornography."

"In the case of '50 Shades of Grey,' we read mainstream reviews that characterized the content as pornography," Jennifer Ralston, HCPL materials management administrator, wrote in an e-mail to Explore Harford Tuesday. "The library does not purchase pornography, and we therefore did not purchase the book."

Here's how "Rachel" a married lawyer from New Jersey who declined to give her last name to ABC News, described her reactions to the book:

"I loved the book -- all three," Rachel told ABC News. "But this is pretty hard-core porn. ... The first book is very, very graphic and harsh with a lot of S & M – and quite frankly, did not do it for me. I would never try anything with pain."

Fifty Shades of Grey, which has also been referred to as “mommy-porn” is offered at most other county libraries in the region, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties, according to a Patch review of online library records.

And the book is on hold at each of the libraries, according to the Patch review.

Baltimore County, for example, has 1,160 requests for the book, which is part of a trilogy, and is about a relationship between a student and her older lover.

That is the most in recent memory in the Baltimore County Public Library system, said Jamie Watson, collection development coordinator.

Watson said the library received its first request for the book in February or March, when it was then self-published and there was only limited availability on Amazon.

A small Australian press originally published the novels, which went viral. The rights to the books were then purchased by Vintage Books, ABC News reported. There is also a movie in the works.

From February, the popularity has grown at a constant rate for Baltimore County readers—even more so than the Twilight and Harry Potter books, where popularity ebbed and flowed, Watson said.

“With this, from the moment it hit when we couldn’t get copies, the holds grew and grew and grew, and there’s no tapering off,” she said. Over the course of time [other] books may have more holds, but none this hard all at once. We had 100 more holds this week than last week.”

She said the library will continue to offer the book, even though it’s controversial.

“With this, someone might find it controversial--what I know is over 1,000 people want to read it, and that’s a big chunk of people,” she said. “We serve all the citizens of Baltimore County. There are certainly things in any library that some people are going to like reading and other people aren’t going to like reading.”

Weigh in below: Should libraries offer Fifty Shades of Grey?

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Joe B June 01, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Can you put Hustler and Playboy in the library? if not then these books shouldn't be there either. Stop being cheap...if you want to read the book buy it or borrow it from a friend who bought the book. But don't expect my money to go to buying the book for you.
Michaelwritescode June 01, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Being a guy with an affinity for technology I would be inclined to agree with you but after having actually gone to Columbia's libraries in search of literature with a teacher friend I found them to be very populated by the area's children and people who might otherwise not have reliable access to internet service or a computer. You'd be surprised.
MG42 June 01, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Yes, libraries are used as unlicensed day care centers by the poor.
Danna Walker June 02, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I'm a digital journalist and I would be crushed if libraries disappeared. They are often vibrant places full of technology and interesting discourse. They are also our repositories for research, much of which is based on non-digital materials. Yes, those still exist!
michelle June 04, 2012 at 10:58 AM
The Library of Congress (our nation's oldest federal cultural institution that serves as the research arm of Congress) has Playboy in its collection *and* they even have it in Braille. Check out catalog.loc.gov. The American Library Association, has a Library Bill of Rights where "Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment". If readers want to be enlightened by this book or any book, why not? Also, anyone can challenge a book at any time. You only need to talk to a librarian to put in a challenge request. However, just like Roux's Pal said, if someone doesn't want to read it, that's their own choice.

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