Public Weighs In On Florida County's Decision To Ban "Fifty Shades of Grey" From Its Libraries

A Florida county’s decision to ban the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy from its public libraries has prompted a variety of handwritten notes, phone messages, and e-mails from individuals either ridiculing the move or offering earnest support.

In response to an open records request, Brevard County officials released correspondence sent and received by library officials about the best-selling erotic novels. The ban was announced in an April 30 e-mail sent to library workers by Catherine Schweinsberg, director of Brevard County Libraries.

After news of Schweinsberg’s decision got out, she began receiving notes of support. Calling the book ban a “brave act,” one woman (who included a Ziggy cartoon with her handwritten note) wrote that “50 Shades of Grey is not the work of God.” A “concerned grandmother” called in to advise Schweinsberg not to be swayed by public opinion. A couple saluted the library boss for “keeping porn out of our libraries.” In an e-mail, a woman noted that if people wanted to read “trashy books,” they should go to Barnes and Noble, adding that she did not want tax dollars spent on such volumes. The Rev. and Mrs. David Cooper called in to salute Schweinsberg for protecting the “minds of children & adults.” And a woman who described herself as “just a Mother and Grandmother” who was not a prude remarked that literature like “50 Shades of Grey” glorifies “unhealthy behavior.”

Other correspondents were not as charitable. One wondered when the county’s “next book burning festival will be held,” adding that they “have a few porno books to burn: like the book of Genesis.” A Melbourne, Florida man, 72, wrote Schweinsberg to say he was opposed to the ban since “most of the interest in the book comes from the over-50 gals and they are perfectly able to decide for themselves.” “I know Florida is backwards,” a 59-year-old Orlando woman wrote, “but damn this is ridiculous. Erotica? Have you ever read a Silhouette or Harlequin Romance?” An Arizona photographer, 33, criticized the county’s “subjective interpretation of porn,” adding that, “You even carry Mein Kampf, which promotes the extermination of a race, yet you ban a love book?” And an Ohio man called on Schweinsberg to recognize that, as a government employee, her “public trust” included providing “a variety of materials to allow people to broaden their horizons and grow their perspective.”

The correspondence also reveals that about 200 people were on the Brevard library system’s waiting list for “Fifty Shades of Grey”  when the book was yanked from shelves.