From Mary Hastler, Director, Harford County Public Library:
June 4, 2012
Dear Ms. Baker,
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts regarding the book, Fifty Shades of Grey. Harford County Public Library does not condone censorship or self-censorship of any definition. Harford County Public Library serves all of the Harford County community, and as a result its collections are diverse and reflect multiple viewpoints. The Library supports the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, Intellectual Freedom and access to these materials and strives to build, through the selection process, a strong and vibrant collection. We are strong advocates against censorship—a critical and essential role of a public library in any community.
The Library does not purchase every book that is published and follows a Library Board of Trustees approved Materials Selection Policy. This policy details criteria used in making purchasing decisions. Professional reviews are used to support purchasing decisions and also when not to purchase materials. The decision to not purchase the book was made after careful review and research following the materials selection process. The professional reviews characterized the content of Fifty Shades of Grey as pornography. The Harford County Public Library does not purchase pornography and therefore did not purchase the book in print.
Harford County Public Library participates in the statewide library eBook consortium and the book is available through eBook format to our customers Maryland public library systems rotate selecting titles to add to the eBook collection based on their own Board approved selection policy. In addition, it is available in print through the statewide reciprocal borrowing program and customers may place a request through the Harford County Public Library website using their library card. However, not all public libraries in Maryland own the book in print and the book will not be sent until it has been on the shelf at the loaning library for six months.
The purpose of following a Board approved Materials Selection Policy and process is to prevent any type of censorship and to build a collection, that as you state, “serves its mission of providing a broad diversity of points of view and subject matter.” The decision to not purchase the book is a result of selection—not censorship. The book, based on multiple and consistent reviews, did not meet the selection policy criteria. Censorship would be denying the purchase IF the book met the selection policy and criteria. I encourage you to visit any of the branches of the Harford County Public Library and explore the diverse collection.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns.
Mary Hastler, Director
Harford County Public Library