Libraries and the banning of Fifty Shades of Gray

Well, that didn’t take long.

Fifty Shades of Gray by EL James has been banned and pulled from library shelves in three US states. Apparently, it’s too ‘controversial’.

Read the HuffPost article about that here.

I work in a public library and when I was on desk duty the other day, a patron who had heard a lot about the book and the controversy surrounding it, wanted to reserve a copy as our Red Hot Reads copies (one week loan, no reserves, no renewals) were all out on loan. We already had seven reserves on our collection copies so we’ve ordered another to meet the extra demand because that’s what public libraries do — supply books for readers.

As the HuffPost article above explains, there are various justifications for buying or not buying an item for a library collection. The Library Council of New South Wales guidelines for Access to Information are here:

Points 1 and 3 are particularly noteworthy.

1. A public library has a role as an unbiased source of information and ideas, including online content. It must accept responsibility for providing free access to materials and information presenting, as far as possible, all points of view on current and historical issues, including controversial issues.

3. Library materials that have not been subject to Federal and State restriction or prohibition should not be excluded from a public library on moral, political, racial, religious, sexist, language, or other sensitive grounds alone. Nor should library materials be included on these grounds alone, whatever pressure may be brought to bear by individuals or groups.

I haven’t read Fifty Shades yet so although I’m aware of the contents, I’m not in a position to critique it. That said, I am glad we can buy it and put it on our shelves. Don’t you think readers can make up their own minds? As the patron said to me yesterday: “I can always bring the book back early if I hate it.”

What do you think about libraries banning Fifty Shades of Gray from their collections? And why has this book in particular, caused so much controversy?


EL James has a laugh at her own writing.

Ellen gets in on the act and reads for an audio version of Fifty Shades.

© Paula Grunseit 2012


  1. what states is that book banned in?

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