Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Book to stay in city’s libraries


Tuscaloosa may be in the heart of the Bible Belt, but for now, at least, the city’s libraries intend to keep a nationwide topic of controversy on their bookshelves.

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” book one of a trilogy by E.L. James and a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of the relationship between recent college graduate Ana Steele and manipulative businessman Christian Grey while detailing erotic scenes featuring bondage and sadism.  Libraries in Wisconsin, Florida and Georgia have either pulled the book from their shelves after receiving complaints from patrons or chosen not to purchase the work altogether, but Tuscaloosa shows no signs of taking similar actions.

Cay Hohmeister, director of the Leon County Public Library in Florida, said he decided not to purchase the books for the county’s library patrons.

“We have a number of criteria that we use that determines the quality of the material,” Hohmeister said. “We can only buy a small portion of books, and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ didn’t meet our selection material.”

The Tuscaloosa Public Library, though, is letting the public decide for themselves whether to read the critically acclaimed romance erotica.

“We try to bring in material for the entire community,” said Vince Bellofatto, director of public relations and communications at Tuscaloosa Public Library. “Our thought is that we don’t want to censor something and not give someone the opportunity because then we are deciding what people should read.”

There are currently nine copies of the book in circulation in Tuscaloosa public libraries and 23 people on the waiting list. Bellofatto said there have been no complaints, and they have no plans of removing the book from shelves.

Tuscaloosa libraries abide by American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, as do most libraries in the United States. The first article emphasizes the importance of variety.

“Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” the article states.

The Tuscaloosa public libraries support ALA’s idea of the freedom to read. The rights explained by the First Amendment state it is the libraries’ job to provide a range of material for their patrons and let them decide to view or not view the material.

“I’ve been here five years, and we’ve never officially had a book pulled; we’ve had two evaluations, but they were reviewed, and it stayed in our system,” Bellofatto said.

The book “Sandpiper” by Ellen Wittlinger was reviewed in 2007 after a high school student refused to return the book back to Brookwood High School because of its graphic nature.

ALA holds Banned Books Week (BBW) the last week of every September to draw attention to the benefits of free access of information and highlights the harms of censorship in the attempted banning of books.

University libraries also abide by the ALA’s guidelines, governing censorship and intellectual freedom.

“Collection development librarians are guided by these principles of intellectual freedom, rather than political, religious or personal biases in making selection decisions,” said Donna Adcock, director of public relations for The University of Alabama Libraries. “The libraries do not withdraw items simply because they are controversial.  Withdrawal of items typically occurs when a book or item has been damaged or if there are duplicate materials in the collection that are no longer needed.”

Adcock said ‘50 Shades of Grey’ falls into the category of romance novel and popular reading, and University Libraries do not normally acquire materials in those categories unless specifically requested to do so by a faculty member for research purposes.

Some students are choosing not to read the book because of the negative reviews it has been receiving.

Peyton Moss, a junior majoring in English, decided not to read the book because of what her friends said about the book.

“I’ve heard things like, ‘The books are for lonely housewives who are looking to fulfill some sort of sexual fantasy they lack,’ kind of mocking them in the same way people mock Twilight moms,” Moss said.

Whether this trilogy appeals to students or an older audience, members of Tuscaloosa libraries will continue to be able to read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” provided that they sign up on the waitlist.

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