Is ‘50 Shades of Grey’ too hot for Gwinnett County?

All 15 branches of  the Gwinnett County library system will not carry “50 Shades of Grey,” the so-called mom porn book that Saturday Night Live thought would be a great Mother’s Day present. (See the video above.)

From The Associated Press:

“We do not collect erotica at Gwinnett County Public Library. That’s part of our materials management collection policy. So, E L James’ three books in the trilogy fit that description,” said Deborah George, the county library’s director of materials management.

“A copy of “Fifty Shades” sits on George’s cluttered desk. Wedged in it are nearly a dozen yellow sticky notes at various pages of sultriness.”

Multiple states, including Florida and Georgia, have libraries “pulling the racy romance trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” from shelves or deciding not to order the bestseller at all, saying it’s too steamy or too poorly written.”

So why does that matter?

From the AP:

“Even in the age of e-books and tablets, banning a book from a public library still carries weight because libraries still play such a vital role in providing people access to books.”

” ‘When a book is removed from the shelf, folks who can’t afford a Nook or a Kindle, the book is no longer available to them,’ said Deborah Caldwell Stone, the deputy director of the American Library Association’s office for intellectual freedom.”

So what’s so questionable in the book?

From AP:

“In a nutshell, here’s the plot: Anastasia Steele, a virgin who has just graduated college, meets Christian Grey, a rich and impeccably handsome young entrepreneur. Grey shows Steele his “playroom,” full of whips, ropes and sex toys, and asks her to sign a contract to be his “submissive” sex partner. Before Steele signs, the pair romp mostly around Seattle — where the novel is set — performing a stunning array of erotic activities. As the sex gets more daring and Steele’s emotions more tangled, drama ensues.

Here’s one of the milder excerpts from the book:

“But last night, in the playroom, you…” he trails off.

“I do it for you, Christian, because you need it. I don’t. You didn’t hurt me last night. That was in a different context, and I can rationalize that internally, and I trust you. But when you want to punish me, I worry that you’ll hurt me.

His grey eyes blaze like a turbulent storm. Time moves, and expands and slips away before he answers softly.

“I want to hurt you. But not beyond anything that you couldn’t take…”

So what does the publisher say?

From AP:

“Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Random House, said Brevard County is engaging in censorship by taking the book off the shelves.

“We believe the Brevard County Public Library System is indulging in an act of censorship, and essentially is saying to library patrons: ‘We will judge what you can read,’” Bogaards wrote in an email.

Caldwell Stone said other libraries are in a grey area — no pun intended.

“All libraries have to make these kinds of decisions,” Caldwell Stone said. “It’s so hard to judge the decision to acquire or not acquire the book.”

To be sure, most major libraries in Florida and across the country are carrying the novel. The Pinellas County, Fla., library system has 30 copies and more than 650 people on a waiting list. Broward County carries 26 copies and has more than 730 people waiting.”

So should Gwinnett County and other libraries carry this book? What about others like it?

Have you read the book? What did you think? Are you hoping for it for Mother’s Day?

99 comments Add your comment


May 10th, 2012
12:05 pm

um, they aren’t banning the book. You are free to go and purchase the book at your leisure. You shouldn’t expect to be entitled to everything free of charge.

Statistics say whatever your agenda wants them to say...

May 10th, 2012
12:14 pm

Hey, TWG – what’s up with putting up a new topic about world hunger and then not letting us comment?


May 10th, 2012
12:33 pm

Who defines what constitutes “erotica”? Are the librarians reading every book that comes into the library to determine how “sultry” any sex scenes might be? Or, as I suspect, is this series being singled out simply because of the publicity it’s received?

Don’t get me wrong. I think the books are trash, not because of the graphic sex but because they’re badly written and take a very unhealthy approach to sexuality. But banning books is the wrong way to go about things, especially for libraries, who need all the patrons and support they can get these days.


May 10th, 2012
12:49 pm

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not given the atmosphere in Gwinnett County. What a bunch of hypocrites.


May 10th, 2012
12:59 pm

Please explain to me how it is censorship for a library to decide something is not appropriate for its shelves if the item is readily available through some other distribution outlet?

Besides, why is this big news?! How many people even heard of the book until now? I’m sure the publishers and the author are laughing all the way to the bank, since the negatively publicity will surely boost sales.

And, TWG doesn't...

May 10th, 2012
1:03 pm

…even live in Gwinnett County at this time…

the truth

May 10th, 2012
1:06 pm

redhousecat…the definition of ban: to prohibit especially by legal means ; also : to prohibit the use, performance, or distribution of Since the library system is prohibiting the distribution of this book, they are BANNING the book from the library. That is the reason for the article. Unfortunately you have the ability to vote.
Fortunately for the library system I do not have authority over them. I would go one step further and just ban the entire library system. If you are not going to have a system that provides 100% to the public, then don’t have the system.

I read Tape

May 10th, 2012
1:06 pm

Hey why not, Is it hard to read books on tape? Do you rewind or just let it pile up next to you?


May 10th, 2012
1:19 pm

I had never heard of this book but the 16 year old in me is now curious to see if my library has it or if I can order through the PINES network. As others have said, the carry the books by Zane and that is some pretty racy stuff.


May 10th, 2012
1:28 pm

Wow….nothing but a ripoff of the classic “The Story of O” and everyone is acting like it’s something new and original.

I mean, between movies and now books, you can’t find an original story about ANYTHING anymore!


May 10th, 2012
1:38 pm

Well, I disagree with banning the book, but would encourage people to go buy it at a bookstore except WAIT, we don’t have real bookstores anymore except for Barnes and Noble. :(


May 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

I’m not for banning books. But I’m glad they won’t shelve it. There are plenty of books with romantic sex in them. And they’re on the shelves.

Marie Dillon

May 10th, 2012
1:44 pm

I though I would check out the book because Doctor Oz recommended it to help couples so I tried reading it. I bought all three and read them in less than 2 weeks and loved them all. If you dont like them then be a adult and dont read them. Simple as that. Dont tell me what I can and cannot read.


May 10th, 2012
1:57 pm

You know, I was all for the ban until someone reminded me that romance books are still on the shelves. Those romance books are just as bad. I say the libraries should keep them.


May 10th, 2012
1:58 pm

Censorship is wrong on any level.

I don’t like that my tax dollars would be going to a government entity that believes it has the ability to tell me what is intellectually good for me and what is not. I’m an adult. If I don’t want to read the book…I won’t.


May 10th, 2012
2:02 pm

Yet, Gwinnett carries “Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex”, edited by Erica Jong, with chapeters such as “A F_____ Miracle” and “C__k of My Dreams”?


Get over yourself, Deb. And pick up new D-cells on the way home tonight.

K's Mom

May 10th, 2012
2:09 pm

I read the trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed the story (believe me there is one in with the sex). I purchased my copies. I think book banning is bad, so I do not agree with Gwinnett County’s decision. I love the righteous indignation of those who have not read the books, but would not because of the sex. I got to where I skimmed those parts because the story was exciting. Read them or don’t, but do not ban them.


May 10th, 2012
2:10 pm

@DS, if the book follows the normal pattern of how books are selected by public libraries (i.e. Kirkus and the Library Journal don’t absolutely hate it), and a public library chooses not to purchase it based on a subjective criteria such as political view or morality then it is censoring the material.

I would have a much smaller problem with Wal-Mart or Amazon refusing to sell a book than a library refusing to carry it. Those are private entities, and they can choose what they want to sell. Public libraries on the other hand are government entities. The government has absolutely no right to tell the adult public what it considers to be appropriate.


May 10th, 2012
2:33 pm

I R3@d this…. then…. i went poop in my pants….i’m stinky now


May 10th, 2012
2:44 pm

Here’s an incredible idea. Let’s drop public libraries. This way people who want knowledge will have to work for it. Nothing is free. No more free stuff. Stop it. Why should I pay for your books? S’not right.


May 10th, 2012
2:47 pm

This book was so poorly written, I don’t understand why anyone would buy or want it in our public libraries. And for those that thinks it’s the new best thing obviously have never seen porn. All the facts in that book have been out for years. Now a person with NO writing skills is getting rich for stealing porn facts and putting them on paper. Just wish I’d thought of it first.


May 10th, 2012
2:54 pm

I will not be reading the book but I sure hope they make movie out of it starring Charlize Theron.

Joshua Barlowe

May 10th, 2012
3:23 pm

Tax payers shouldn’t pay for free porn for county libraries. Porn is porn – you can try to call it literature if you want – but people aren’t stupid.


May 10th, 2012
3:30 pm

I seen lots of freaky books in the Gwinnett Library, what differ’s about this book?


May 10th, 2012
3:34 pm

Since no one is happy either way, let’s go back to libraries supporting themselves with lending fees, instead of my taxes. I’ll be happy that I’m not supporting porn, and those who think they’re entitled to every book ever written, paid for with my tax money, can put their money where their mouth is and pay lending fees to read whatever their heart (or whatever) desires.

Frank Gerber

May 10th, 2012
3:53 pm

Libraries are so 20th century.


May 10th, 2012
3:56 pm

I haven’t read this trilogy (yet), but I will at some point..

@Anybody ever read..Yes, I have read just about all of Stuart Woods books..He does have a lot of graphic sex..I love Stone Barrington..As others have pointed out, a lot of the “regular” romance books have some pretty steamy sex scenes..

@Meg..Why would a person wanting to get this book from a library versus buying it be a cheapo? Our tax money pays for a lot of crap (IMO) and trust me, I would much rather my tax dollars pay for people to read than a lot of other things that are paid for now…

Former Gwinnetian

May 10th, 2012
4:17 pm

From what I saw the last time I drove around Gwinnett – This book being present or not being present in your library is very much the least of your problems out there…focus on some real issues…


May 10th, 2012
4:20 pm

As a public library worker, I find it stupid that someone would refuse to order a series of books that will increase their stats. The characters of the books are consenting adults, and the book would be in the adult side of the library. If you don’t want to read it, leave it on the shelf.


May 10th, 2012
4:53 pm

To MomsRule, can I borrow the books when your done? I don’t think there should be censorship of any book. This a free country after all. Where will it end? I think it should be limited to adults only and not available to kids. It is a slippery slope, my friend.

Not Good

May 10th, 2012
5:30 pm

I think many gwinnett husbands would benefit from their wives reading a BDSM novel. As of right now, where compared with gay guys playing vampires.

Not Good

May 10th, 2012
5:33 pm


May 10th, 2012
5:41 pm

What’s offensive about 50 Shades of Grey isn’t the subject matter, but rather how poorly it is written. That it has found this unexpected success is even more an outrage.


May 10th, 2012
6:24 pm

I guess I’m going to read it to see what all the hoopla is about! I’ve read porn and other erotica -and I read an excerpt in Barnes and Noble the other day, and it was, uh, titillating! I think it’s really dumb for libraries not to carry it. The people making the decisions probably need a good bang!


May 10th, 2012
6:31 pm

I would not expect anything less from a backwards state like GA…

New Summer

May 10th, 2012
6:52 pm

@motherjanegoose ……. you will not read the book ? sounds weak minded and ignorant

Fresh Spring

May 10th, 2012
7:04 pm

@motherjanegoose ….. so are you criticizing libraries as a whole ? I don’t understand the statement. I don’t think you are. Just the practice of some adults ditching their kids there. That is awful. Who would do that ? Eeeek.


May 10th, 2012
8:23 pm

Any comments from Fulton County on this? I checked their website, and although it is available as an eBook, there is no paper book. The whole point of a library is that you can borrow books for free. It is one of the great pillars of our democracy — that you don’t need to be a person of means to be able to read books. If it is only available in electronic form that leaves many people out. Sure, this is not great literature, but Gwinnett just looks foolish here. I haven’t read the book, but clearly, a lot of people in this country have or would like to. The people who are saying “just buy it” sound out of touch as to how others may live. Reading the book you would like to read should not just be the pastime of the wealthy. And oftentimes, if someone is drawn to read with this book, they might decide to read other books with more substance. Alas, not for Gwinnett County residents.


May 10th, 2012
8:42 pm

The future of the Gwinnett libraries are rows of Rush Limbaugh books, one token Bible since they don’t actually read it, just talk a lot about it, and nary a science book in sight.


May 10th, 2012
10:09 pm

You can still get it at the library if you use the online “WorldCat” system, they will ship it to your library fro the nearest available library system in the US. It doesn’t matter if your branch carries it or not.


May 10th, 2012
11:23 pm

Whatever you may think of these books, they currently hold the top three spots on the NY Times fiction bestseller list. Are there any other books that popular that the library does not stock? My guess is no.

And they don’t stock erotica? Have you looked at the books in the romance section??


May 10th, 2012
11:36 pm

“From what I saw the last time I drove around Gwinnett – This book being present or not being present in your library is very much the least of your problems out there…focus on some real issues”

@Former Gwinettian, ditto.


May 11th, 2012
12:33 am

It would be one thing if Gwinnett Libraries actually purchased copies of the majority of books published and was just choosing to not purchase this one. That is not the case. Decisions are made every day at the library about what to put on the shelves or not. The shelf space is limited and they have policies in place to try to provide a broad range of materials to the public. I don’t agree with some of their policies that take books off the shelf after a certain period of time but that is their policy and so we live with it. If I want to change that policy, I need to contact the board about it.

The same is true here. This is just one book out of many that they have chosen to not purchase. I’m sure there are dozens or even higher numbers of other books published around the same time that were not purchased either. Considering the number they would have to purchase in order to stock it correctly on their shelves, I think it is a good use of my money for them to choose to not purchase it. There are so many others I wish they would purchase that I really prefer this one not be on the list no matter what it has or doesn’t have in it.


May 11th, 2012
8:39 am

It’s a LIBRARY for crying out loud! They are supposed to carry all works for their patrons to CHOOSE from. If they carry any titles by the author Zane, then they are being silly. Zane’s works are by far more graphic and steamy than James’ series.


May 11th, 2012
9:05 am

I love libraries! I love books; however, there are lots of books in the library that I will not be reading.

Thousands of people could attest that weak minded and ignorant are two words that do not typically describe me. Some folks here know it too. Everyone has an opinion but validating that opinion is not the same as having one IMHO.

FYI…Costco has multiple copies of this book. I saw them yesterday, while I selected a different new release. There are lots of books at Costco that I would not read but there are also lots of books that I plan to read, over the summer.

I almost never criticize libraries…I criticize parents nearly every week…many of them baffle me!


May 11th, 2012
4:28 pm

I have read all three books, and found them to be wildly overrated. There is no plot, the characters are flat and one dimensional, and I don’t even feel that it is really all that “shocking”. All in all, a waste of my time and money. That said, no one has the right to dictate to me what I can and can not read. The Bill of Rights protects Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, and as a government funded entity, Gwinnett County should not be able to deny me that right. Shame on Georgia.


May 12th, 2012
7:53 am

The library does not carry Zane either. Do a little fact checking.


May 13th, 2012
8:29 pm

Public libraries have become little more than free benefits for the far too cheap in our society. Free internet, free CDs, free DVDs, free best selling books, etc. While I personally believe absolutely that a competitive system of private libraries would do a superior job than the government system, at least lets target the resources appropriately. There is no lack of supply of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. at retail establishments. Massive competition on the internet has driven prices low enough for anyone and just exactly when did owning a CD, DVD, book, etc. become a right.

If “public” libraries are to exist, why can they not focus on all the books that are extremely difficult for most folks to gain access to? Books for research, older books, larger, expensive books. If these libraries are to serve a purpose, then decide what that is and stick to it.

I do not think that the general public (most of whom do not frequent the public libraries), really wishes their tax dollars to be used to provide free internet, CDs, DVDs, and current best sellers to folks who likely have more than enough money to pay for them themselves.

It is not that amazing that a free pile of food will attract a giant hord of parasites. It is appalling that the parasites are now complaining about the food choices.

The old saying “beggers can’t be choosers” certainly comes to mind.

You want the book – go out and pay for it with your own damn money!


May 14th, 2012
3:58 pm

Censorship is never good.