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County library has long waiting list for controversial '50 Shades' books

While a nearby library system has refused to carry the immensely popular book, "Fifty Shades of Grey," and its two sequels, readers in Howard County are still able to check the books out from their local libraries.

As long as they don't mind waiting.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 968 active requests in Howard County for the first book in the trilogy, "Fifty Shades of Grey," of which the system carries 100 copies across its six branches.

The second book, "Fifty Shades Darker" has 231 requests for 25 copies. There are 159 requests for the final book in the trilogy, "Fifty Shades Freed," of which the system has 25 copies.

The library system carries the book in print and ebook form, and has audio books on order, said Christie Lassen, public relations director for the library system.

She said the waiting lists for the books were unusually long.

The books, written by British author E.L. James, have experienced massive popularity since their United States publications earlier this year. All three currently sit in the top three spots on the New York Times bestsellers' list for combined print and ebook sales.

The books' overt sexual subject matter has driven the popularity — as well as controversy. According to the first book's synopsis on James's website, the story follows literature student Anastasia Steele, who begins a relationship with entrepreneur Christian Grey, who is "beautiful, brilliant and intimidating ... when the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey's secrets and explores her own dark desires."

The Harford County Public Library System is not carrying the books, claiming their contents constitute pornography. Baltimore County libraries, however, are carrying the books, as are libraries in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

The books were banned in Brevard County libraries in Florida in early May, but were recently returned to the shelves after a public outcry. Three states, Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia, have libraries that have banned the books.

The Howard library system has no plans to stop carrying the books, Lassen said: They are already in the library's collection, and there they will stay.

The library system has 15 qualifications for selecting books, Lassen said, including authority from the publisher or producer, the library's budget, the importance of the author, how the work will fit in to the library's collection, the literary merit of the work and potential or known use of the patrons.

"Our decisions are made on the basis of our selectors' judgment and expertise," Lassen said. "They rely on professional recommendations, reviews and critical acclaim. We take all those factors into account, and we try to make the work available is an many forms as possible."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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