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Harford County Library did not censor 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Regarding your recent editorial on the Harford County Public Library's decision not to purchase the book "Fifty Shades of Grey," the library did not ban the book as you claimed ("Banned in Bel Air," June 2). We strongly oppose censorship of any type and are ardent supporters of intellectual freedom — a critical and essential role for a public library in any community.

The Harford County Public Library does not purchase every book that is published, and it follows our library board of trustees' materials selection policy. This policy details the criteria to be used in making purchasing decisions.

The library uses professional book reviews to support the decision to purchase a book, as well as when not to purchase. Each library system has its own board-approved selection policy.

The decision to not purchase "Fifty Shades of Grey" was made after careful review and research following our materials selection process. The professional reviews characterized the content of the book as pornography. Since the Harford County Public Library does not purchase pornography, we did not buy the printed edition of the book.

However, the Harford County Public Library does participate in the statewide library eBook consortium, and the title is available to our customers in eBook format. Maryland public library systems rotate selecting titles to add to the eBook collection based on their own board-approved policies.

In addition, the book 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 print edition of the book.

The decision to not purchase "Fifty Shades of Grey" was a result of our selection policy, not censorship. It would have been censorship if the library had declined to purchase the book even though it met our selection policy, but that was not the case here.

Harford County Public Library fully supports the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and its values of intellectual freedom and access to information.

Mary Hastler

The writer is director of the Harford County Public Library.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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