Pratt Library deletes, apologizes for tweet posing black kids in mock mugshots for banned books promotion

The Enoch Pratt Free Library removed and apologized for a tweet in which a West Baltimore branch had posed young black children in mock jail mugshots as a promotion for "Banned Books Week."

The national "Banned Books Week" event was launched in 1982 as an anti-censorship campaign celebrating the reading of books banned in some schools, libraries and bookstores, according to the Banned Books Week Coalition, which founded the effort.


The Pratt Library's post Monday included photos of four different children holding books and a black piece of paper that read "CAUGHT READING BANNED BOOKS" in front of a police lineup backdrop.

"We have #rebelreaders at the Edmondson Avenue Branch," the now-deleted tweet said. "What are you reading during #BannedBooksWeek?"

The photos were removed within minutes of being uploaded, when they were noticed by library management, Pratt spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell said.

"We understand that it offends people," McCorkell said. "We apologize. We were very distraught to see it."

Kelly Daly, 41, a medical receptionist who lives in West Baltimore near the Edmondson Avenue library branch, said her 13-year-old son's picture was inappropriately taken and posted by the library without her consent.

She first saw a screenshot of the tweet re-posted on Facebook when a family member tagged her in it, she said.

Daly was upset by the mock mugshot, which she called "very offensive."

"The picture, to me, looks like it's a mugshot in jail," Daly said. "Words can't express how I felt when I saw it."


While the photos appeared on the library system's official Twitter account, the mugshot promotion was used only at that branch, not across the system, McCorkell said. The library has added new internal oversight in response.

"Within hours, future measures were underway to ensure something like this never happens again," McCorkell said.

The mock mugshots appeared to copy a #rebelreaders-themed promotion that has been used at other libraries. Those that also used the idea included school libraries in Virginia Beach, Va., and Dallas, Texas.

The Pratt Library has been celebrating the "Banned Books Week," McCorkell emphasized, particularly in support of books such as "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "The Color Purple," which have been challenged because they promote social equality.

Whatever the reason, Daly said, the post was in poor taste.

"As a black female, I see my black son in a picture that looks like a mugshot," she said. "It looks like a stereotype. It doesn't look anything like a library picture, that anyone's having fun or learning something out of it."