Maybe it’s because I learned about sex from books (albeit books provided by my parents.) Perhaps it’s because I dislike the idea of telling anyone they “can’t read” anything. For whatever reason I have a huge block against libraries censoring their titles. I realise that libraries have limited budgets and can’t buy every book, and I certainly think if the choice is between a book that one patron wants to read and a book that seventy-five patrons want to read that the library has to–most of the time–go with the more demanded text.
I’m starting, though, to have a problem, and that problem centers around the current trends of erotica and ebooks. Not that ebooks are a trend in and of themselves, but the ways in which people are united with ebooks is still gelling. Eighteen months from now as e-book distribution firms up I think issues such as this one will be less and less of a deal. Yet as it stands right now, the ways of uniting ebook with consumer are up for grabs.
Not a lot of folks realise you can get ebooks through the local library with the help of Overdrive.com. But you can. And, thanks to the current acquisitions manager at the Nashville Public Library you can get an awful lot of erotic fiction. Which brings me to both my point and my source of internal conflict.
I want all books to be available through the library. I want them available to all patrons. But I don’t know that I think they need to be seen by all patrons. I mentor a lot of young writers, all of whom I encourage to make frequent use of the library system. Frankly, though, I no longer feel comfortable telling them to browse the library for ebooks to download to the snazzy new Kindle Fires they got for Christmas from Grandma.
Last night while browsing the ebook fiction section on my ipad I got several pieces of risque cover art that moved well beyond the shirtless clench that has been so popular and well into fully nude adults fully entwined in an obviously sexual position. Their bodies were arranged in such a manner as to not actually show breasts or genitalia, but that arrangement also left nothing to the imagination as far as what they were doing with their afternoon.
Lest you think I’m getting all in high druthers because Of The Children, allow me to correct you. I’m not worried about the kids as much as I am the people who sign into the library to find a book during their break at work or the people who may have a porn addiction they grapple with. And of course I’m also a bit on the lookout for the folks who just plain don’t want to have to see sexually explicit artwork when they aren’t expecting it. Again, my problem is NOT with the sexually-explicit artwork. What you do with your time is your affair and your lookout. Not my circus, not my monkey*. My problem is with the timing and location of that artwork.
So I’m wondering aloud. How much should the Library be concerned about being a Safe For Work viewing destination? Frankly, I think that the library should be as accessible to as many patrons as possible. By creating a site that would be hostile to workplaces and thus locked out for employees who would like to browse on their break times I think the library is cheating its patrons. Then again, is an “Explicit Cover” black bar over such things really the direction we want to take a library? I honestly cannot make up my mind.
(I’m now looking for the cover in question, since a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, when I didn’t want to see it…there it was. Now that I’m actively hunting it, it’s as elusive as a decent cup of coffee in jail.)
*this is the most wonderful catchphrase ever, thanks to @txmere! I plan on using it for the rest of my life.