Sex, Drugs, and Library Fines

By Brennan McCord

May 7, 2010 1:05pm

ABC News' Brennan McCord reports:

Sex, drugs, and…library fines. 

These elements all come together for Longwood parent, Tina Harden as she was so disturbed by the sex, drugs, and foul language in Gossip Girl book series that she is had been ignoring the over-due notices and phone calls from her local library and its bill collector.

Harden finally returned the books on Friday.

In 2008 Harden’s daughter, then 13, checked out the books and after flipping through the pages, Harden was astonished by the adult content in a book series designed for young teens. 

Harden refused to return the books until the library put warning labels on the books in the Gossip Girl series and also on the books in a spin-off series called It Girl.  She also wants to make the book unavailable to minors.

"The whole book was filled with everything I don't want my daughter to do or be," she said.

The library refused to label the books with warnings, but has agreed to re-shelve the books to the adult-reading sections.

"When a library classifies a book as young adult, I expect those books to have young adult content, especially these books that are geared toward young girls.  There are multiple references to illegal drugs, sex, and foul language," Harden told ABC News.

"If I turn them in, they will be put back into circulation and they'll be available for more young girls to read," said the mother of three, who keeps the four books hidden in a closet.

"I am not a book burner, I love the library.  But we are tax-paying citizens and the library is funded by the public.  What troubles me is that the librarians are the only ones who have a say as to what goes on their shelves and where," Harden told ABC News.

Sabrina O’Bryan, assistant county manager at the library told ABC News that the library is simply following the library’s Bill of Rights. 

Article III of the Library’s Bill of Rights states:  “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

"If we denied access to this particular title, it would be censoring," said Jane Peterson, the county's library services manager.

The library has also pointed out that book series is popular among teens and it has an obligation to stock the books that are in high demand. 

Harden still owes the library 85 dollars in late fees.  She is hoping that the library will waive the fines.
Peterson said the library system could not forgive the fines, but she was glad the books had been returned.

"I'm pleased that the library has received support, and I'm pleased to have the books back," she said.
Harden says she is not alone in the effort to organize books in a more age appropriate manner in the libraries. 

“I have heard from many mothers who are concerned about the same thing and want things to change.  We just want our kids to be safe.”


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