Popular romance novels stir the pot at library

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Studies have shown sexually appealing content lures viewers into a false sense of reality. Reading can also have the same reality-altering effect. It might surprise students to know that romance novels, which combine these two escapes, are actually a very popular item in the Harold B. Lee Library.

Libraries, under the law, can carry any type of literature or content desired. Because of this freedom, there are confrontations from individuals on both sides of the spectrum. If libraries decide to ban a book for any particular reason, it all comes down to that particular library.

In a November 2009 Ensign article titled “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Elder Richard G. Scott of The Quorum of the Twelve said he believes explicit content is extremely damaging to the soul.

“One of the most damning influences on earth, one that has caused uncountable grief, suffering, heartache and destroyed marriages, is the onslaught of pornography in all of its vicious, corroding, destructive forms,” Elder Scott said. “Whether it be through the printed page, movies, television, obscene lyrics, the telephone or on a flickering personal computer screen, pornography is overpoweringly addictive and severely damaging.”

Romance novels may fall directly under this description of “addictive” and “damaging,” according to some who have studied such books’ effects on women. In the book, “Finding the Hero in Your Husband,” psychologist Juli Slattery says women can be just as stimulated by romantic stories as men are when looking at pornography.

“For many women, these novels really do promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships,” Slattery wrote.

Melissa Simpson, a behavioral science major from Manti, said romance novels can become extremely addictive because they fulfills certain emotional needs for women.

“I think romance novels are addicting to women because it feeds them the emotional stimuli while reading the novel, by feeling connected to the characters,” Simpson said.

As mentioned, romance novels can also be found right here on campus in the Harold B. Lee Library.  There is even an entire shelf in the sampler section completely set aside for them. Surprisingly enough, these novels are some of the most popular among the sampler section.

Brooke Beecher, office manager of the Women’s Services and Resources Center, said she is concerned with the addictive nature of these novels and the possible effect they are having on students at BYU.

“Women’s Services was made aware of the novels in the sampler section when a student came into the office concerned about her roommate who was addicted to the novels,” Beecher said in an email. “Women’s Services addressed these concerns with the library, and a few of the books were removed from the sampler section. We want people to be aware of the addictive nature of romance novels and acknowledge that these books have been defined as pornographic by Church leaders and publications. We encourage students to be wise consumers, even in the HBLL.”

The HBLL has a system  in place designed to help students with their concerns on certain types of literature. If there is an article or book in the library that is reasonably inappropriate, a student can speak with any of the library staff to initiate the book review process.

Roger Layton, the HBLL communications manager, advises to bring the article or book in question to a member of the library staff.

“If a person finds something in the library that they find offensive they can bring it to the attention of the library staff or they  can use the library’s systems for the reconsideration of materials,” Layton said in an email. “We have a page on our web site just for this purpose: lib.byu.edu/services/reconsider.php.”

Layton said there are actually not  too many books brought into question.

“Because the Harold B. Lee Library, like all libraries, works with a limited budget and has limited space, our librarians are careful about purchasing items for their collections,” Layton said. “As a result I don’t hear about books in our collections being criticized very often. I think most librarians will agree that people should be free to read whatever they choose, but that does not mean that every library will purchase every book published. Our library has, or will soon have, four million books. Those books are purchased to support the educational mission of BYU. We purchase materials for students to use while studying for classes and for faculty to use to advance their research.”

As Beecher mentioned, it is each student’s responsibility to take control of what type of media influences their lives.  Whether it be avoiding a rated R movie, not attending a play or concert, or simply passing over the romance section at the library, it is important to set the integrity meter at the desired level and then maintain that level in all aspects of life.

Sarah Coyne, assistant professor in the Department of Family Life, said she understands the difficulty in picking out a good novel, especially since one can’t always tell a book by its cover.

“The problem is, from looking at the cover you have no idea which one is which,” she said.

Hillary Dastrup, an illustration major from Alpine, said she acknowledges the addictive nature of some types of media, but the choice to censor is up to the individual.

“It’s important to understand that each person has a different idea of what is too graphic and what isn’t,” Dastrup said. “I believe we need to put our beliefs first and follow our feelings if something is inappropriate or not.  If it’s addicting for you, you may have to ‘bridle your passions,’ as the saying goes, or even remove that activity from your life.”

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