OTTAWA — Ottawa is buying explicit sex-instruction books for its public library because the books have good information written by respected authors and some people want to read them, Ottawa's chief librarian said Wednesday.
Barbara Clubb was responding to a complaint about three new books on order at the Ottawa Public Library.
"We have a very broad collection," said Clubb, noting that generating controversy is "part of operating a public library and has been for centuries."
The three books generating the complaint are all published this year: The Anal Sex Position Guide, which features a picture of a couple apparently in the act on the cover; The Going Down Guide; and The Sex Instruction Manual.
Clubb noted that books on sex are "very popular" with borrowers in Ottawa.
Clubb said authors of the three books are authorities in sexuality who have won awards for their work. The books will be placed in the non-fiction human health section, which already includes such titles as The Joy of Sex.
One couple who were perusing the library's books on the order list expressed shock.
"This is pornography, pure and simple, veiled as 'instruction'," they wrote in an e-mail. The couple said the material would be harmful to children and a poor use of taxpayers' funds.
But Diana Pepall, manager of collection development services at the library, said the books are being acquired to build the library's health section.
"They fit right into our mandate to provide information," said Pepall. "We want to cover all aspects of health issues in the collection."
Pepall said that the library would decline to purchase books that contain purely gratuitous or exploitative sexual material.
A summary of the Anal Sex Position Guide, by Tristan Taormino, says it covers anatomy, hygiene, lubrication, sex toys, communication and "beginner and basic positions." There were six requests for the book already in the queue Wednesday.
The Going Down Guide, by Emily Dubberley and Al Needham, is a book about oral sex that includes colour photos, illustrations and diagrams. A summary says it suggests "fun, inventive ways of introducing excitement and intimacy into any relationship." The summary describes the volume as "witty, racy and frank."
By Wednesday, there were 14 requests for the book.
The Sex Instruction Manual, by Felicia Zopol, is described as "a humorous and informative guide to the mechanics of sexual intercourse," including material on aphrodisiacs, foreplay, sex toys and Kama Sutra positions. Eleven readers had requested by that book by Wednesday.
Clubb and Pepall said they don't get a lot of complaints about sexual books at the library but that readers do complain quite often about books that they consider racist or books that contain inaccurate information.
Clubb noted that debates over sexually explicit books and their presence at libraries have been going on for centuries and form part of the ongoing debate about free intellectual expression. For instance, for some years the sexually explicit Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, was kept under the counter at some libraries.