Mom returns books in ‘Gossip Girl’ series she kept off library shelves since 2008
A Longwood mother withheld books in the Gossip Girl series because she found them too racy for teens.
A Longwood mom who refused to return four Gossip Girl-inspired library books because she objected to their content took them back to the public library Thursday.
Tina Harden, who had withheld the books since the fall of 2008 to keep young readers from seeing them, said she returned them not because of criticism she received but because she had made people aware of the issue through media attention.
“There was a certain amount of good that could come from me holding the books to make a statement, and I felt like that was achieved,” said Harden, who has three teenagers. “I feel like I had done my part to help focus attention on this.”
Now, she said, it’s up to the Seminole County library system to make sure that books with inappropriate material are not available to children.
After an article about Harden appeared in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel, a man donated replacement books to the library and several others told the library they planned to send checks or books to replace the ones Harden was keeping. The library is no longer accepting donations of Gossip Girl books, which, like the television show, chronicle the scandalous lives of a group of wealthy teens.
Harden was flooded with requests for interviews from media outlets.
About 200 people commented about the story at OrlandoSentinel.com. Many criticized Harden for making a judgment about what other people’s children should read, and they pointed out that the books were public property. Out of nearly 2,500 responses to an unscientific OrlandoSentinel.com poll, 81 percent said Harden should return the books.
But Harden said she hadn’t seen the comments and wasn’t influenced by them.
Harden owes $85 in fines but hasn’t paid them. She said she is hoping the library will waive the fines.
“It’s not that I lost the books or I didn’t feel like turning them in,” she said. “I want us to work together. Hopefully they have the same goals as I do.”
Seminole County Library Services Manager Jane 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.
In 2008, Harden checked out four books — one in the Gossip Girl series and three in the spinoff It Girl series — after her daughter picked them out at a Seminole library. But when she flipped through them and saw foul language and references to sex and drugs, she asked the library to keep the books out of the hands of minors. Harden would like to see warnings about certain content as well as age restrictions on borrowing.
When the library said it would reshelve the books in the adult-reading section but wouldn’t restrict them further, Harden decided to keep the books, with the idea that she would be preventing other young girls from reading the material.
Harden does not fault people who have offered to replace the books.
“They’re taking some action in response to something that I’m doing, and that’s what makes our country so great, that we have that freedom,” she said. “I feel like I’m a pretty middle-of-the-road kind of person. I just want children to be safe and not come across material that’s really inappropriate for their age level.”