Magic Attic Club bookA news story originally from the Tampa Tribune tells a sad story of children, marketing, and porn, as well as another case of do-it-yourself censorship. Patricia MacMartin, a Florida mom, discovered that an 800 number listed in the back of some titles in a paperback series, the Magic Attic Club books, was actually the number of a sex service. Her 9-year-old daughter had checked those books out of her local branch, the New Tampa Library.

MacMartin complained to the branch, and when librarians didn’t immediately pull all the volumes off the shelves, she checked them all out herself and kept them at home. In this case, though, the library didn’t object:

She did the right thing,” said Braulio Colon, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative. “We dropped the ball; no question.”

It turned out that the Magic Attic Club was launched in 1994 and modeled itself to some degree on the American Girls series, marketed with a group of dolls. The Hillsborough County system still owns 78 copies of the books. Entertainer Marie Osmond bought the company in 2001, but it folded in 2004, when the books went out of print. The 800 number shut down, was available for sale, and guess who bought it?

(The question we probably won’t be able to get a sure answer to is: Did the sex line buy the number deliberately because it had been previously owned by Osmond, hoping that it might damage her squeaky-clean reputation and force her to pay big bucks to buy it back? Stranger things by far have happened.)

Patricia MacMartin wants Osmond to buy back the number because many copies of the books are still out there where children will read them. But Osmond refuses:

A spokeswoman for Osmond said her doll company is not responsible for the book club number. “That product line was discontinued four years ago,” she said. “There was nothing we could do.”

The best quote is the last, though. MacMartin is working with the library staff to get all 78 of those books back on the shelf. Colon says:

We’re working tirelessly to find them all. There’s nothing inappropriate with the books. We’re just going to tear out the page that has the phone number for the book club.”

The question for all us library folk, who were trained to believe that books shouldn’t be altered, and that one never rips the pages out of books – what would you do? Would you also tear the pages out? Would you weed the books? Would you leave them, as is, on the shelves? Or would you do something else?

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