GULFPORT, Miss. – A south Mississippi library board has voted to return Jon Stewart's (search) best-selling "America (The Book)" to shelves after local residents appeared unopposed to it.
The Jackson-George Regional Library System (search) board of trustees had voted last month to ban the book in eight public libraries because they objected to an image of the faces of the U.S. Supreme Court justices superimposed on nine naked bodies.
The lifted the ban Monday night on a 5-2 vote.
Robert Willits, the library system director, said Tuesday that Stewart never called to complain, but there were many e-mails and calls about the board's decision to take the book off the shelves.
"The one thing that shocked us was the meanness ... we got some absolutely nasty e-mails and telephone calls that you would not believe," Willits said.
He said majority of them came from out of state and accused the library system perpetuating a negative image of Mississippi.
"We were communists and fascists at the same time," Willits said. "But some of them really got nasty."
Willits said the board acted promptly and fittingly.
"There were 12-15 people in the audience and most spoke up in defense of the book. The board responds to community input and they made that decision."
Willits said the book was put back in circulation Tuesday.
"What we did was probably stimulate sales," he said.
On Monday night, board chairman David Ables of George County said the library system has "come under intense scrutiny by the outside community."
"As a board, we don't decide for the community whether to read this book or not, but whether to make it available," Ables said.
Board member David Ogborn of Hurley opposed lifting the ban.
"I haven't heard anything but a good response by our decision to keep this material out of our libraries," Ogborn said. "Our libraries are not a trash bin for pornographic materials."
Board member Jean Sparkes of Ocean Springs said the board could not legislate morality.
"It has always been and will always be individual choice for every person. We can't regulate what people seek out," she said.
Tara Skelton, 34, of St. Martin, who first brought up the issue of the ban, told the board, "I asked to check out the book because I heard it was funny. I had no idea it would be controversial. When I saw the pictures, they were not sexual. I would have no problem with my children seeing them. The book is written by a Peabody Award-winning journalist who happens to be a comedian."
The system serves libraries in Jackson and George counties.
Stewart's book has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times best seller list for hardcover nonfiction, and was named Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly (search), the industry trade magazine.