BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Enoch Pratt Free Library has apologized and removed a tweet after one of their branches showed African American children in mock jail mugshots as a promotion for “Banned Books Week.”
According to our media partner, The Baltimore Sun, the Pratt Library’s post Monday included photos of four different children holding books and a black piece of paper that read “CAUGHT READING BANNED BOOKS” in front of a police lineup backdrop.
The pictures were meant to get kids to read, but instead they got people mad.
“That’s kind of like a target towards black people,” Shawn S. said. “You’ve got to do something bad to get a mug shot. A mug shot is not fun.”
The tweet, which was deleted minutes after being posted, also read, “We have #rebelreaders at the Edmondson Avenue Branch. What are you reading during #BannedBooksWeek?”
“We understand that it offends people. We apologize. We were very distraught to see it,” Pratt spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell said.
A mother whose son’s picture was used in the promotion tells The Baltimore Sun his picture was “inappropriately” taken and posted without her consent.
“As a black female, I see my black son in a picture that looks like a mugshot. It looks like a stereotype. It doesn’t look anything like a library picture, that anyone’s having fun or learning something out of it,” Kelly Daly said. She also called it “very offensive.”
This fake mugshot promotion appears to copy a #rebelreaders-theme that has been used by other libraries.
“There’s already enough crime going on and young people are committing the crimes. So it’s kind of like, go ahead and do it,” parent Courtney Hawkins said.
“They could’ve had something better to promote this,” Jozetdra Robinson said.
The photos were taken by young adult librarians and not Enoch Pratt management.
“We understand that it was offensive and insensitive,” said Heidi Daniel, the president and CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library. “We’re deeply sorry and everyone feels really devastated that this occurred.”
Library officials cannot discuss if anyone was disciplined for the incident. They say they’ve added checks and balances to how they post on social media.
It is typical for library branches to use patron photos to promote their programs. City libraries use signs to make their visitors aware.
The national “Banned Books Week” event was founded by the Banned Books Week Coalition, and is an anti-censorship campaign celebrating the reading of books previously banned in some schools, libraries and bookstores, many of which dealt with social and racial equality.