Pornography in the Library, Part III

While I openly admit that I’m interested in pornography collections in libraries, I did not expect to find so much material to write about so quickly.  So, here’s another installment of Pornography in the Library.

I am currently in the Information Policy course at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign‘s Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  The course talks about all sorts of ways that institutions (governments, schools, universities, libraries, etc.) create policies surrounding information.  For that class, I decided to do a little scanning of the literature related to library policies concerning pornography.  I was surprised to find how few resources focus on pornography and libraries in general (rather than the restriction of child pornography, or restrictions on children’s room internet access).  (Apparently, people don’t want to write about things I find interesting.) The most comprehensive and up to date monograph I found was Libraries, Erotica, & Pornography, edited by Martha Cornog. (And when I say “most up to date” – this book was published in 1991. Yeah, apparently porn and libraries aren’t exciting.)

cover of playboy magazine
Cover of first issue of Playboy Magazine, via

This post is not a review.  Instead, I wanted to highlight statistics on the iconic serial Playboy in libraries, which Cornog includes in the tenth chapter of Libraries, Erotica, & Pornography.  Sure, they’re a little old – but they still give some fun insights into how libraries cope with their erotic collections.

Here are some fun facts on Playboy in libraries:

  • Libraries most often subscribed to Playboy due to the quality of its content. 34.2% of libraries surveyed listed this attribute as the reason for their subscription.  20.7% subscribed to Playboy because the magazine is indexed (147).
  • Academic users have greater influence over the selection decisions in libraries than public users (147).
  • 88.3% of subscriptions were purchases, rather than gifts.
  • 42.3% of libraries with Playboy subscriptions reported staff complaints; only 25% reported patron complaints (148).
  • 2/3rds of libraries with subscriptions to Playboy restricted access in some manner.
  • Theft seems to be a problem, but it’s usually not the patrons – but the library staff who seem to walk off with a sexy magazine (151).

I always find it fun when it’s the library itself (the staff, the institution) that has issues with pornography – when the users don’t always seem to care.


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