Among the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library of William Oxley Memorial Library lies one of Ohio State’s largest collections of scandalous material: stacks of “Playboy” magazines.
OSU has been cultivating its “Playboy” collection for decades and has amassed 640 “Playboy” magazine-related materials, including original magazines, microform editions and various clippings, according to the OSU library catalog.
The collection does not exist for the sexually deviant, but instead is provided as a source of scholarly research, said Karla Strieb, OSU’s associate director of Library Collections.
“Including the publication in our collection provides scholars with a resource on popular culture they may choose to review in the course of their research,” Strieb said in an email.
The inclusion of “Playboy” in the library system helps further the library’s mission of preserving diverse material.
“The mission of an academic library is to preserve information for the purposes of scholarship, research and teaching. University Libraries strives to provide a collection that presents diverse perspectives, points of view and opinions,” Strieb said.
While OSU’s library system does have “Playboy” magazines, they are not immediately accessible. The microforms, which are reproduced editions in a reduced size and are stored in the book depository, are available for order online and paper magazines are available, for viewing only, in Thompson’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Without directly ordering them from the online catalogue or asking a librarian for access, students, faculty and staff cannot view the collection.
OSU’s collection isn’t unique among academic institutions — the other 11 schools in the Big Ten have “Playboy” magazines, according to their respective library catalogues.
Some OSU professors said the notion of an explicit magazine having some academic value is legitimate.
“I can imagine different kinds of research that might use a collection like this, including research on changes in cultural representations of masculinity and femininity,” said Cynthia Burack, a professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, in an email. She added that she has cited “Playboy” in her own research.
Burack said, however, she understands why “Playboy” offends some people, but said storing the magazines is important, even for just a historical record.
“As a scholar, I recognize that there are many different kinds of collections and archives, some of material we might find troubling in some way, that can help us understand more deeply some aspect of history, culture, or politics,” Burack said.
Some OSU students said they doubt the magazine’s academic value and think the library’s “Playboy” collection is troubling.
“It’s against my morals,” said Taylor Reynolds, a fourth-year in international studies and Russian. “I’m a woman. I think it’s degrading to women.”
Other students said the university should put a bigger emphasis on providing other, more useful books rather than “Playboy” magazines. Tyler Bolyard, a second-year in political science, said having enough textbooks should be more of a concern for the library “than outdated porno magazines.”
OSU Libraries representatives did not immediately respond to emails requesting the cost of maintaining the magazines Wednesday night.