Cataloging Male Adult Magazines Online: A Pilot Project at Kinsey (Summary)

Liana Zhou and Susan Heusser-Ladwig
Kinsey Institute
Indiana University

Adult magazines, commonly known as girlie magazines or cheese cakes, are defined as:

  1. glossy-type magazines produced especially for men which include photographs and/or drawings of women in various stages of undress or in the nude;
  2. glossy-type magazines which show depiction of coitus and other sex behaviors.

More than 1500 titles of adult magazines have been collected throughout the Institute Library history and for each, the only information recorded on catalog cards consists of the title, the publisher and the holding information. Therefore, access to this collection is extremely limited. Only one set of the cards exists. So the library users have to come to the Institute to find what we have. And subject access is virtually non-existent. Few, if any, cross references are available. Needless to say, it is problematic for librarians to manage this collection, too.

Cataloging the adult magazines online became possible when the Institute Library automated its collection via Indiana University's NOTIS system in 1992. In early 1994, we started a pilot project of cataloging adult magazines into the NOTIS system, following the NOTIS MARC format for serials. The purpose of cataloging this type of materials online was to make them available to the University community, and ultimately, the international scholarly community via Internet, as primary resources for studying/researching erotica, popular cultures and sexual behaviors.

The pilot project consisted of 90 adult magazines of various types. We intended to achieve the following:

  1. provide descriptive cataloging of each item as completely as possible;
  2. provide access points including subject analysis;
  3. establish authority work for series and uniform titles when necessary;
  4. provide holding information online;
  5. provide classification codes for shelving.

In the process, we have identified the following characteristics of adult magazines in terms of online cataloging:

  1. a certain degree of difficulty in establishing a title or finding out the current publishing information such as price, frequency, publishing history or publisher's address;
  2. incomplete runs for most titles, as the collection depends heavily on donations;
  3. difficulty in subject analysis because there are many different types of adult magazines, some including female nudes, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian sex intended for male audience, fetishism, and light sadomasochistic scene, etc.;
  4. few or no hits at all in the national cataloging utilities;
  5. scarce or non-existent reference sources (i.e., The standard serials reference tools have no coverage of adult magazines' publishing information, nor do the publisher's directories list any of the adult magazine publishers other than Playboy or Penthouse).

Identifying/verifying the title, publisher, and publishing history is labor intensive and with varied results. Nevertheless, through the project, we have gained confidence, knowledge and expertise in bringing our serials online. Moreover, we have become aware of our future challenges such as revising the subject thesaurus to better fit serials. We believe that our experiences will offer suggestions and solutions to other librarians who are also struggling with popular press in their own collection.


Note: This project was first presented at 1995 ALA annual conference as a poster session.


Copyright © 1996 Liana Zhou & Susan Heusser-Ladwig.
Submitted to CALA E-J on May 1, 1996.