Library patrons can check out books, but they can't check out the models in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue.
A magazine spokesman confirmed Thursday that the Time Warner Inc. publication withheld shipment of the Feb. 14 issue to libraries and schools after years of taking heat from critics who said the issue had become too risque.
"In the past, we have gotten lots of feedback from parents, teachers and librarians about the content possibly not being appropriate for children," spokesman Rick McCabe said.
Since 1964, Sports Illustrated has departed from its usual diet of athletics to feature women in swimwear that grows increasingly skimpy. This year's version features a cover photo of "Dreamgirls" star Beyonce Knowles.
The magazine informs subscribers they can opt out of the swimsuit issue by contacting the customer service department, and about 1%, or 30,000 readers, do so, McCabe said. Those who didn't receive the issue will have their subscriptions extended by one week, McCabe said.
Lynne Weaver, serials coordinator at Virginia's Randolph-Macon Woman's College library, said "everybody's furious" that the school had no say on whether it could receive the swimsuit issue even though the all-female student body isn't exactly the magazine's target audience. "If for any reason we would choose not to get an issue, that's up to us," she said.
None of the 72 Los Angeles Public Library branches have the issue, which is popular among patrons, spokesman Peter Persic said.
Librarians calling the magazine to ask why they hadn't received the issue heard many explanations, including that someone from their institution had specifically requested not to receive it or that the magazine had run out of copies, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Assn.'s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Caldwell-Stone said that denying the issue to all public libraries set a dangerous precedent.
"It doesn't take much to complain that something else is inappropriate for another reason, whether it be politics, morality or another viewpoint," she said. "This is an intellectual freedom issue when we have a corporation deciding what people can read."