Magazine article American Libraries

The Only Covers Are on the Books

Magazine article American Libraries

The Only Covers Are on the Books

Article excerpt

Among all the many libraries in the United States, one is truly different from all others. Not because of its size--which is tiny--or its location. What makes it unique is that its holdings are entirely devoted to the topic of social nudism, with staff and clientele practicing what they peruse.

The American Nudist Research Library, located in the Cypress Cove nudist resort in Kissimmee, Fla., holds the world's largest collection of books, magazines, personal albums, newsletters, and videotapes on social nudism. (The only other library on the subject is an informal private library on the grounds of the Elysian Fields resort in Topanga, Calif.)

Cypress Cove was started in 1962 by Jim and Lydia Hadley and grew to 260 acres by 1984. Its library, the brainchild of Reed and Jane Schuster, was founded in 1978. Situated in a modest, freestanding building near the olympic-size pool, the library is staffed by volunteers three hours a day, seven days a week. The holdings date back to the 1920s, when nudism in the U.S. was in its infancy. These early magazines and newsletters are frequently consulted by journalists, editors, and scholars due to their significant historical value.

International appeal

Most users spend their time browsing through bound volumes of magazines published by the Naturist Society (Nude & Natural), Events Unlimited (Naturally), and the American Association for Nude Recreation (The Bulletin), and other titles such as London's Health Education. The library gets visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada, and is very popular with nudists from England, Belgium, Ireland, France, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Scotland, Holland, Switzerland, and Panama. Many people spend their vacations at Cypress Cove (which also operates a motel) while making trips to nearby Walt Disney World, Sea World, or Universal Studios Florida.

A fast-growing section is devoted to video tapes--80 at last count. A TV monitor and VCR are available for screening. Both the American Association for Nude Recreation (a trade association) and the Naturist Society produce videos promoting the nudist lifestyle, such as Let Yourself Be Free and Experience the Freedom. In addition, commercial videos such as Beginner's Guide to Skinny-dipping and the Naked USA series (different videos for various states) are very popular. Movies from pre-video days are also available.

The library is financed entirely through dues-paying members--450 at last count. The associate fee is $12 per year, or $20 for a couple; sustaining membership is $125; and patron is $500. Both membership fees and donations to the library (cash, books, or videotapes) are tax-deductible. Books and videos may be checked out by library members. All materials in the library have been donated.

Occasionally journalists from such diverse publications as the New Yorker and the Orlando Sentinel come in to do research, and many others have used the library as well. A graduate student of sociological deviance decided to study a controversy affecting the central Florida area: the nude sunbathers at Canaveral National Seashore's Playalinda Beach. Through networking he learned that the best place to find historical and current literary research regarding naturism was at Cypress Cove's naturist library.

Raw material

"I was surprised to find their unique collection so extensive," said the researcher, who asked to remain unnamed. "Nowhere else, including the university library network, could I find even a small amount of the information I needed. …

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