Do School Libraries Need Magazines?

Are print magazines still in school libraries? We have them in our middle school library, but where there were two stands this time last year, we are down to only one. Several magazines we used to carry are currently unavailable through our magazine provider. A few may have been incorporated into other magazines and don’t exist anymore while others, like Teen Vogue, went digital only.

Digital versus print is not a new conversation. Back in 2012 Pew Research Center was writing about the rise of ebooks and theshift from printed to digital material.”  Now research shows people prefer reading print over digital content as CNN proclaims “Real Books are Back” and ebook sales continue to drop. Maybe this isn’t surprising to many librarians, but it’s still good news.

Unfortunately, the good feelings about print don’t seem to include magazines in general. Magazines like Time and Rolling Stone are struggling to stay relevant and Conde Nast has been cutting jobs and reducing the number of issues published by their magazines. All of this seems to suggest that even though we may prefer print, we’re still not reading magazines like we once were.

Print magazines have been in decline for several years now, and although I love magazines (and some catalogs too) I noticed students had completely stopped looking at them. Is the magazine format going the way of cassette tapes, VHS, and overhead projectors? Some might even suggest magazines are like libraries in the way neither are needed since we have the Internet. Of course, those people are wrong in my opinion.

Magazines may not be as popular as they were in the “golden” age of magazines, which may be the 1990s or any point in time prior to the Internet, but don’t count them out just yet. Where many traditional magazines have closed up shop or taken entirely to the Internet, there is space for innovative and independent publications aimed at niche markets.

Because my co-librarian and I love magazines, we wanted to restructure and revitalize our magazine collection by including a few new titles and promoting the independent DIY zine culture.

Many of the newer, experimental type of magazines are not geared to young adults, but we use them as examples when teaching students to make zines–the DIY, pared down cousin of the traditional magazine. We opted to remove several well-known educational magazines from our rack, replacing them with a makeshift, DIY subject-index type folder where students can search for and request to view specific magazine issues.

To replace the magazines removed, we feature several zines, a few new-to-us magazines that have a smaller circulation and publish fewer issues per year, and some fairly traditional subject-specific titles. We shifted to a more thoughtfully curated collection, and plans for the upcoming year include acquiring more foreign language magazines/zines and looking for older teen lifestyle magazines to give our students some perspective on different generations (and probably laugh at old hairstyles and dated advice).

We know some colleagues who stopped subscribing to magazines citing lack of student interest, poor magazine choices, and being able to better use the funds to buy books or technology. I think we’re beyond the point where magazines are a school library staple, and if we are not able to create some interest in the collection we may revisit our magazine subscription policy again.

Thoughts on keeping magazines in the school library? I’d love to know what magazines you carry and which ones, if any, you stopped purchasing.

Starting to build our DIY folder so students can access what’s available in magazines that might not be displayed.


Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development

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7 replies

  1. Due to cost and low interest, it has been many years since I’ve purchased a print subscription for our library. However, recently, I did create some saved searches to some publications that we have full text access to in our KYVL (Kentucky Virtual Library). This is a consortium in Kentucky that gives us access to dozens of databases, including Maserfile from EBSCO.

    Our elementary students have Chromebooks that convert to a tablet. I’ve only shown a few classes, but the kids really enjoyed browsing and searching for subjects they were interested in. The portrait mode of their tablet made it very similar to a print magazine experience.

  2. This is very timely. I’m looking at budget and at a big pile of magazines that were hardly accessed last year and trying to make a reasonable decision. We’re in TX so obviously have access to different databases.. We also have Chromebooks, although not the convertible ones… but you have definitely inspired me to think a little more outside the box and do some research on how to get magazines to kids and teachers without paying a fortune

  3. I’m a high school librarian and I think libraries still need to offer print magazines. I have several subscriptions: Time, Newsweek, Consumer Reports, Consumer Repurts Health, Discover, Sports Illustrated, Seventeen, People, Tech & Learning, School Library Journal, Ohio Magazine, Deer & Deer Hunting, J-14, Smithsonian…can’t remember if I have anymore! This year, I plan to challenge my students to choose one and read an article in it. They’ll have to write a short paragraph about the article and when they do, they’ll be entered into a contest and will win some type of prize. I have Library Club, and my officers are coming up with ways to get kids away from phones…and more into reading…and this was one of their ideas. We’ll see what happens! But, we definitely need print magazines!!

  4. This is a great article!! Magazines should be accessible for students because the use of magazines is declining. Magazines in the library would make kids feel more encouraged to read some and learn, and possibly the magazines could help spark a reading interest in kids. Great idea!

  5. Magazines oppose static classical literature or science books. They definitely should be in schools and some assignments should involve analyzing them, comparing and watever else.

  6. I have every copy of First Things magazine since its beginning. Would love to find a library that keeps hard copies. They are treasures of great articles!
    A seminary seems like a good place for them.

  7. I have every copy of Commentary Magazine starting in the mid 1980’s. They are in perfect condition. Would love to give them to a library.

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