Magazines in the School Library
Do magazines belong in the school library? It’s not really a question I ever asked myself until recently when it came time to audit our magazine subscriptions. But in our changing world, do magazines still belong in school libraries? If student interest drops, is it time to unsubscribe?
The first school library I volunteered and later worked in had a lovely magazine collection. It also had a most magnificent non fiction collection, but that’s another post entirely. The magazines were well used, as indicated by loan statistics and student use for browsing and reading during reading lessons.
This year, when I took over the library at my current library, I undertook a bit of an audit of the magazine collection. The magazines in the secondary library were hardly touched, let alone borrowed. Some of this could attributed to our new location while we awaited renovations. The magazines had to be tucked into a back corner. But stats from the previous years demonstrated loans half of that from my first school and only 12 loans total for magazines from the secondary library. It wasn’t for lack of promotion or choices. We had over 25 magazines in the secondary library and just a few in the junior library. Yet the interest and use of magazines in the junior library was huge. Massive loan stats, sneaky visits from junior students to the secondary library to borrow some of our titles, interest and love for magazines from the junior students was high.
Magazines subscriptions are not cheap and so I found myself questioning, for the first time in my school library career, if magazines belonged in the school library.
They certainly belonged in the junior library. The interest was really high in the junior library and I knew there were gaps in our junior magazine collection. We needed a wider range and we needed more magazines period. Finding and selecting new magazines for the junior library though, wasn’t easy as I anticipated. Many of the top recommended choices or magazines I was familiar with from past libraries were out of print. I used a variety of sources to find available magazines. Megan Daley has a great list on her blog and she and Alison Tait recently discussed magazines in their Your Kid’s Next Read podcast episode 76. We purchase magazines through iSubscribe, so I investigated their offerings. I visited a local newsagent to see what magazines they stocked and to have a look inside a few. I also had a flick back through photos I’d taken when visiting other school libraries to see what they subscribed to. I looked for Australian and independently published magazines. These took a bit more searching but I did find a few options. I then handed my list of recommendations over to the Junior Library team, who settled on 9 magazine titles for the Junior Library.
I had every intention of dramatically reducing the magazine subscriptions for the secondary library. I thought that the money could be better spent. But in all my searching for the junior library magazine titles, I found some absolutely amazing productions that I thought would be perfect for the secondary library. I focused on high interest titles and I moved away a little from curriculum areas and targeted instead our school’s strategic focus – entrepreneurship, creative thinking and wellbeing. I also looked for titles from areas I knew we’d be expanding on in our new building. Australian and independent titles were also a target area. Together my AmazingLibraryTech and I actually ended up increasing the number of magazines we subscribe to (whoops). Maybe that will be a mistake, given the previous disinterest from the secondary students in magazines, but I am hoping our new selections and new display areas will catch their interest. Fortunately, between the two libraries, the cost isn’t too much more, as I canceled subscriptions to expensive overseas history magazines. Buying local and independent is cheaper!
I also made sure to consult students and staff in the decision making process. I spoke to students about topics they were interested in or gave them choices between titles. For example, I offered two different dirt biking magazines to our library regulars (and dirt bike riders) to select from.
I also consulted curriculum leaders, asking if there were any titles they would like us to add. We decreased magazines in curriculum areas with little interest (history) and increased magazines for other curriculum areas, including visual culture, food technology and design technology.
I spoke to staff who borrow magazines and we looked closely at what sort of magazines were borrowed (easy reads and cooking magazines were popular. The history and archeology magazines not so much).
The thing I absolutely love about magazine subscriptions is that it is totally changeable. We’ll try these choices for a year, get staff and student feedback and then adjust in the following year.
A new location means a new spot for magazines and my AmazingLibraryTech has come up with a fantastic idea for how we will display and store mags. I’ll share that once we are in our new space and have it set up.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I got the decisions right. Not a week after making the new selections and cancelling some of the old magazines, I had a student come in and start looking through one of the magazines I had just cancelled. Curious, I immediately went over and interrogated (I mean, asked) why she was interested in that magazine. End result of that conversation: I’ll purchase some non fiction in the topic area (philosophy), keep the magazine canceled for this year and we sent the student home with all the editions we had for her to keep. She was happy.
Here are some of the magazines selected for the library
Crikey – Australia Zoo magazine https://www.australiazoo.com.au/about-us/crikey-mag/
Flight – PaperBird https://flightbypaperbird.com.au/pages/meet-flight
Inside Small Business https://www.isubscribe.com.au/inside-small-business-magazine-subscription.cfm
Teen Breathe https://teenbreathe.com.au/
Australian Geographic https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/
Australian Homespun https://www.homespun.net.au/
Revolution Mountain Bike https://revolutionmtb.com.au/
Wellbeing Wild https://www.wellbeing.com.au/wild/