Poor choice of magazines in libraries, says councillor

A councillor has questioned why Sheffield libraries no longer stock political magazines but do offer random ones which are of “no interest” to people.

By Lucy Ashton
Monday, 05 August, 2019, 11:29
Green councillors Douglas Johnson, Ruth Mersereau and Martin Phipps

Normally it is books that come under the spotlight where libraries are concerned but Green councillor Ruth Mersereau is puzzled by the magazines available.

“I wanted to know what determines the magazines that are on offer at council libraries to try to see whether users get a say in what is provided, or whether this has been lost in the interests of bulk buying,” she said.

“For example, there is little choice of magazines covering politics and current affairs in Central Library, which no longer stocks magazines such as Private Eye, but stocks magazines of little to no interest for most people such as Football Stadium Management Magazine.

“I wonder whether the choosing of magazines could be made more democratic by allowing library users and staff to recommend which magazines to purchase, instead of just getting choices made by an external body, who may have little knowledge of the interests of the library users.”

Sheffield Council says it has reduced the number of magazines in recent years.

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, said: “Historically we provided a large number of magazines in the Central Library, which reflected the subject areas found in the Reference library.

“In recent years we have reduced the number provided, as the role of the reference library has changed and their use has diminished.

“There are currently a small number of magazines purchased for the Central Library Reading and Reference Library, which are still popular with our regular customers.

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“We will be reviewing these as a priority, to ensure that any magazines provided in hard copy reflect the current focus of the space, i.e. Business and Intellectual Property, and changing exhibitions.”

The council doesn’t buy any magazines for the council hub or volunteer libraries.

Coun Lea added: “This decision was taken some years ago, based on cost and lack of use.

“Magazine provision is now focused on our extremely popular electronic e-magazines and comics service which can be accessed remotely 24/7 using a valid library card.

“The selection we offer is based on trying to provide as wide a range and choice as possible, reflecting popular subjects and current trends.

“We always consider any suggestions from our customers, although we are restricted as to what is available online.

“The selection is reviewed annually, as some titles become unavailable or are not being used. We do also receive a large number of unsolicited donations direct to libraries, which have either been historically available at the library or are donated by local groups, and provide information on local events and activities.”