In my last missive, I took my fellow freeloaders on a grand tour of online newspapers, all free through Westminster Libraries. I rashly promised a follow-up on news and mags in print, and the gorgon who edits this blog always holds me to my promises. But she’s right to insist – there’s a good (free) story to tell.
I used to buy a few magazines every month, and it took me a long time to spot a common pattern: some months I read a mag from cover to cover, sometimes hardly anything really appealed. Which made an annual subscription a really expensive option. As you know, I hate expensive options (or any option that costs anything, come to that), so when I was leafing through the mags for loan in my nearest library, I got fixated on exactly how much I could save by borrowing rather than buying. It’s eye-watering.
Let’s suppose I’ve got catholic tastes in reading. What’s on the shelves? Four Four Two, for a bit of footie gossip – £4.20. Total Film, for the movie latest – £3.99. Management Today, for serious business types – £4.70. Bliss, all life’s complications (if you’re below a certain age and female) – £2.50. Starting to get the picture? That’s four magazines, costing over 15 quid. I added it up twice, in case I was exaggerating.
And I really did find these on the shelves this morning. They count as books as far as borrowing limits are concerned, so I could have borrowed up to 20 at a time if I didn’t have anything else out, which is a bit extreme. I could borrow them for a week, which is plenty, and they mostly come in rather nice plastic sleeves which keep them fresh. But what if my tastes are more specialised?
You’re probably ahead of me, here: specialised = even more expensive, which is why some of the “heavy” journals (eg Nature – £10) can only be read in the library. The two reference libraries (Westminster Reference Library and Marylebone Information Service), along with the specialist libraries, have most of the read-only stuff. Business, politics, literature, pastimes, buying things… the chances are that at least one of Westminster’s libraries will cover it. Free, of course.
What about that traditional activity, slumping in a chair and sleeping under cover of a newspaper? I have to disappoint you on one score – sleeping in the library is against the byelaws! But reading newspapers is still very much on the agenda. Every Westminster library has a selection of dailies, often with a foreign-language paper or two to reflect local demand. The bigger libraries have more newspapers, weekly and monthly as well as daily. And just in case you think the freebie-factor isn’t great for newspapers, let me remind you that the Guardian and the Telegraph cost a pound each during the week, the Mail 80p, and the FT an astronomical £2. More on Saturdays, of course, and as for Sundays, don’t get me started.
If you just want the satisfaction of reading a paper or a magazine and saving the cover price, just pop into any Westminster library.
If you want to be a bit more choosy, you can find out which library stocks which publications by going to one of two places – to the Westminster Libraries e-library catalogue for mags to borrow (search for the title ‘and periodical’), and to the exotically-named WULOP (periodicals catalogue) for the ones you have to read on the premises. Having them split up is a bit of a nuisance, but luckily the searches are free, too!