By Casey Cambridge

It’s no surprise they’re divorcing in the grocery store checkout stand again. Or that they’re reinventing wardrobes and renovating backyards in waiting rooms. At home, fanned out on the glass coffee table, they already have your vacation destination picked and planned, along with fifteen five-ingredient weeknight dinner recipes to choose from. They promise you’ll retire rich if you read this, obtain a perfect body if you work out like that. They’ve even made their way onto the bedroom nightstand, with a candlelit essential oil laced bathtub full of suggestions regarding what could go on in there (but let’s not forget about the side serving of body image complex, turn to page 76). In between it all, they’re prying into pocketbooks for the purchases of this miracle in a jar anti-aging cream, that brand of whitening toothpaste, and this new prescription drug to assist in the pursuit of effortless joy. Sometimes, they’re wearing entirely too much perfume. Other times, the news they print only plays to the scent of our fears.

You’ll even find them at your local library, where we subscribe to nearly 600 of them.

Several years ago, I would have categorized magazines as an afterthought. A distraction from an impending root canal. Light reading on a quick flight back home to northern California. An attention grabbing headline with half-truths to fall into. I didn’t have a change of heart until the summer of 2007, when I inherited a collection of vintage Playboy magazines. Hidden among the soft focus photos, interrupted by ads for automobiles and booze, I found history. There were stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and Gabriel García Márquez, to name a few. There were interviews with Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stanley Kubrick, and Bette Davis. It was then I realized magazines were not something to merely consume with the eyes and mind and toss into the recycling bin. They held a mirror up to our life and times. They were worthy of conservation and protection. Magazines were, and still are, us.

I began working with the Santa Monica Public Library’s periodicals collection shortly after that summer, and if it hadn’t been for those old issues of Playboy, I might not have been so appreciative of what I now believe is our most priceless resource. We have a time machine on the second floor of the Main Library, and you, the patron, are at the helm of it.

Our extensive bound volume collection of magazines is a tribute to part of the library’s vision: preserving the past. We currently have 12,748 time capsules for you to explore in our Periodicals department. Travel back to the art of Norman Rockwell and the doctor endorsed cigarette ads in The Saturday Evening Post. Fast-forward to a time when National Geographic photographs were still captured on Kodachrome. Revisit a favorite moment of your favorite game in Sports Illustrated. Invite yourself into the mid-century homes featured in Architectural Digest. Go back to Life magazine’s coverage of the Moon landing. This is a mere glance down the roads you may wander. Which journey will you choose?

As we continue to care for the past, our library hasn’t put down roots in those gardens. Our vision aims to shape the future as well. I’m happy to say this increasingly digitized world hasn’t left magazines in the dust. Zinio for Libraries arrived at SMPL in late 2014, and whether you have a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, you can access digital copies of your favorite magazines. All you need is your Santa Monica Public Library card (and if you don’t have one by now, you should. It’s free for everyone!). With Zinio for Libraries you’ll never need to put an issue on hold and wait, you’ll never accrue fines, and you can download as many issues as you’d like. We subscribe to a generous sampling of our tangible collection in this full color, interactive format. Whether you’re interested in current affairs (The Atlantic), health and fitness (Prevention), business (Forbes), cooking (Bon Appe_tit), the home (Good Housekeeping), music (Billboard), or fashion (Vogue) we’re sure to have a title you’ll fancy. The best part? No one can rip a page out in your digital magazine. For more information about this service, along with a complete list of our digital magazine collection, visit

The library’s vision encompasses the here and now as well: serving the present. Within the Main Library’s first floor popular magazine area you’ll be hard pressed to find a periodical that doesn’t suit your tastes. We subscribe to just about everything you would expect (Consumer Reports, GQ, Marie Claire, The New Yorker, People, Rolling Stone, Sunset, Time, and Vanity Fair to name a few) as well as the more unexpected (the anti-consumerist Adbusters, the wanderlust inspiring Afar, and the hauntingly beautiful Black & White are a handful of my personal favorites). Within the children’s section of the Youth Services department, you’ll find classics such as Highlights, Ranger Rick, and Zoobooks, as well as new additions like the seasonally published cooking magazine, Chop Chop.  Stroll over to the Teen Lounge and catch up on Game Informer, Seventeen, Slam, or Teen Vogue. If a magazine in a different language is what you seek, check out the World Languages section on the second floor, where we have issues of Paris Match, Der Spiegel, People en Español, Taiwan Panorama and more.

The collection is far from static. Circulation figures are viewed and your suggestions are considered. The Periodicals Committee, which meets every spring, decides what stays, what goes, and what new gems will grace the shelves. In fact, I think they may be over there, in the staff meeting room, having a chat right now.

Perhaps you’re still not convinced. Perhaps I haven’t done my job in showing you that we offer so much more than what’s found near the candy bars, bubblegum, and beef sticks with mechanically separated chicken. And that’s okay. I encourage you to form your own conclusions and visit the Santa Monica Public Library for yourself. Get lost in the glossy pages of the past and present. Find exactly what you were looking for, and perhaps something you never dreamed of discovering. We look forward to assisting and surprising you.

Casey Cambridge is a library assistant at the Santa Monica Public Library.