Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Journals and Magazines at the BPL

Instructions for locating journals and magazines at the Boston Public Library

How to Find a Journal or Magazine

Journals and magazines at the BPL fall into several categories that determine where they can be found and how they can be used.

1.Titles available through the BPL's Electronic Resources, such as subscription databases or RBdigital (formerly Zinio). Most of these, with few exceptions, can be accessed from home using your library card or eCard number and PIN or on the computers at any library location.

2. Titles available at BPL branches. Magazine issues at branches can be borrowed for seven days and can be requested like other circulating library materials. These are usually the most recent six or twelve months of a given title. 

3. Magazines available for browsing, but not borrowing, in the New and Novel area on the first floor of the Johnson Building at the Central Library

4. Titles available in print or other formats in research departments at the Central Library or kept offsite at the Archival Center. These materials can only be used in the library, and the procedures for finding and using them can vary.

The steps given here should help you in most cases to find out whether the library has a particular journal or magazine, which issues are available, and how to access them. These steps do not exhaustively cover every possible scenario, though, so please contact the library if you encounter a situation not covered here or if you have any additional questions. 

First, check for electronic access using the e-Journals By Title page. As in the example below, results will indicate whether the library has electronic access to the title, the dates for which full-text access is available, and the database(s) in which the content can be found. Note that in many cases indexing (article citations) will be available for a wider range of dates than those given for full-text access.

When accessing databases from home, selecting the database link will take you to a login page, where you may enter your library card or eCard number and PIN to gain access.

Note that some full-text access is only available in HTML format, while for other journals full-text access consists of PDF reproductions of articles as they actually appeared in print. 

For popular magazines, also be sure to check RBdigital. More information about RBdigital may be found here.

If you don't find evidence of electronic access to the title, or electronic coverage does not include the issue or format you need,  go to 2. Search the BPL Catalog.

If the journal or magazine you're seeking is not available electronically, the BPL's online catalogs can usually help you determine whether or not the BPL has the title in print or other formats, and in some cases can help you determine exactly what issues the BPL has.

In the main catalog search bar, select Title from the drop-down menu and enter the journal or magazine title. 

If the title is very general, you can use the Format limiter on the left side of the results page to limit your results to magazines and journals:

The search results will also indicate if there is electronic access to a journal or magazine (including magazines in Zinio), but the catalogs are the only place where you will find information about actual paper copies. If, as below, the text beneath the title says Available in some locations, the newest issues are probably available at one or more branches. If you would like a physical copy of a recent issue to check out, go to 3. Magazines at Branches. If you don't see this word or would like to learn about issues at the Central Library, keep reading.

If instead, as below, the text beneath the title says In-library use only in some locations, the title is likely only available at the Central Library or from the Archival Center. 

Click the in some locations link in the search results page (or the blue View subscription and availability details link in the full record) to bring up a more detailed list (it may take a while for this list to load if it contains many entries).

Entries whose location and collection information refer to specific research departments at the Central Library, such as BPL - Kirstein Business Library or BPL - The Arts, may be requested from those departments, but note that not all issues may be kept in those departments. Items with Social Sciences or Government Documents designations may be requested from the Research Services Department in Bates Hall, and items with the location 'BPL - Central' and collection 'Periodical - In Library Use Only' may be requested from the Information Desk on the second floor of the Johnson building.

If you see entries whose location is BPL - Central Delivery Desk, go to 4. Central Delivery Desk. If you see only entries whose location is BPL - Archival Center, go to 5. Archival Center. If you see some combination of the two, consult both tabs for information about each location. You may also see an entry with the location BPL - Microtext, in which case see 6. Titles on Microfilm for more information. 

Finally, if you are seeking a very old title, note that not all materials in the library's collection from before the mid 1970s will appear in the online catalog. Some titles may appear only in the microfiche catalog, which is available for use at the Research Services desk in the left end of Bates Hall, and in the Washington Room, both on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library

If you find no evidence for the title's presence in the catalogs, see 7. Interlibrary Loan for information about attempting to request journal or magazine content from other libraries. 

To get a recent issue of a periodical kept at a branch, there are two things you can do depending on your needs: 1) place a request for an available issue for pickup at a location of your choice, or 2) identify which issues are available at each branch. 

To place a request for an issue, log in to the catalog with your card number and PIN, and then click the green Place a Hold button. You'll see a list like the one below, from which you can select your pickup location, select an issue from the available options, and then click the green Confirm button at the bottom of the list to place your request. 

However, this just shows the issues available anywhere in the system, and doesn't tell you which issues are available now at which branches. For that, additional steps are required, because clicking the in some locations link in the search results page (or the blue View subscription and availability details link in the full record) will show you a list like the one below:

This, obviously, is not useful, since it shows the branches that have some issues but doesn't specify what they are. For that information, you have to use the alternate catalog. Once you find the title in that catalog, click the blue Availability button, and you will find a list like the one below.

This is much more informative, since it tells you exactly which issues are in at each branch, and also lets you know how long each branch keeps its issues. These two methods should provide the information you need to either request a magazine issue from a branch or find out which branches have which issues of a given title.

If you've clicked the in some locations link in the search results page (or the blue View subscription and availability details link in the full record) and see listings at BPL - Central Delivery Desk, there are several variations on what you may see. You may see a list that looks like the one below:

If you're looking for recent issues of a title, this means you're in luck. The presence of the 'Subscription' tab usually indicates that this is a title to which the library currently subscribes and is still receiving new issues. Clicking the 'Subscription' link will show you a list like the one below:

This shows you the issues that should be present at the Central Library (as well as issues expected to be received in the future). Note that even though the location in this list is 'Central,' the issues must still be requested from the Delivery Desk. If the 'Subscription' tab is not present, this usually means that the library is not still receiving new issues of the title, and you may see a list that looks like this:

If you see a listing like this, or just a call number, you can try to see whether there's any additional information about what issues the library has. From the search results page, click the title to open its page, then switch to the Full record tab beneath the title, and click the MARC Display >> link. 

Then, scroll down and look for a line starting with 866. If it's present, it will show the issues that the BPL (theoretically) has:

If there isn't an 866 entry, the catalog unfortunately won't tell you exactly (or even approximately) what issues are available, and your only option is to place a blind request and see if the issue you're looking for is found.

Requests may be placed in person at the Delivery Desk on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library by completing a request slip with the journal or magazine's title, call number, issue dates, and your library card information. Requests for Delivery Desk materials may also be placed over the phone (Monday-Friday, 9-5) by calling 617-536-5400 and requesting the Delivery Desk.

In some cases, older issues of titles kept at the Central Delivery Desk may actually be at the Archival Center, and the 866 field described above will often include the helpful reminder that 'Some materials are stored offsite.' If you determine that this is the case, or if the title you're seeking also has entries with the location BPL - Archival Center, see 5. Archival Center for more information. 

If you determine that the Central Delivery Desk issues do not include the content you need (and there are no Archival Center items or microfilm access), see 7. Interlibrary Loan for information about attempting to request journal or magazine content from other libraries. 

As is the case with Central Delivery Desk listings, listings for the Archival Center can vary in the amount of information they provide. Sometimes you may see an entry like this:

In this case, try opening the title's page, switching to the full record tab, and looking for the 866 field in the MARC Display as described in 4. Central Delivery Desk. If there's not additional information there, the catalog unfortunately won't tell you what issues are available, and your only option is to place a blind request and see if what you're looking for is found. Fortunately, many of the records for titles at the Archival Center are much more informative, and you will often see entries like these:

This is much more helpful, as these entries indicate exactly which dates are available and allows you to request the specific volume(s) required. Note also that not every item at the Archival Center has an individual entry yet, so if you see a title you want but not the specific date or volume you're seeking, it may be worth placing a request anyway just in case the volume is out there but not yet listed in the catalog. 

Volumes of journals or magazines at the Archival Center may be requested through the Central Delivery Desk using the same process as exists for titles kept at the Central Library, but items can require several days to be sent in to the Central Library for viewing. These items can only be used within the library and may not be borrowed.

If the journal or magazine content you want is not available from the Central Delivery Desk or the Archival Center and is not available on microfilm, go to 7. Interlibrary Loan for information about attempting to request articles from other libraries.

If a title has an entry with the location BPL - Microtext, as above, some issues will be available in some microform format (usually microfilm). These will include older issues of some general periodicals and magazines, as well as the titles in the American Periodical Series and English Literary Periodicals microfilm sets. Searchable indexes to these sets are available in the list of electronic resources under the Index to Early American Periodicals entries and the Index to English Literary Periodicals.

Unfortunately the catalog entries generally do not specify exactly which issues are available on microfilm. For more information about specific availability, visit or contact the Research Services Department.

Microfilm may be used in the Research Services area at the left end of Bates Hall on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library. Please have your library card or research card present when requesting microfilm. 

If the BPL does not offer physical or electronic access to the journal content you're seeking and you have a full-service BPL/MBLN card, you may place a request through the Interlibrary Loan Office, and an attempt will be made to request the content from another library on your behalf. 

First, check the Commonwealth Catalog to see whether the title you're seeking can be found there. If not, click the blue Request Materials button and follow the steps to create an account and place your request.

Note that it is often not possible for the Interlibrary Loan Office to borrow entire issues of periodicals, so requesting individual articles is the best approach. If they can be obtained, requested articles can often be delivered electronically.

Please feel free to contact the library if you have any additional questions.