People Watching: Brian Marchese, Forbes Library’s Periodical Manager  

  • Brian Marchese, periodical manager at Forbes Library, displays magazines. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Brian Marchese, periodical manager at Forbes Library, displays magazines. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Brian Marchese, periodical manager at Forbes Library. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

For the Gazette
Monday, November 06, 2017

A seasoned rocker who’s originally from Huntington Beach, Ca., Brian Marchese, 44, has played drum for around 30 years. “I play drums in several bands: the Fawns, Gentle Hen...,” he says. “It kind of ebbs and flows, especially now that I’m not in my 20s anymore. Just in the past 10 years, everyone started to get more serious jobs and have families.” 

Brian, too. During the daytime, the father of a three-year-old girl works in a much quieter world, curating the magazine and newspaper collections in Forbes Library, where he’s the periodical manager.

On a recent day at the library, he had his curly hair freshly cut. (“I’d rather not represent Forbes looking like a crazy hippie,” he joked in an email.) And on his desk in the basement were several newly labeled magazines. Sitting there, Brian talked about the library’s magazine collection, which currently has 300 titles, from Backyard Poultry to the feminist magazine Bitch, Kinfolk to Kiplinger’s, Rug Hooking to Runner’s World, Tea House Times to Teen Vogue.

In all, they circulated 11,681 copies last year. “That is an impressive number, especially since it’s remained consistently high and not suffered due to digital alternatives,” Marchese says. “In addition to the magazines that are circulated, there are many patrons who don’t check them out but will take a few off the rack and spend a couple hours sitting and reading them in the Forbes Reading Room. So, the readership is probably even a little higher than the numbers reflect.” 


How did you start the job? “For seven years, I was working for the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System as a deliverer. There were four to five vans going out every day, and I would go with one of them to see the little towns, like: ‘Oh my god, I’ve read that name before, but I’m not sure it existed.’ In 2011, they merged the entire state libraries, got a delivery company doing it, and everyone lost their job. And then this job came up at the end of 2014.” 

How do you like it? “It ended up being a good fit. Two elements that fit my personality are being able to work alone (I have a department all to myself) and the frequent changing of things… Also, I have a wide range of interests. It’s not like I always have the time to read all the magazines, but I can always get a feel of what’s going on in the world.”

Most enjoyable part of the job: “Coming across a feature story in a magazine that catches my interest… I’ll make a note to myself and say, ‘check that out.’ Also when folks express their appreciation for the diversity of the collection.”

Most popular magazines: “Cooking magazines are huge. Also quality news and writing… The Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, The Economist. And then there are a lot of spiritual ones like Buddhist and yoga magazines.” 

Titles that don’t make the cut: “When I first started, I was like, ‘Wow, OK, we still get Time magazine.’ And I looked at the statistics and was like, ‘You know what? No one ever takes them out!’ So I canceled it. After not getting Time for three years or so, I just got it again because people started asking about it; since [the election of] our current president, Time has started to publish some quality stuff.”

Local heroes: “There’s a local literary magazine called Meat for Tea, which runs out of Easthampton and promotes local poets, writers and artists.”

Personal favorites: “Mental Floss. It’s quirky and useful knowledge. You learn all kinds of random stuff that makes you feel smarter after reading it. Obviously, I love some of the music magazines. There are two British music magazines we’re getting that are always more in-depth: Mojo and Shindig! I got another one called Record Collector, which is also out of England.” 

Political magazines: “This is a very liberal area, so we have a lot of left-leaning magazines: Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Nation, The New Republic. One patron mentioned to Lisa [Downing], the director of Forbes, ‘Why don’t you have any right-leaning conservative magazines? Don’t you think that you can’t assume everybody’s liberal here?’ So I did some research about well-written, educated conservative magazines. The one that I got is called The American Conservative. We’ve had it for six months now, and we’ve got three issues. (He checks the catalog on his computer screen.) The first issue went out… zero times. The next one went out… zero times. I’ll give it another chance.”

On magazines going out of print: “This year has seen the biggest incident of that. Just in the past year and a half, 15 titles announced that they were either stopping immediately or stopping in the next three or four months. There isn’t a trend for what kind of magazines… Bicycle Times, American Photo, Mental Floss, Lucky Peach… Usually when they stop publishing, I’ll keep them on the shelf for a year.” 

On organizing the magazine shelf: “I’m not obsessively orderly... It bugged me first, like, ‘This looks messy, that is out of order,’ but then I quickly realized people treat magazines like magazines. They are respectful to them as far as they are library material. Most patrons are. But there are thieves. The other day, I noticed that we’re missing five archaeology magazines. Like, really? Of all things, archaeology magazines?”