Gatekeepers and the zine community

Ethics in zine collecting à ethics of collecting for special collections, where it is not browseable (ala infoshop)
How do you ethically develop a collection?
Issues: anonymity, excluding information on some items
Theoretical side: dichotomy between subculture/underground and mainstream
Issues include:
  • Mainstream institutions co-opting
  • Ethics of preserving something that may not have been created to be preserved
  • Way something is recorded/artifact

Question: who has closed stacks? Circulating?
John: State Library of Australia, Melbourne: similar to one at UWM, but less direct access. All zines are kept in cooler storage. About 8000 zines, kept in mylar slips/cardboard backing, preservation-quality boxes. Some oversized. Started as a time capsule thing, late 90s, with idea that zines were dying. Access: can’t be electronically requested (unlike other items) – you have to phone and make an appt. you have 3x day, 5x week. Generally, no photocopying, no pencils. No gloves.
Public: 2 (1 remote attendee)
Academic: 8
Community: (“rando dirty kids”): 6
Government: 1

Honor: Scheslinger Library at Harvard. Special collections, non-circ closed stacks, public is welcome, but photo id requested (don’t know why theyd’ be turned away). Catalogued into main catalogue like any other material. Stored on her desk, but will end up in document boxes in storage, with spacers if needed. Collecting: document women in American history, inc. gender things, queer zines, culinary zines. Very focused on posterity: current and future researchers, long-term researchers, rather than for a community. Long-term asset. Not browseable, but mediated through online access, through bibliographic records. One of few Harvard libraries open to the public, others very hard to get into. No food no drink in the reading room, we give you a pencil. Were using Dewey classification, but stopped – Box/folder listing instead. Collocatable through constructed collection titles. E.g. looking for Riot Grrrl zines – get subject headings, but there’s some fuzziness with this (and there will be a session on this later!).

Sarah: U of Chicago, buys for regular collections and special collections. Is based on teaching interests, so interested in zines because faculty is interested in them. Special collections is like others, no pens, etc. Special collections is actually more open to the public, circulating only gets to faculty and students. ILL regular collections, though. (Fees are unknown.)

Chris: QZAP is probably unique at the table. Two components: public face is the website, with under 400 zines digitized, available 24/7 to download. Free, uses free and open-source software. But this is only a fraction of the physical collection, in several file cabinets. Minimal preservation work. Chris is the only person in the collective who has archival experience (learned from Susie Bright’s mother.) Mylar envelopes/acid-free backers around, so will fasttrack items with preservation issues. QZAP will eventually get to live in their basement. At that point, will be open to the public, with open hours. Currently, access to non-digitized items is by request – someone will contact someone from the collective. Chris is the research coordinator, so will receive requests. Will scan zines for researchers, and also answer reference questions and give statistics/analytical information (e.g. how many trans people of color zines d’ya have?). But, they don’t have an overarching catalogue, so reference depends on individual knowledge of the collection. QZAP doesn’t exist as anything: loose collective of people around the globe who put in the time and . Non-hierarchical consensus.

Jessica: Started lending library out of her living room, through the mail, and got people to come to read zines. But folks didn’t want to send things back. Now collecting zines for special collections. Zines in milk crates and hanging folders, alphabetically. Donated her collection to Special Collections here at UWM. UWM also uses Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Chelsea: Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley CA, been open since ’93. Accessibility is opposite special collection folks, because it’s about organization. Has about15,000 zines. (collective wow!) Aim to catalogue, to make them more accessible. Not a lot of academic research, but lots of browsing. Subject headings are problematic, but there’s a field for that in the catalogue. Zero money – pay rent, but zero money for preservation materials. Anyone can come in and check things out. Totally public – most of folks who come in are homeless. Only open in evenings, 6-9, six days a week, which is also an accessibility issue. Trying to get a grant for acid-free boxes and stuff. Non-circulating. Also have a photocopier that often works.

Lacey: Zine Apothecary in her garage in Minneapolis. 1600, catalogued in Librarything. Evolved from an infoshop, would like to have it back in an infoshop. Talked to several academic institutions, but didn’t feel right. Open by appointment, not really regular hours right now. Not archival! Circulating library, you get three weeks, then drop ‘em off on her porch. Lots of anarchist materials, inc. RNC welcoming committee – concerns about library records – will just shred it once item is returned.

<QZAP doesn’t keep stats; ___ shreds everything.

Jude: Zines in teen department, but teens weren’t engaging with it at a certain point. Some of those got integrated into new collection. Browesable. Started 2.5 years ago. 800ish zines. Catalogued in LibraryThing. Could have advocated to get them integrated into catalogue, but it’s about access in other ways – items would get lost to cataloguing for a long time; inflexibility of Library of Congress Subject Headings; non-familiarity with zines by cataloguers may cause issues. Physically, in mylar sleeves with backs. Created subjects, even though there are multiples subjects for things. Asks folks to self-catalogue when they drop off zines. Tag the crap out of them in librarything.

Marta: Ontario College of Art Design library. 700ish zines, about half of those just this year. Not a preservation collection: kept in the Learning Zone, organized by category in magazine files, then by size. Deals with the flopping over issue. Students are free to eat and drink in this space. More of a community collection, less preservation one. Access – developing a cataloging system for the past year and a half, trying to get that online. Non-circulating. Not open to the public, issue since all zines are donations. One idea, have a zine library card available to the public, so folks can get into the space even if they’re not connected to the university. Concerns about putting it into the catalogue, also not very many cataloguers, so access to that would be difficult. Trying to things to put online. <Issue of cataloging is also an issue of institutional priorities; advocacy has to happen.>

Papercut Zine Library: over 40 categories, within that they’re arranged by size, then alphabetically. About 4000 comics. Over 14,000 titles and 1,400 members members. Now in their second (larger) space, unfortunately they have to pay rent, unfortunately it is on the third floor of an artist’s space building (not accessible). In terms of preservation: shut the window before it rains on the travel section. Oldest thing, from 1937 in the humour section. Open to the public, lending library. But only 3 days a week 2-7 PM, only 5 collective members right now.

Kelly: University of Iowa

Joe: researcher, zine user! And donator. It’s hard to find people to talk about zines. Got really interested in zines, teaching popular coluture. Has genre zines, in certain 700 or 800 graffiti zines, about 100 titles. Did the eBay thing! Has six bookcases full of zines in boxes labeled by names, in good shape, but in a tiny office. Kind of a fire hazard. Looking for a special place for them! But, interested in things like: when does a zine become not a zine? Still writing about youth subcultures. Had to stop collecting. Goth, vampire, and more zines. Interested in keeping them together as a collection. Donated riot girl zines, queer zines, underground comix here at UWM. Tried to give things to Bowling Green, but no response.

Joe: Library student here.

Michigan State University – similar to other academic instituations, but as a land grant instituation, things are open to everyone. But special collections are non-circ. Also different: people can bring in their own scanners. Does ILL, will scan things for folks.

Talking Book and Braille Library: Milwaukee PL doesn’t really collect zines, handled in various ways. Some amateur press ass’ns used to . Has been collecting magazines from sci fi

Shannon: intern with QZAP last summer, has own collection at home.
Eric: friends with Chris, Milo, Shannon, Jessica. Makes zines, too. Here listening.

Kelsey (remote attendee): Olympia Timberland Library, currently have about 1,000 circulating zines. Zines live in the Olympia branch but are available in the regular public catalog- patrons in 27 branches can place holds on zines and have them delivered to their branch. We recently added a way to search "just added" zines- this has upped our circulation significantly.
New Zines in the Timberland Regional Library catalog
Timberland Regional Library's zine page

To what extent were our strategies taken with purposeful goals vs. just because things just happened?
Marta: At OCAD, zine library was originally in the library, which is public. Then opened this alterative library space (Learning Zone), and decided to put zines there. Very much an incidental decision.

Jessica: Originally, just taking what people gave me, and accessibility wasn’t a problem, no issues getting things back. Cream City Collective infoshop/radical space, but at the time, concern that her collection didn’t fit into their scope, more personal things compared to radical things. Also concerned with just letting things go. So chose academic library, knowing things would be safe, and accessible to the public.

Chelsea: no one thought we’d be around this long! Now, someone just needs to take charge. Preservation is such an afterthought.

John: Preservation can get in the way of accessibility.

Sarah: You can also agrue that, if you don’t preserve it, it will disintegreate and no longer be accessibility.