Crazy about Zines

On Fridays throughout last spring semester, a casual observer could often walk by a table and see several people hunched over single pieces of paper, drawing, writing, and folding them into miniature publishing masterpieces called zines. Zines, pronounced zeens, are independently-made publications. The word comes from a shortened version of “magazine,” but also from the term fanzine, a name for independently produced fan publications about musicians, performers, and political movements.  Zines are unique because they allow writers to circulate their ideas without necessarily being part of the publishing industry, allowing them to bypass social and commercial barriers to speak directly with their audience. They have their roots in older forms of personalized communication, such as scrapbooks, newsletters, and guidebooks, many of which were written to a small select audience with no intention of formal publication.  Many zines are written for and by marginalized groups and provide and venue for authors who may be underrepresented in mainstream publishing to share their writing with others.

Although zines provide researchers with a unique look into many diverse lived experiences, creating repositories for zines can be difficult because they are often ephemeral and short-lived, have small distribution areas, and may not be recognized as scholarly literature. In 2016, Erika Church and Julia Huddleston received an internal library ASPIRE grant to develop a publicly-accessible zine collection, making these texts available to read both for research and fun. In order to support the library’s mission to foster diversity and inclusion, the zine collection specifically acquires zines written by people from marginalized groups, including people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities. They also collect zines created by students at the University of Utah. Each zine has one copy in the circulating collection and a second in Special Collections, enabling easy public access as well as long-term preservation.

Using the ASPIRE grant money, Erika and July spent over $3500 dollars purchasing zines, about 75% of their budget. They also received zines donated by individual creators and authors, the Salt Lake City Public Library, Barnard College, and Ute youth, bringing the total number of zines purchased and donated to the collection over a thousand. They also purchased materials and supplies, such as special shelving to display the zines appropriately in the first-floor browsing collection. They also purchased materials to put together a zine cart filled with materials to allow people at the University of Utah to create their own zines. As part of their outreach about the zine collection, they participated in the library’s Tabling Tuesday Events, did a workshop during the LGBT Resource Center Action Week, and the library’s Makerspace each Friday.

Erika Church and Juli Huddleston worked with students from the Ute Reservation who were interested in making their own zines.

 
They also used the zines in course instruction and on and off-campus outreach. They provided embedded instruction in zines in Feminist Theory 3900 and Race and Gender in Popular Culture, working with students who created their own zines as part of course assignments. Professors also invited them to three single instruction sessions through the year. They travelled with other folks from the library to Fort Duchesne four times to provide instruction as part of the Ute Youth Camp, which invites students with Native American backgrounds to share their stories. Julia, Erika, and other Marriott Library folks also publicized the collection at Grid Zine Fest and the Alt Press Fest, two local zine and independent publication festivals, as well as the Zine Pavilion at the American Library Association annual conference. They also worked with girls from ages 7-18 enrolled in Girls Rock Camp to make zines documenting their experiences.

The zine collection is clearly a hit, drawing interest from across the nation, university and library. Erika and Julia plan to continue developing the zine collection with continued funding from the library, and to continue doing embedded course instruction and outreach. They also plan to publish and present about their work. For instance, Julia will be participating at the Upcoming Zine (un-) Conference this year in Long Beach, CA, an annual conference that brings together zine librarians to talk about building collections and increasing access to them. They also plan to continue seeking external grant funding, which may provide an opportunity to hire an intern to further develop the collection. They are particularly appreciative of all of the many departments and people who have helped develop the zine collection, including folks from Acquisitions, Collection Services, Creativity & Innovation Services, Digital Library Services Financial Management, Library Facilities, Preservation and Binding, Purchasing, Special Collections, and User Experience & Web Development. If you would like to visit the zine collection, please stop by the Browsing Collection on the first floor or Special Collections on the 4th floor of the J. Willard Marriott Library.

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