Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dewey Decimal Love and the wonders of zine libraries

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Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Kirsty Fife as part of her oral history project around zines.  While I had very little to say and yet managed to ramble on for an hour, we talked a little bit about access to zines and zine libraries/archives.

As a zinester and a librarian I have a foot in both camps. I previously worked at the Stuart Hall Library and helped set up the amazing zine library there as well as organising ongoing zine talks and events to promote this brand new zine collection. I think that zines in libraries and archives are a wonderful thing, but then I came to realise that very few of my own zines are actually in any zine libraries! This is mostly due to the fact that I’m just very lazy, but then I wondered how many of my friends who make zines deposit their zines in libraries and I wondered their reasons either for why they do or don’t.

I can totally see why people might be wary of adding zines to zine libraries. Your zine might be personal and intended for a very small readership, perhaps you made it under a pseudonym, or perhaps you only ever intended your close group of friends to read it. The idea that your zine could be donated to a library without your permission, catalogued, and made accessible to people you have no control over and viewed out of context is quite a scary prospect. When I worked at the Stuart Hall Library, very few donations came in from individual zinesters at that time, mostly it was people with shoeboxes of zine collections they had laying around at home taking up space and so they donated them to us. And that’s how your incredibly personal zine might end up in a zine collection without you even knowing.

Our first donation of zines to our zine library at the Stuart Hall Library was a carrier bag full of someone's personal zine collection. Your zine could have been in there!

Zine collections, the big ones anyway, often belong to larger institutions and you might be thinking DAMN THE MAN or something,  and don’t want a super rich evil organisation looking after your zines. You might not agree with copyright policy in place at larger institutions and might want your zine to be photocopied as much as people like rather than being restricted. Alternatively you might not want your zine photocopied or digitised or circulated outside of your intended readership at all.  You might also like the idea of zines as ephemeral transient artefacts, that become tatty and worn and passed around from person to person. The idea that a zine could become static and  preserved and stored in an archive might go against your ideas around circulation and access to zines.

I totally understand all those things, I get them too. As a zinester I want to make sure my zines are accessible to as many people as possible. Although saying that, you won’t find a single goddamn trace of any of the zines I made as a teen ANYWHERE. As much as I am proud of my early creations, they make me cringe so bad and it’s like reading my teenage diary, argh!

 I like to believe that zine libraries widen access to zines, although they aren’t perfect. I mean, it’s not as if zines are sitting on shelves in public libraries which provide open access to a diverse cross section of people who just wandered in off the street.  Most of the time you will still need to view zines by appointment in specialist libraries, and you still need to be in the know to be aware of diy spaces/social centres/infoshops as well.  So often you still need to be aware of zine culture in the first place rather than being able to accidentally stumble across it.

But I do love zine libraries! I know some people prefer smaller, diy collections to larger zine libraries managed by librarians, but having staff who can catalogue zines is a super helpful thing. Having something as simple as a zine title added to an existing online library catalogue can be huge exposure, and having further info added to the catalogue record to describe the format and contents of the zine is amazing. It allows a certain extent of ‘stumbling across zines’ to the wider public. Libraries and archives (hopefully) also have preservation policies in place, as well as things like disaster plans. So your zines will be looked after properly and made accessible to a wider audience as possible both now and in the future. That’s gotta be good right?

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So here’s a handy list of zine libraries in the UK if you are thinking of donating your zines to a zine library or if you just want to visit and read other zines. There are also LOTS of international zine libraries to look out for too

And if you are considering donating your zines to a library or archive then here's a little bit of advice which will make it much easier for zine libraries to catalogue your zine - please make sure that the title of your zine, the name under which you've written it, and a rough date of publication is visible somewhere in the zine or accompanying documentation. It makes cataloguing zines a buttload easier and I guarantee you that you will make some lovely librarian's day if you do this!

Scope: Has specialist collections of counterculture zines, women’s zines, music zines, football zines, alternative comics. Items are held within Special Collections and are available on request.

Online catalogue: Most zines have been catalogued and you can search for zines here  There are also finding lists available for some uncatalogued zines and comics here  

Donations policy: Contact to donate your zine

Access: Zines are available to BL readers upon request. Contact for more info. Opening hours and registration details here 

Scope: The Women’s Library zine collection aims to collect and preserve women's zines from the 1970s to present day.

Online Catalogue: All zines are catalogued and can be searched here 

Donations policy: The Women’s Library is currently in transition, as the collections are being migrated to the LSE Library. Due to staffing and severe budget cuts it’s unsure as to whether the library is accepting new donations to its collections, but you can contact the Women’s Library here for further info 

Access:The womens library at LSE will be closed until August 2013 during the transition period. Later this summer the collections will be accessible to the public. For more information regarding the new site and opening hours visit the LSE website here 

Scope: The Stuart Hall Library began its zine collection in 2010 and is continuing to collect zines. The library collects zines relating to cultural diversity,race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, as well as personal/political/arts based zines. 

Online Catalogue: All zines are catalogued and be searched here 

Donations policy: The library welcomes donations, please contact to discuss donating your zine

Access: You will need to register as a library member to access the material. The library is open Tues- Fri 10am – 1pm 2pm – 5pm. Please contact the library to make an appointment

Scope: The LCC part of the University of Arts has a growing collection of zines spanning art zines as well as music/personal/political zines, covering art, music, photography, politics and personal stories.

Online catalogue: Items are added to the general library catalogue here 

Donations policy: The library welcomes donations. Please contact

Access: To arrange access please contact

Scope: The library collects all zines donated to the collections ranging from art zines to personal zines to music zines etc

Online catalogue: No online catalogue available

Donations policy: Salford Zine Library wants your zines! The library collects all zines donated to the collections, contact

Access: The library is open daily to the public.

Scope: The zine library collects political, feminist, queer, activist zines as well as perzines and punk zines.

Online catalogue: No online catalogue

Donations policy: The library welcomes donations, please contact

Access: 56a is a volunteer run social Centre and is open to the public. The centre is open Weds 3 – 7pm, Thurs 2-8pm, Fri 3 – 7pm, Sat 2 – 6pm.

Scope: Zineopolis focuses on zines heavy with visutal content aka art zines, but also has zines wider in scope.

Online catalogue of zines: No online catalogue but each zine in the collection is briefly listed plus description and images here

Donations policy: To donate your zine please contact The library welcomes donations that are visual based art zines.

Access: To access the collection please contact

Scope: Feminist, perzines, music, punk, political, comics included in the collection. The collection dates from the early 90s to present day.

Online catalogue: The GWL doesn’t have an online catalogue to search for materials yet.

Donations policy: Zine donations are welcome, please contact

Access: The library is open Mon-Fri 10am – 4:30pm. To arrange access and request specific zines please contact

Scope: The library is a lending library with materials relating to libertarian, ecological, and feminist books, pamphlets, and zines.

Online catalogue: The online catalogue of zines is currently in progress. You can check the progress of this here  (Gotta say though, I’m pretty damned impressed at their progess so far in creating a free easy to use catalogue considering it’s not got the weight of a larger educational institution behind it)

Donations policy: The library welcomes donations, you can contact for more infor

Access: The library is open Weds, Thurs, Fri 12 – 6pm and Thursday evenings 7 – 9pm


  1. For anyone reading this, Salford zine library is located in Nexus art café Manchester and is open everyday (I think) so you can have a cup of tea and cake AND browse zines!

    1. Thanks! I've amended access details xxx

    2. I live in Manchester and I did not know this! Thanks Sugar Paperette! :)

  2. This is such a helpful list, thank you!


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