Friday, 21 July 2017

International Zine Library Day 2017

I'm a zinester and I'm also a librarian, and I'm also a zine librarian. It's pretty ace.

Liz Prince rules my heart

I was about to say I've been lucky enough to work with zines in most of my library roles in the last 10 years, but it's not been luck so much as it's been hard work,  lots of sneaking around, lots of educating colleagues on the merits of zines, and lots of challenging conversations.  While zine libraries are nothing new it can be really tough to get zines into an existing library collection, or to convince colleagues that  photocopied scrappy booklets are just as important as other materials in the library. 

In 2009 I set up the zine library at Stuart Hall Library with my colleague and super star librarian Sonia Hope.  We slowly began to sneak zines into the library and then we sneakily re-wrote the collection development policy to include zines. After a lot of sneaking around we launched the start of our new zine collection to lots of excited interest but also some resistance. We had some pretty challenging conversations along the way in order to get the zine collection taken seriously and today thanks to Sonia, Nick, and Stephanie the zine collection is growing strong. 

I moved over to Tate Library in 2011 where there wasn't an existing zine collection, but there was a pretty impressive collection of artists' books and artists' serials. The definitions of zines and artists' books, particularly in the context of an art library is pretty blurry and so in 2014 I was able to introduce zines into the collection on the understanding that it developed the idea of self publishing in the arts and complimented the existing artist's books collection. It's still very early days and I'm trying to promote the zine collection as much as possible. I think the benefit of having zines in the collection is that it opens up definitions of self publishing in art. It's great being able to use zines in our group visits, displays, and workshops in the library, to encourage young people to make their own works, and also to encourage people to broaden their definitions of self publishing beyond glossy photobooks and slick artists' books as things which are accessible, cheap, and easy to make themselves. 

Zines are also great for including radical voices and critique in libraries. I love that the art zines in our collection can be accessed and used for research by our readers in the same way that Catalogue Raisonnes and exhibition catalogues are. Zines can be used to educate, share knowledge on lesser known subjects, and provide radical alternatives to established art history publications in our library. 

And so to celebrate International Zine Month and to to mark the end of a bunch of queer library events I've hosted recently, I've been able to set up a display of queer zines outside the library reading rooms. The zines in the display case have been used as part of the Late at Tate session, the Queer and Now event at Tate Britain, and were also featured in our Queering the Library and Archive event a couple of weeks ago and are now having a bit of a rest before heading back to our library shelves. I hope that by having this display people will want to come and read zines or include their zines in our collections. The queer zines are on display at Tate Britain just outside our reading rooms until the end of August. 

And as part of International Zine Month it's also International Zine Library Day today! Tomorrow I'm  hosting a free zine making workshop at Tate with artist and zinester and all round good egg Seleena Daye and the zines made on the day will be added to the library zine collection with permission of the creators. I really hope it's the first of many zine making workshops we get to do in the library. 

I set up the UK and Ireland Zine Librarians group a couple of years ago with the wonderful Leila Kassir. At the moment it's an online space for people working with library collections to ask for help and share advice. We are a very small group  of UK and Irish librarians but if you work with zines in a collection regardless of job description or job title then please do join us! We need you! At the moment I'm working on setting up a directory for UK and Ireland zine libraries similar to the annual list I used to publish and hopefully this can be an up to date resource for anyone wanting to access zines for free or to donate their zines to libraries. 

If you're a zine librarian based in UK and Ireland then help us with our online directory 

If you make zines then please consider donating a copy if you are able to, or contact the library to offer your zine for purchase. Many diy community libraries rely solely on donations, some libraries have a smaller budget to buy a few titles, and other libraries have a much bigger budget. All zine collections are different, but the benefit of all zine libraries is that they can provide free access to your zines to a huge range of people, sometimes beyond the scope of your intended readership, and can be looked after and stored for a very long time. 

I was moaning just yesterday that I've been pretty inactive this International Zine Month when really what I meant was that I haven't put out a zine this month like I usually do. But my work with zines in the library has pretty much taken over my life recently and I'm close to burnout levels, so once the workshop tomorrow is done I'll be taking a nice break before getting my next zine out in September. And I'll also be watching wrestling because I've somehow gone 33 years without it and now I've discovered it I don't ever wanna go back to watching critically acclaimed telly again.

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