Zines an Emerging Trend in Librarianship

July 13, 2012 by lindsay

photo courtesy of OCADU's Learning Zone

My dream job is to be a zine librarian.

My original dream job was to be a journalist who wrote about zines. That came true in 2006 when I got the job editing Broken Pencil magazine. But in 2009 — after writing about film for various magazines for years (that was another dream job) — I decided that journalism just wasn’t fulfilling me anymore. I had already achieved all my goals in that field, and I could no longer think of anything to strive for. Then it hit me: I wanted to be a librarian.

Because I had been working with the Toronto Reference Library on its zine collection (which was started in part by Broken Pencil), and because I had given a number of talks to high school and post secondary students about zines, I realized that teaching people about zines (and the many great things that come along with zines such as social justice, political awareness, literacy and self esteem) was what I wanted to be doing.

For the uninitiated, zines (pronounced zeens) are independent publications made by individuals or collectives to share their views. There are no rules around making zines, so they can take any form imaginable and can be on any subject. The variety and unstructured nature of zines makes them both useful to libraries (in part because they document local communities in a way no other medium does), but it also makes them difficult to catalogue.

In 2010 I started studying at the University of Toronto’s iSchool and am now a recent MI (LIS) graduate in Toronto looking for a job. While in “library school” I focused on zines as much as possible, creating a zine collection at a student-run library on campus, helping the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) to choose online cataloguing software to make its collection searchable, starting a book club at OCADU that integrated zines into the reading choices, and giving talks at libraries, schools and conferences about how zines can be used as literacy and teaching tools. So I was happy to see Kevin Coleman over at Hack Library School estimating that zines are an emerging career in librarianship. In his piece, Coleman articulates what Broken Pencil and zine makers everywhere have been advocating for years: that we must not forget the innovation that still occurs in print during this digital revolution.

Next week I am speaking to a Readers’ Advisory class about zines and their potential uses in public libraries. In addition to talking about what a zine is, how to find them and how to start a zine collection in a library, I will be discussing how zines can be used not only to educate but to empower readers to create. A zine collection in a library can serve as a launching pad for programming for teens and young adults such as zine writing workshops, zine reading and making clubs, public zine readings and more.

I realize that I’m not about to land a job entitled “zine librarian” anytime soon (or maybe ever), but I hope that in whatever library I end up, I will have the opportunity to pitch and develop a zine library and create programming to attract and engage new patrons.

P.S. Celebrate Zine Library Day on July 21st!

Some Resources for Zine Librarians:

ALA’s Zines in Libraries panel (which includes a zine on building a zine collection)

Zine Librarian Yahoo! Group

Zine Libraries Interest Group

Bartel, J. (2004). From A to Zine: Building a Winning Zine Collection in your Library. Chicago: American Library Association.

Zine Librarian Zine

Zine Librarian Group on We Make Zines (a social media space for zine makers)

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