Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Look at Zine Librarianship

If you were a teenager in the 1980s or '90s, then you've likely heard of zines: homemade publications focused on a subject of great personal interest to the producers of the publications. Zines typically come in booklet or magazine form, and traditionally they're produced through the cutting and pasting of articles and graphics, and then photocopied to make final copies for distribution, often at the local or community level.

The Zine Library at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in Canada.
Photo: http://blog.ocad.ca/wordpress/learningzone/about/?doing_wp_cron=1341353240
In recent years, academic libraries and public libraries have incorporated zines into their collections. Seeing their value as archival items that give unique insight into often-overlooked segments of society, these institutions have cultivated zine libraries within the larger library with the help of young staff members who already had an interest in zines, whether as makers of zines or as fans of this alternative form of print media.

Curating zines as a zine librarian has never crossed the minds of many library school students. But it's considered one of the "Emerging Careers in Librarianship" by Hack Library School (HLS). In a recent post titled "Zines (Yes, zines!)," HLS explains what zines are, describes how you can become a zine librarian, and interviews two zine librarians: Kelly McElroy, Undergraduate Services Librarian at the University of Iowa, and Jenna Freedman, Director of Research and Instruction at Barnard College.

Barnard College has received press attention for its excellent zine library. So has New York University: it notably augmented its Fales Library holdings with the Riot Grrrl Collection, featuring zines that came out of the punk feminist movement that was most prominent in the early-to-mid 90s. And the zine library at Brooklyn College will soon make its debut. "It's important to be at an institution where you can make the case for zines," said Freedman, who pitched the idea of a zine collection to Barnard.

As one panelist said at ALA 2012 in Anaheim: "Both zines and libraries are reflections and creations of their communities." Bringing the two together as a zine librarian is a career worth looking into.

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