Independent, non-commercial, and often handmade magazines have been around long before 2011 when Alex Wrekk designated July as International Zine Month. A well-known zinester, Wrekk, also specified July 21 as International Zine Library Day. Wrekk's publications include the highly regarded Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource, and Brainscan Zine. International Zine Library Day is an opportunity to celebrate the collection and preservation of zines on a global level, archiving ephemeral objects that eschew barcodes and conventional distribution.
The Los Angeles Public Library established its first zine collection at Baldwin Hills in July 2017. Other branches quickly followed: Benjamin Franklin, Cypress Park, West L.A. Regional, Edendale, and Goldwyn Hollywood. Currently, the library has over 1200 zines cataloged. To celebrate International Zine Month and International Zine Library Day, our zine librarians at these branches wanted to share with you their first encounter with zines, why they think it's important to have them at public libraries and a bit about the zines they have made.
Angi Brzycki, Adult Librarian III, Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library
I remember the first time I heard of a zine, I thought, "you can do that?" When I realized yes, you could do that and that there were lots of people doing it, I wanted to make zines too. I started making zines in the mid-aughts and putting them on consignment at bookstores in N.Y.C., San Francisco, and L.A. I would be shocked and thrilled when I got a check in the mail from one of these shops. The checks were usually for a few dollars, but I was flattered that someone actually bought one of my zines! Some of my zines are in university libraries. I love it when I get a random email from a student wanting to reference my zine in their research paper. Having zines in the public library, for me, is hugely important too. It's all about access. Zines are DIY and historically created by the marginalized. The content is not always represented in mainstream published works, and with zines—there are no rules or limitations to the content. When I worked at the Edendale Branch Library, I absolutely loved seeing folks of all ages browse the collection and borrow zines with their library card. It has been amazing to connect with zinesters and to get so many submissions to add to the collection. It was so fun to build Edendale's collection and incorporate local zinesters that live and work in Echo Park.
Carrie Davies, Public Service Librarian, West L.A. Regional Library
I first learned about zines just a few years ago as a librarian at the West L.A. Regional Library. Fellow librarian, and awesome zinester, Yago Cura, was starting a zine collection at the West L.A. Branch Library and asked if I'd be interested in helping. So, I asked the question, "What's a zine?" Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with Yago to create a zine collection at the branch, co-hosting multiple zine workshops, and now pivoting to provide online zine inspiration and activities through our library's social media. What impresses me most about zines is the unlimited opportunity for self-expression. As a former teacher, I see the amazing potential of zines as a literacy tool since they provide a fun and creative outlet to express and share ideas. Because our library zine collections are open for submissions, you can even have your zine included in a public library collection and catalog, available for loan! My favorite part of my zine experience has been our zine workshops at the library. I have met so many amazing and creative people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a joy to be a part of a diverse community taking risks and sharing ideas through the creation of zines. I am looking forward to continuing to learn different zine techniques while developing my confidence and sharing my newfound love of zines.
Daniel Tures, Adult Librarian, Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library
I used to make zines with my friends back in the 80s. We would xerox them at copy shops and mail them out and leave them around hip spots in El Paso and San Antonio, where I lived at the time…I mainly remember one we did that had several issues that were called Peaches & Herbicide (like the '70s singing duo Peaches & Herb), all about punk rock and 70s kitsch. We were inspired by Maximum Rock & Roll and Cometbus and that kind of thing. I figured when the internet and social media came along in the late 90s, stuff like zines and LP records and film cameras were just going to fade away into the past, so I'm thrilled to see that the younger generation are still excited about keeping them vital! Zines are a more personal and tactile and non-corporate form of self-expression, so I love that people keep making them. They're an excellent way for people to express themselves artistically and communicate in an underground grassroots community kind of way. They take much more time and effort and care to create than an Instagram post; you can really feel it when you read one. Some of the newer ones people make are so beautiful and bizarre and psychedelic, they are light-years beyond what we used to do in the 80s! When I first visited the Edendale Branch Library I was thrilled to see they had such a cool zine collection, and now we have one at Hollywood too thanks to Julia G. and Angi B. Maybe I should sneak some old issues of Peaches & Herbicide onto that zine shelf…
Julia Glassman, Children's Librarian, Fairfax Branch Library
My first zine was a literary zine, my friends, and I put together in the 90s when our high school literary magazine didn't accept our submissions. I didn't get really into zines, though, until the first L.A. Zine Fest in 2012. Walking through the aisles of beautiful handmade publications, I thought back to my little high school zine, decided that I wanted to start making zines again, and began to write and illustrate zines about witchcraft and pop culture. I was also lucky enough to get a job at a library where I was able to launch and curate a zine collection for college students. When I came to the Los Angeles Public Library, I started another zine collection at the Goldwyn Hollywood Branch. Now, as a children's librarian, I nurture budding zinesters by making space for kids to express themselves through art. Zine libraries are important because they highlight marginalized voices and provide communities with access to art and writing that may not make it into the mainstream publishing world.
Kevin Awakuni, Young Adult Librarian, Pio Pico Koreatown Branch Library
One of the very first zines that I remember buying was Applicant by Jesse Reklaw. He had come across a stack of Ph.D. applications to an Ivy League school from the years 1965-1975 in the trash, along with the applicant's photo and private notes from prospective employers. The results are hilarious, disturbing, and outright ridiculous. Of course, I fell in love with it immediately and tried to get every person I know to love it as much as I did.
My favorite zines are still the mini-comic diary-style issues, like Snakepit by Ben Snakepit, where the author draws out what they did every day, usually in a four-panel page. I always enjoyed reading about other people's successes and setbacks in their everyday life. It's a constant reminder that I'm not alone with all my feelings and that's one of the great things that art can make us feel in general—that you are not alone.
As for the importance of zines in libraries? Well, to me, discovering a new zine is like discovering a new treasure. It's exciting and thoughtful and makes you look at things in a new light and to have a collection of treasures that the public can browse and borrow and peruse and come back to again and again? That's pretty friggin' sweet.
Patty Alvarado, Adult Librarian, Benjamin Franklin Branch Library
I first heard of zines from my very DIY friend in 2010. I'd just acquired my first bike, and I was interested in learning the ins and outs of bike maintenance, and he gifted me with a very detailed zine with illustrations on the topic. I found zines to be more accessible and cooler because it was a resource made for the people by the people, so punk rock. Finding zines in a public library setting is important because it allows patrons, especially if they are BIPOC, to see themselves represented. It also allows other patrons to read and familiarize themselves with DIY culture. I was able to build the collection at the Benjamin Franklin Branch Library with a generous donation from the L.A. Zine Fest and donations from local zinesters in the East LA and Boyle Heights area. Bianca, L.A. Zine Fest co-founder/organizer, curated the donations for the branch in a couple of ways. She included zines that matched the Latinx demographic of the neighborhood, zines made by creators from the neighborhood, and a variety of new and weird topics for people to stumble upon making it a diverse and varied collection.
Rudy Ruiz, Adult Librarian, Baldwin Hills Branch Library
I first came across zines in 1994 at the now-closed Either/Or Bookstore in Hermosa Beach, CA. I was attracted to the rough DIY aesthetic of the zines, which went hand in hand with the punk/grunge stuff that was happing at the time. I was impressed by the content and thought this is a great way to learn about bands. I was also writing poetry at the time, and zines had plenty of creative writing that I used to compare my work—it was great to see what non-published writers were writing. I think that zines in public libraries are important because they help keep alive that magical library moment of the serendipitous find. Finding an item that speaks to you, that you never knew existed, that you never knew you needed.
Yago Cura, Bilingual Outreach Librarian, West L.A. Regional Library
The first encounter I had with zines was as an undergrad at FIU in Miami; I took a couple of art classes and started hanging out with the art kids, and zines were just there being passed around and distributed. It's important to have them at public libraries because public library zines are like a collection of letters, accessible yet private communications, in which the concerns of the day are aired and made public. Public library zine collections organize the sequestered and secluded thoughts that populate our waking moments. I mostly make 6-fold zines that use poetry, absurd images, and recycled images or stencils to make their point. I have been making zines since the mid-90s and am just now feeling comfortable making zines.
Ziba Perez, Young Adult Librarian, Baldwin Hills Branch Library
My first encounter with zines was at Long Beach Poly High School in the 90s. My friend and classmate Reena would make a cute zine with friends that I would contribute to called Luna in Tuna. That series and many others from the city of Long Beach are available to borrow with your library card at the Long Beach Public Library! I think it's important to have zines in public libraries because it improves the local collection and builds community. When a zinester sees their work in their local library, they become a new library advocate if they're not one already. Zines are often made by voices that would not be heard in mainstream publishing, and therefore give a voice to the voiceless in public libraries. I started making my own zines in 2012 to participate in the first annual Los Angeles Zine Fest. My zines are a mix of scrapbooking, collage style and zebras, I call them #ZebraRadarZine.