Self-Acclaimed, Self-Published

Posted on July 9, 2020

Black and white image of Audre Lorde, with her name in bold, orange block text at the top of the zine's cover.
A zine profiling activist and author Audre Lorde by author-illustrator Eloisa Aquino (HQ75.3 .A68 v. 5).

July is International Zine Month. To celebrate, Mosaic Fellow Shayna Gutcho introduces zines and their importance in our library.

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, the SCRC acquired some new rare books to fill our stacks. These books are self-made, often self-published, and used as artistic and educational resources to tell narratives underrepresented in large press publications.

These rare books are zines.

As Anne Hays explains in a 2019 research survey about zines in libraries, zines “tend to be handmade paper publications with small print runs, are sold at or slightly above cost, and are intentionally nonprofessional. Authors write, edit, and publish the material themselves, which makes the material unique and personal to the author.”

The Zine Libraries Interest Group, a collective dedicated to ethically sharing and preserving zines, notes that these self-made publications are “usually created with the intention not to profit monetarily but to share one’s thoughts, feelings, creativity, experience, and/or knowledge with others. Zines are part of a DIY (do-it-yourself) culture which often includes people from marginalized communities or those who don’t have access to more mainstream publishing options.”

Zines are extremely affordable, ranging from a few cents to a few dollars. This means this form of storytelling is not driven by profit but by sharing and human interaction. Zines sell on platforms such as Etsy, the Big Cartel, and at zine fests around the country. Two zine fests occur annually in nearby Norfolk and Richmond each fall. At the Richmond Zine Fest 2019, SCRC staff attended presentations and workshops from local zine creators—all with varied interests and expertise but a mutual love for sharing stories and knowledge. At the tabling event, we acquired thirteen new zines and other ephemera for Special Collections, which you can find, along with other zines in our collections, on our Zines Research Guide.

Dismantling White Supremacy in Libraries & Archives by Kelly Wooten, Laurin Penland, and Leah Kerr.

A zine gifted to me by Research Librarian Alex Flores, Dismantling White Supremacy in Libraries & Archives, is an information guide to recognizing and confronting white privilege and racism in libraries and educational institutions. Laurin Penland, Leah Kerr, and Kelly Wooten created this zine in August 2019, and recently made it available for free as a PDF.

To the Rising Tide, a recent submission to our Documenting Life During COVID-19 Collection, is a weekly art zine from Alexandra Johnson ’22, an English and Linguistics major. Explore two installments of the zine on the W&M Digital Archive, and learn more about submitting your own stories and artifacts to the collection.

The purpose of the archive acquiring zines is to help enrich not only our collections but to tell crucial stories that come from the authors themselves. The purpose of an archive is to hold stories—to safeguard and share representative and truthful accounts of life lived—and by collecting zines we do just that.

A page from the To the Rising Tides (Week May 9-15, 2020). Yellow and red text read: "If God asked you whether you were a guy or a girl, would you ask them the same question? / I am settled -- growing, stationary / like moss / like silence." Red contour drawings outline three figures sprawled on the ground. Yellow colored pencil accents.
Sunday, May 10, 2020an entry from an installment of To the Rising Tides, an art zine by Alexandra Johnson '22 (MS 00326).
Small black and white zine titled Dismantling White Supremacy in Libraries & Archives, featuring a photograph of a brick wall being torn down.
Guide to Being Alone by Julia Arredondo (BJ1499.S65 A774 2012), a timely read for quarantine. Image courtesy of Curandera Press, Etsy. 
Photograph of the cover of Wash Day, featuring an illustration of a Black woman in the bathroom with a towel around her head. Curl rollers and hair accessories decorate the margins of the photograph.
Wash Day, a zine by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith, depicts Black haircare through the Afro-Latinx experience (PN6727.R697 W374 2018). Image courtesy of Jamila Rowser, Etsy.
Front and back cover of 'Leveling up to take down the Beholder,' a zine "workbook on Anti-Oppressive Practices." The zine is black and white and decorated in Dungeons & Dragons imagery.
A zine from The Library Collective on anti-oppressive practices, created for the Collective's annual conference. Information compiled by collaborators at The Library Collective, artwork by Dani Danneberg, photographs courtesy of Research Librarian Alex Flores.

Resources and More to Explore: