Zines in the library

“In 2004, Julie Bartel, who assembled the Salt Lake City collection, published a resource for fellow librarians titled ‘From A to Zine: Building a Winning Zine Collection in Your Library.’ Bartel’s book offered the basics for starting an archive, but as the search for and preservation of zines became more professional, so too have the librarians’ concerns.

“Some of these issues seem fairly mundane to those on the ‘customer’ side of the reference desk. But for a librarian, thoughtful and thorough categorization ensures that an item will find its destined reader. For example, is a zine a serial or a monograph? (Related: can it be a serial if it only comes out at the zinester’s whim?)

“The answer to the serial vs. monograph question determines where a given zine appears in the catalog, and how detailed an abstract accompanies its listing. Consider ‘Rollerderby,’ a popular zine by Lisa Carver that is available at Barnard. If categorized as a serial, its inscrutable title and author line reveal little about its contents. If each issue is categorized as an individual monograph, then a catalog search would reveal that Issue 24 promises coverage of four somewhat disparate topics: ‘Cat Power, capitalism, T.S. Eliot and cats.’

“This dovetails with a decades-old movement called ‘radical cataloging,’ which represents an effort to rethink how an institution like the Library of Congress determines the searchable and supposedly neutral subject headings one can assign a given text. While this seems innocuous enough, most zines defy the largely outdated language of preexistent headings and run the risk of invisibility during standard, heading-driven archive searches.”
Updated link, 082011, and thanks! File under other. How do libraries — institutions that by nature require a strict, stately style of micromanagement — assimilate these self-published and occasionally category-defying dispatches from the cultural hinterlands? by Hua Hsu, Boston Globe, May 6, 2007 (deadlink, why do newspapers do that? Why? New link 082011, but for a fee: click here if you’re a boston.com subscriber, otherwise use the free link)

Libraries — unlike whatever they’re doing in that private library in San Fransisco — want to you to be able to find this stuff on your own. I mean, one might be too shy to ask but that shouldn’t get in the way of finding information. I used to be shy (stop laughing); it was tough.

I’m so cool, I actually have a few of Semibold’s zines. She’s done what many zinesters have done, including Boing Boing, and gone online.

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