Zine librarians share faves from their collections

The Washington Post‘s The Lily recently published a 22-page zine in celebration of its first anniversary, and Lily digital editor Ashley Nguyen talked to a number of zine librarians and enthusiasts to talk about what zines mean to them and why libraries collect zines. Zine librarians consulted include:

  • Malana Krongelb (Brown University)
  • Meg Metcalf (Library of Congress)
  • Shannon Keller (New York Public Library)
  • Kelly Wooten (Duke University)
  • Jenna Freedman (Barnard College)
  • Hana Zittel (Denver Zine Library, Denver Public Library)
  • Jeremy Brett (Texas A&M University)

Take a moment to check out the article and the great list of some of the contributors’ favorite zines from their libraries’ collections!

Zine Reviews: another list?

No one probably really cares about seeing the answers to this one, but I said there were seven questions, so if I only published six, you’d all be wondering what the last one was.

Q. Would it be too annoying if I set up another discussion list for this discussion?


  • Maybe you can create a second Yahoo group where these things can be discussed–someone isn’t sure about a topic, get other opinions.
  • I think it would be good to keep the discussions we have available. I’ll want to come back to some of the details later.
  • Another discussion list for this would be fine.
  • No, I think another list would be fine.
  • I would be fine with another discussion list.
  • I’d prefer not to have another discussion list, but I’m not going to drop out if you make one 🙂


In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #7 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: other thoughts

Sorry for the vague title, but that’s how I phrased it in my original email. This question followed the one about bad reviews if that helps.

What are your other thoughts on this?

  • Mostly I’d use zine reviews to find out the general topic of the zine, if it’s YA or Adult (and any specific things that make it such), and if it’s not something I can Google, how to get it.
  • Here’s a few thoughts & questions about the review column: What is the goal of this column? Is it to introduce zines as a material worth purchasing to all librarians? Or to help libraries with active zine collections further develop and refine their collections? Could make a difference in whether we do multiple reviewers with no specific topic or if we do a themed column each time. …
  • Are we going to categorize zines and have a lexicon of what the terms mean? I wrote “personal zine” but I know some people use “perzine” and I don’t know that LJ reader will know what any of that means.
  • Also, I think in addition to reviews it would be very helpful to eventually include some background and history on zines, how libraries can work with distros, successful zine programs etc.
  • Also, if the zinester has a website or has produced other zines under a different name or title, that information could be linked with the review somehow.
  • Do we want to include information that isn’t on the zine itself, like people’s last names (if available) or the page count?
  • About word count – I review for Library Journal already and I have to say I often have an extreme struggle trying to write a meaningful review in only 175 words. If there is a need to make zine reviews shorter, I really think it would be better to set a word count of 100-150 words. My concern is that it is quite difficult to succinctly describe contents and provide an evaluation in less than about 100 words.


In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #6 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: Bad Reviews

Q: Should we run bad reviews, or only good ones?


  • I say we skip bad reviews. I never bother writing down even the titles of zines I read that I don’t think I’d write up for BZE–just seems like a waste of space when there’s good stuff out there that can be highlighted.
  • I would think that we’d want to review zines that librarians are likely to purchase. If there’s a popular zine that isn’t very good, we’d want to address it. I’m assuming that in the beginning, the column will be more of an introduction to standardly available zines – for some reason that’s my logic. We’d want to start providing fodder for libraries.
  • In general, I’m in favor of posting the occasional bad review, but I wonder if we shouldn’t because we’re trying to encourage building zine collections, or at least not yet.
  • I think running bad reviews is okay if the reviews are critical and not just, “This zine was a boring pile of crap.” (God knows there are a lot of lousy zines out there, so this may be difficult to do.)
  • As for bad reviews vs good reviews: Are we going to accept submitted materials for review? Or are we only going to review what we bring to the table? If it’s the latter, that seems more likely that by default we will only present good reviews. Personally, as you might know from Zine World, I think bad reviews deserve to be published, too. So I would leave it open to include “not recommended” reviews. Again, it comes back to the question of what is the goal for this column.
  • Only good ones unless a magazine tries to pass itself off as a zine to try to encourage libraries to order it (a la the crappy “graphic novels” I see coming through the library system)
  • Since there are so many good zines, and in the spirit of the DIY supportive community, it would be nice to see more good reviews than bad. I think a time for a bad review would be when companies are trying to sneak their advertizing into zinester’s hands by producing an ad in the form of a zine…
  • We should run reviews based on content, which means sometimes bad reviews, sometimes good reviews with reservations, sometimes actual good reviews.
  • Maybe not at this point, if part of our goal is to attract librarians to an entire format of reading material.


In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #5 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: Other Elements

Q: What are the other elements that should be present in each review?


  • Are we going to be able to include one or more cover images, like they do with books? If so, how are we going to manage that?
  • Is the zine of regional or local interest only? Does it speak from or to a particular identifiable community? Does it provide information not available in materials in other formats? How is it regarded in the zine community? Does the reviewer judge that the zine is especially useful for particular, established patron needs/interests?
  • Do we want to come up with general types of zines (such as perzine, music zine, art zine, etc.) to make it easier for librarians to distinguish between overarching types of zines that are out there? Size might also be something we want to include, considering a 1/4pg. zine might be harder to display than a full page or half page zine.


In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #4 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Library Journal to feature zine reviews!

In case anyone’s been wondering what all this talk of zine reviews is all about, here it is:

Beginning with the March 1, 2008 issue, Library Journal will feature a zine review four times a year. Jenna Freedman, the Zine Librarian at Barnard College will edit the column, which will be handled at LJ by magazine reviews editor Anna Katterjohn.

Freedman’s plan for the column is to alternate columns with multiple reviewers–in the style of Library Journal‘s regular book reviews with guest contributed themed columns more similar to this one on graphic novels. Over twenty zine librarians and other library workers, zine publishers, zine fest organizers, the editor of a successful zine review zine, a professional writer, and general zineophiles from all over the country, representing academic, public, and school librarians serving all populations are on the roster of reviewers.

Many of us zine librarian types are ecstatic to see zines’ presence in libraries aided and legitimized by their appearance as a regular feature in an important library publication–one with nearly 20,000 paid subscribers (per Ulrich’s).

Stay tuned to the Library Journal blog for a more formal announcement, in February 2008, or so.

Zine Reviews: ordering info

Q: How should we list ordering info for each zine? Just give the publisher’s info? Distros? All, or just the main one? Do we include zines even if they have no online purchasing option?


  • I think attempts should be made to contact the zine writers and find out their preference. Someone may prefer to not be contacted directly and have folks order through a specific distro. I think that’s what GReg usually does with BZE–he asks what contact info should be included. I would include zines with no online purchasing option, but would include the individual’s email and recommend buyers contact the person first just so there’s some communication there.
  • Can we assume that if there’s web presence for a zine, searching for the name would bring up whatever distros have it? I think providing access to non-online-purchased zines is important. My thought is that there’s good stuff out there, and the inconvenience of snail mail payments isn’t a big deal, esp. if we’re working with a non-invoiced, petty cash kind of system.Maybe as we review we’ll find that we’re not reviewing non-online-available zines, and it’s a nonissue?
  • As far as publisher info, we should give the publisher’s contact info and the largest distro that distributes it (assuming you can find that out).
  • If we do a themed column, with one editor instead of multiple reviewers, it would be nice if the theme were posted to the reviewer list to give suggestions of titles. With zines, it’s all about word of mouth, and it’s easy to be ignorant of specific zine titles. I mean, if no one has ever sent you a copy of Fertile Ground and you’ve never seen it publicized and it’s not for sale by any distros, how would you know about it? But I know about it and I could suggest it and include contact info for you, if you wanted to consider it. Know what I mean?
  • Listing ordering info… that is a bit tricky. Trickier because libraries all handle how they order and pay for zines differently and sometimes they have to be creative. I do think it is important to list the publisher’s contact information (whether mail, email, or online). As a zine publisher, I would much rather a library order my zines directly from me than from a distro, if we can work out the payment, because I get a bigger cut of the money *and* then I know my zine is kept at XZY library. And certainly a library can contact the publisher and say “I’m not allowed to buy directly from publishers, only distros. Can you tell me which distros sell your zine?” … On the other hand, I know that a lot of libraries do all or most of their buying from distros, because it is easier to deal with the payments. But that’s a bit sticky, too, because multiple distros may carry the same zine, and we shouldn’t show favoritism to particular distros. I don’t think we should necessarily funnel all the zine business to Microcosm. And because This Distro may go out of stock of Any Title but That Distro, which we didn’t list, still has copies. It would be nice if we could include a list of recommended distros with the first column, or maybe a URL in the closing paragraph for a webpage that has recommended distros. Or something. I’m not really sure what the best way to handle that is! … And if we list both the publisher info and the distro, how are we going to do that succinctly? Because by the time you include a zine’s mailing address and website and one distro name and website, for each zine you review, that’s eating up a lot of space.
  • However it is possible to get the zine, whether it is ordered directly from the publisher or if it is available through a distro
  • I think we should list as much ordering info as possible.. distros go out of business, people move, websites go unattended…And if there is no online purchasing info, I don’t think that should be to the writer’s disadvantage. Some people still aren’t in the digital age.
  • I don’t think we’ll have a problem with zines having too many distros to list! I’d say list the publishers info first, then distro info if available, and be as complete as possible. Yes, we should include zines even if they have no online purchasing option – in fact this might give rise to an article or two about the practical side of purchasing zines for libraries!

In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #3 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: recommendations by type of library/user

Q: Typically reviews say for what type of library they recommend the material (e.g. public, large academic, anywhere the author has a following, etc.). I assume we’ll do that, but where it gets sticky is when we start specifying age groups. How do you think that should be handled?


  • Reviewers should indicate when there’s information that may be considered “mature” / not suitable for individuals younger than x.
  • From a public librarian’s perspective (and I do assume that this is where the age question really comes into play) I would say that in my small library, I would definitely not have a j collection. Not enough appropriate zines to make a robust collection, and children aren’t know for their ability to handle anything less than library bound materials. That being said, I would probably do the same thing I’ve done with graphic novels- have both YA and adult sections. In that case, the age thing comes down to ‘is it ok for someone age 13 or 14?’ If it’s not, it goes in the adult section. I like this because more adult content is available to teens, but they knowingly get it from the adult section.
  • I wonder if we could not specifically mention age groups, but just say in the review if it would be appropriate/of interest to teenagers? I have a Library Journal graphic novel column in front of me, and it seems like that’s how these are. “Recommended for teens and adults” or “Not inappropriate for teens but more likely to appeal to adults” and similar.
  • I am ambivalent about age groups. I am more inclined towards describing the content and allowing people to make their own decisions.
  • I do think it would be a good idea to specify, like LJ does, what type of library or collection the material is appropriate (or recommended) for. Much like they do with the graphic novels: appropriate for teens, adults only, appropriate for all ages, for feminism collections, etc. All other zine review publications (mine included) are written for zine readers, not librarians. So as a librarian, you read between the lines and make a guess as to whether the zine is appropriate for your collection. I think that’s one thing I’ve heard zine librarians want – to know whether a particular title is teen-friendly or not, for example.
  • Not sure, but I think the answer is along the lines that zines are for libraries that carry small press periodicals, local authors or have existing zine collections.
  • As for specifying age groups, it’s hard to determine really… The nice thing about zines is that a 49 year old can appreciate and identify in some ways with a teenager’s zine. So maybe we should mention specific ages if the zine mentions them, is written by a teenager specifically, or has porno or something 12 year olds probably shouldn’t be seeing.
  • Does the journal have standards for identifying age groups for items they already review? If so, use these. If not, then perhaps seek advice from a publication that regularly reviews childrens and ya materials? Or give the recommendations for age in terms of interest rather than “appropriateness.”

In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #2 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: multiple vs. single reviewers

Q. We have the option to have multiple reviewers per column. If someone edited a whole column, say on something like “zines by teens” or “transgender zines” or whatever, they would get paid $75, btw. People who review one zine get no compensation. If that factors in at all.



  • The $75 bucks is appealing, but I think I’d vote for the individual reviewers per review column. I think it would be tough to get enough zines within a specific theme to keep up a themed review column. Plus, that way you aren’t putting all your eggs in one (reviewer) basket and run the chance of not having a column.
  • I would prefer multiple reviewers per column.
  • I think themed columns would be good, but might not be feasible for every issue. (Yes, I want to write a column on trans zines; I may as well admit it.)
  • I like the idea of themed columns.
  • I can see the appeal of having a themed column, but I wonder how sustainable it will be long-term. Some topics / genres will have much more to choose from than others, and eventually we will hit a limit. (or maybe not. After all, there’s poetry and litzines and perzines and quirky zines and comic zines and and and… But what of the zines that don’t fit well within any one particular category?) Maybe we can do a mix of the two – like they do the graphic novels section, if I recall – with a few paragraphs at the front which address a particular theme and then general reviews for the rest of the column. … The other issue regarding a themed column that comes to mind is that it seems better suited for reviewing titles, not reviewing specific issues. To give an example: if the theme is mamazines, you’d likely pick the best / most interesting / whatever mamazines, regardless of whether there is a new or current issue out. I’d see the column as being about Hip Mama and East Village Inky and Fertile Ground as zine titles, not reviews about Fertile Ground #17 and East Village Inky #34. … The payment issue doesn’t matter to me. … What kind of lead time will the article have? If we have a deadline of December to submit the reviews, when will they be printed? Could make a difference in selecting which zines we review.
  • Multiple reviewers, no pay.
  • Would there be a way to some of the time do multiple reviewers for the column, and other times have it edited by one person to focus on a specific topic, or do we have to commit to one style?
  • I prefer themed columns. I think they might be more useful in the professional library review journal context, because zines are a relatively new and unfamiliar format for most libraries. Themed columns would present reviews in subject or theme chunks, which might make them more immediately and easily useful for collection development. If librarians are reading the reviews for professional interest rather than for collection development information, then themed columns would make the reviews stand out more, and perhaps this would pique folks’ interest in zines. … Another advantage to themed columns is that each person would have the responsibility only once in a while, which might make it easier to get reviewers to commit. Also, if reviewers are expected to come up with their own titles for review, a themed column might work better, as it would give some structure to the process of finding zines for review. (Personally, I don’t think I’d be interested in writing individual standalone zine reviews unless I have zines assigned to me.)


In thinking about what zine reviews in a major library publication would look like, I posed several questions to a group of potential zine reviewers. This is #1 of 7.
(people who contributed, let me know if you want me to remove your comment–or to cite it with your name)

Zine Reviews: Column Theme Ideas

Here are suggestions from the zine reviewers list of potential column themes. Please add your own and/or comment on those already here. Also comment if you would like to edit a particular themed column.

  • zines by genre (e.g. personal zines, DIY zines, mamazines)
  • transgender zines
  • zines by teens
  • zines for teens
  • zines by people of color
  • punk zines
  • queer zines
  • women’s issues (e.g. health, self-defense, feminism)
  • metazines (e.g. review zines)
  • travel
  • minicomics [maybe not technically zines, but i think there’s a lot of potential here — there’s so many great self-published autobio comics these days, and highlighting these would also demonstrate that there’s more to comics than “graphic novels & manga”]
  • work/job
  • “weird & wonderful” (or something like that, that’s a little cheesy, but I’m thinking it might be nice to do a grab-bag column that highlights all those zines that don’t fit nicely into the categories we’ve already mentioned)
  • Zine library zines
  • cooking zines
  • comic zines
  • zines with interactive qualities (choose your own adventure, coloring books, popups, scavenger hunts, etc)
  • infoshop/collective zines (like the long haul infoshop zine or the Hard Times Cafe zine)
  • DIY/craft zines
  • Under the women’s issues category, there is so much just focusing around menstration, tampons, make your own menstrual pads, that this could be its own subcategory
  • History zines
  • Art zines
  • Zines exclusively left places for lucky people to find, not sold through distros
  • Bus riding/public transport zines
  • Zines that come with freebies (gum, trading card, sticker, tattoo, bubble test)
  • Zines that turned into magazines or even books
  • international zines
  • science zines (please please please choose this I have a couple of great ideas!)
  • daddyzines
  • travel zines (like travel memoirs or whatever, not like the zine version of Frommer’s)
  • zines from/about X town city state or other location
  • zines about sex
  • zines for children
  • zines by children
  • books about zines (anthologies, how-to-make-zines books, etc.)
  • Pet zines (about or on animal health)
  • Zines about religion
  • poetry/fiction/literary zines
  • lifestyle zines (e.g. pro-firearm, sustenance and survival, bicycling, dwelling portably)
  • mental health
  • zine distros
  • split zines