Code of Ethics

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Code of Ethics

Notes by Jennifer and Violet

We aim to create a code of ethics for zine librarians that would help librarians both make policy and help defend their policies (to administration, users, zinesters). This code would be informed by other organizations’ codes (e.g. ALA, SAA) but would focus on things that are specific to zines and zinester ethics.
The document would incorporate both “best practices” (concrete things we can all get behind) and a list of factors for consideration (modeled on the fair use factors). The code would not be prescriptive, as guidelines wouldn’t apply uniformly to every situation, but could include discussion of disputed points. This would give zine librarians (and librarians who are new to zines) ideas of what has been challenging in the past and how other zine librarians have dealt with those issues.
Some of the possible questions and concerns that might be addressed:

  • What information should we put in or leave out of bib records or authority records?
  • If someone didn’t put their name on a zine (intentionally or not), when would we add that info?
  • What if a zinester changes their mind after donating their zine? Would we remove info from a record?
  • What if a zinester wants a zine taken out of the library? Either donated to another library or flat-out destroyed?
  • Digitization: should we do it. Why we might choose not to (e.g. the personal nature of zine, privacy issues, not intended for wide distribution).
  • Digitization: how to do it. What kind of permissions are needed?
  • Looking at issues raised by the Teal Triggs controversy: Reusing images from zines (cover or inside). Is it okay to use citations, direct quotes? With or without attribution? Synopsis? What kind of guidance can we provide to scholars?
  • The content of zines: controversial material.
  • Method of acquisition:  When is it okay to get zines from a third party (e.g., a collector)? Either via donation or selling?
  • Acquisition: When is it appropriate to have libraries pay for zines versus asking for donations? (what does that say about the “value” of the zine?)
  • Do we need to inform zinesters that their work is in our library (if they weren’t the donor)?
  • Collection development: should zine librarians strive to promote a variety of viewpoints in the zines in their library? (e.g. race, gender, class, etc.). Assert importance of including zines by underrepresented populations in their collection.
  • When a researcher wants to talk about a collection of zines, do they need to get permission from each zinester represented?
  • Deaccessioning zines: when would we do this? when would we not do this?
  • Zines published pre-Internet (i.e., before there was a general assumption of the possibility of widespread access [pre-1995 to 2000-ish])–should they be treated differently?
  • Levels of access to the zine’s content (physically coming to a library vs. circulating collection vs. ILL access vs. online full-text transcription vs. digitization)
  • Levels of access for the zine’s representational catalog record (it’s harder to maintain a “local” catalog in a consortial/union catalog/linked data environment).
  • Should there be special considerations for zines produced by a minor?
  • What are libraries’ responsibilities in cataloging/providing access to zines in a timely manner?
  • Archival concerns about tracking provenance / keeping ephemera & inserted material that often comes with zines. How should that material be treated?
  • How can we ensure transparency in decision making and policy making?
To address these concerns, we’ll be creating a task force (hereafter known as the “fast horse”, so we don’t have to call it a task force [thanks Joshua]). We’ve separated out into sections, although there will be overlap.
  • preamble (aka weird feels): Milo/Kelly M./Jude
  • acquiring: Violet/Rhonda
  • organizing: Joshua/Honor/Lisa W./Madeline/Kurt
  • access: Jeremy
  • use: Lisa D. /Kelly W.
Preliminary drafts of our sections are due on Halloween 2014, after which we’ll be requesting comments and feedback from everyone via the Zine Librarians email list through Valentine’s Day 2015. 
Other things that came up in the meeting that should inform our work on the code of ethics:
  • Some of our choices are not made on an ethical basis, but instead based on limited resources or tradition within our library.
  • Copyright issues are perhaps less relevant here than are privacy issues–there’s plenty of other resources for copyright info.
  • The myth of the “neutral archivist” and promoting the idea of a relational orientation to our work (that the library should have a relation to the works and creators represented within)
  • These aren’t theoretical problems: there were stories shared of zinesters asking to destroy the zine or remove from library. Some libraries have suppressed the record, or taken down the digitized version.
  • We should continue to be mindful of the intellectual consequences of our decisions. Keep in mind: what is a zine? How should we treat them? How are zines different than other materials? How are zinesters different from other content creators?


Notes from the session:


Notes from the breakout sessions: