Zine Libraries Across America

Reflecting on a week of field trips, to both the GT Archives and the Atlanta Zine Library, I’ve come to realize that as “low-key” as zines are, they’ve seemed to spread across America. I have attached a map of the 150+ notable zine libraries, shops, and archives that was “created in conjunction with the BCULST 510 class through the Masters of Arts in Cultural Studies (MACS) program at University of Washington Bothell.”

This map is interesting because it’s interactive. If you click on a pin or other graphic, it’ll show you details about that zine related location. Also, in the related maps section, it shows different layers of the search. For instance, there’s a map of North American Zine Libraries, along with Zines in Public Libraries and everything in between.

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Wandering across the USA (map), I found little gems. Apparently, zine libraries have gone mobile! Fly Away Zine Mobile is a strategic and fun way to help enhance distribution capabilities. Authors and artists can more easily share their ideas from coast to coast.

I suggest having a little fun and learning about zines. Are there noticeable regional differences? Are most zines housed within libraries or independent? Have fun!

I swear I did not google Marshall McLuhan. Actually, I initially began by looking for an ISIS twitter meme to illustrate the “global village” concept. However, the query “ISIS versus Brenda twitter” yielded the article that I have included below. The article’s author, David Auerbach of Slate begins with the titular indictment that I re-used as the title of this post. He claims that twitter is fundamentally flawed in that the nature of its format- the 140 character restriction in particular- encourages incendiary discourse where there is often no hope for coming to meaningful conclusion. He alludes to McLuhan saying, “Marshal McLuhan was right, media shapes the discourse.”

He compares twitter as a medium to “a cocktail party where everybody has a microphone,” going on to say that it “blurs the boundary between private and public discourse.” As his primary example, Auerbach refers to the fairly recent Gamergate scandal. In particular, he condemns lack of professionalism displayed by GamaSutra editor Leigh Alexander, who went on a series of tirades on twitter which ultimately resulted in Intel’s withdrawal of advertisements from the publication. He makes mention of similarly ill-conceived comments by other prominent members of the video game industry such as Anthony Burch, writer of Borderlands 2, as well as prominent intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins. Basically, he claims that the “global village” represented by twitter, is one where the general tendency is to come across as a childish irreverent version of one’s public self.


The Riot Grrrl movement was a feminist movement from the 1980s that began in Olympia, WA and Washington, DC, focusing mainly within the punk rock and alternative music scenes. Followers of the movement criticized mainstream press coverage and vowed to hide themselves from the media, citing corruption and a lack of visibility of influential female figures, leading the Riot Grrrl movement to turn underground. As such the Riot Grrrl movement became a major creator of zines, with many punk rock band members creating their own, as the DIY and independent nature of zines allowed women to subvert male dominated areas like punk music and the media on their own accords. The Fales Library & Special Collections at New York University maintains an archive of many of these influential Riot Grrrl zines, which you can read about at https://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/fales/riotgrrrltest.html. From a personal account of a trip to the archives by writer Alex Carp (http://www.theawl.com/2013/09/inside-the-riot-grrrl-archives), it’s mentioned that the archive received its first zines in 2010, in a “two-drawer filing cabinet covered with stickers and filled with the notebooks, letters, and handmade zines donated by Kathleen Hanna” (who was one of the most prominent figures of the Riot Grrrl movement). The Fales archive goes beyond zines to also house artwork, journals and notebooks, audio or video recordings, photographs and other notable media from the movement, all for the explicit purpose of providing historical sources and information for those researching in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, gender theory, or DIY culture. For a list of some of the zines from the movement that might be hosted by the archive, you can check out this wiki (the full extent of the archive is not listed online): http://zinewiki.com/Riot_Grrrl.



On the topic of new media, I’d just like to go over social media as an example of how much of an impact it has had. Basically in this example, the link above talks about how many protests have risen up due to social media, and this is due to how fast information can spread around. It really is one of the bigger parts of “new media” with the kind of impact is has caused on the world. It’s one of the main ways people get their information, and the main way people tend to keep in touch with each other. Thanks to it, new information is able to be distributed faster than ever and is, for the most part, publicly available to everyone. Unlike with old media, it took much more effort to distribute anything compared to today’s internet distribution methods. This created a method where talk became instantaneous and discussions could happen between anyone in the world about new information. To add the subject of fanzines, anyone can share a fanfiction on the internet. Some funny or well written ones are popular among the groups that enjoy fanfiction. When I went to the hodgepodge, I had never even heard any of these fanzines, and that’s because they aren’t something that was circulated on the internet. Social media has given people a new way to spread and discuss information that changes a lot of limitations media used to have, and thus allows us to see a clear difference between old and new media.

I remember a story I heard from an artist who was delivering her work to a gallery. She had her art piece stored in a tote bag with random “junk” including an apple she’d plan on eating later.  When she handed over the piece upon arrival, the gallerists had their hands covered with white gloves to handle the piece with fragile care. The art piece that was carelessly stored in a bag by the original artist instantly became a revered object to be admired by patrons.

When examining zines during our last two meetings, we experienced different modes of access that influenced how we handled them.  In the library, they are archival documents that need great care – only pencils, paper, and a laptop are allowed to reduce the chance of damaging the work.  We examined them on tables and took in the physical details of the aged paper, typology, illustrations, and binding that were neatly organized into acid-free boxes. The library is an institution that is responsible for conservation, so rules and regulations are expected to maintain the integrity of these documents.

In the coffee shop, the zines are part of a “living” collection on a bookshelf and can be taken and read along with a cup of coffee and a snack. No rules and protections exist to keep the zines from being damaged or stolen – the public is trusted to return the zines to their rightful place. Despite the honor system, the zines being stolen is a risk in a public space, yet the accessibility to the collection is open and not constrained by stringent rules of how to look at them.

It was interesting this week seeing how place and environment dictated how these zines are handled. Both methods of storing and examining these zines are not wrong, just different.


At our trip to the Atlanta Zine Library, I was struck by how raw and personal many of the zines were. I wanted to search for other such archives that gave people a platform to share their thoughts and their stories that mainstream media failed to provide. I found this website, POCZineProject, that specializes in collecting and distributing Zines made by and for people of color. Given that the zine community is often a grassroots effort, I found this website to be a very clever and modern way to handle zine production and distribution. The website gives users links to already published zines, available online or in print, as well as makes calls for submissions to zines that are still in production. The use of the internet and modern media formats is helping this group to spread their work and reach out to those who might not have access to such communities otherwise. Their tagline, shown in the header image of their site, is “Making zines by people of color easy to find, distribute, and share. Activism and community through materiality.” The website helps them spread their message and activism by helping these zines, created by people from diverse locations, reach an audience much larger than could be achieved without this resource.

(this is kind of old by now but..)

Austrian artist Bartholomaus Traubeck created a record player that plays slices of wood from the trunks of trees. I thought it was pretty interesting thinking about Marshal McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” in the literal sense that the message, and in this case music, was in fact the rings found in the wood. Of course, the record player is not “playing” a slice of wood; there is a certain manipulation of the medium needed. Instead, a tiny camera is analyzing the tree rings and the data is sent through an algorithm that turns it into piano notes.

This installment highlights that a medium itself already has its own message. We usually use a medium to create the message that we want to give, but this tree, organically and intrinsically, was already telling a message. Also to be noted is the different kinds of media, read, types of trees, all have a different message as well. Pines do not sound like firs, which do not sound like ash trees; as well as, paint, sculpture, and maybe different materials that a zine is made of all send their own message.

Traubeck further points out that even the same piece of wood does not produce the same message every time you play it. You would have to start your “record” at the exact same position, down to the millimeter, to achieve the same song. He may be synthetically analyzing the wood slice, but by nature, the song is picked by the wood.

I have not distinctly decided if this supports or contradicts McLuhan’s claims.





In the Marshall McLuhan reading The Medium is the Message, McLuhan discusses how it is the medium, which is the plural of media in this case, or the way by which something is presented/accomplished is the most important part in considering the message that is trying to be sent. The phrase “the medium is the message”, which is also the title of the article is meant to mean “the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.”(2) In short terms, it is not the product, but the way something is produced that is key.

I disagree with the idea that the medium is the important part of understanding the message. The article quotes General David Sarnoff as saying, “’We are too prone to make

technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The

products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they

are used that determines their value.’”(3) However, doesn’t or shouldn’t the creator know the uses of the machine/method? In creating the machine, a good creator would have to know the implications or uses of it, but also how humans might try to use it. It is not the fault of the technology, because it only can do what it was created to do. The important part of the message is the intent and use of the medium by the human to convey the message in the way that gets the correct information across to the audience. The message itself is the important part, not the means by which it arrives to the brains of humans.

For this cycle I am a searcher and I wanted to share this really interesting interactive digital archive that is being built to preserve aboriginal Australian languages and culture with you. You can visit there website here if you want:



This is a group that is working on building an interactive digital archive to preserve aboriginal Australian languages. They are doing this many different ways, one of which is an interactive map they have created that shows the languages of the different areas that can be added to over time. Similar languages are marked in similar colors to show their connection but no dividing lines are drawn on the map. Another way they are trying to preserve these languages is by digitizing aboriginal books and art. They are working on collecting many different types of aboriginal Australian works, and enhancing the digital preservation by adding English translations, searchable text, and recordings of readings of the original text.

I think this is a really interesting way to keep an archive. Although people do not all have access to the original physical texts, it opens this knowledge up to people around the world and shares some things that the physical text wouldn’t (e.g. the noises of the traditional language, the meaning behind the text). It is also interesting that they have made it so that people can browse texts by use of an interactive map, to give people a better idea of where the texts they are exploring an learning about have come from within Australia.

I think one of the most important themes from Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man was definitely the ways that we extend ourselves through media and how all these media carry messages from the creator to whoever gets the chance to engage with them.

While waiting for my cup of coffee at HodgePodge, I got the chance to read over some of the sections from Stolen Sharpie Revolution 2: A DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture. Some of the sections that stood out most to me were about creating your own zines through DIY methods. The pages described the ways to DIY your own recycled paper to make zine pages, a basic lesson on sewing that could be used to put pages together, and other tips and tricks that could be applied to a wide range of DIY projects. From reading these pages in the coffee shop, I really started thinking about how zines are extensions of ourselves in the same way that other mediums are extensions of ourselves according to McLuhan. Since most zines are self produced, they are truly extensions of those who make them especially when the creator makes them with their hands crafting the layouts of each page, photocopying each page and then combining them together. By adding this physical personal interaction to making zines, they become physical extensions of personal thoughts about certain (fan) cultures and subcultures and how these thoughts can be shared with others who appreciate those same cultures and subcultures.

One thing I found really interesting about the “archive” of fanzines at Hodgepodge was how relaxed the library was at containing their zines. It was necessarily about where they were shelved or if they were in order, but just having the collection and being able to share it with the public was the most important thing. By having the zines at Hodgepodge stored like this, I think our class really got to feel and read the zines as extensions of their creators.





(First Reader)