Bringing Zines and Zine Fests to Your School Library!

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Author: Laura Winnick
Date: July 1, 2021
From: Booklist(Vol. 117, Issue 21)
Publisher: American Library Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,409 words
Lexile Measure: 1190L

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Zines can liberate students to be creative, self-publishing authors who see themselves as authorities of their own lives. As an untraditional librarian in an untraditional school, and as a zinester (maker of zines), I knew I would create a zine library for middle-school students. I am driven to find alternative modes of publication for teachers and students; zines allow students and teachers to learn from one another in a creative, do-it-yourself (DIY), collaborative medium.

Zines are small, self-published, easily reproducible magazines that are published for people, not for profit. They usually have small print runs, between one and 500 copies, and come from an author's desire to share information that might not be widely available. Sci-fi zines date back to the late 1930s; revolutionary zines about racial justice came out of the Harlem Renaissance. Zines have a punk, anarchist, feminist history; contemporary zines have their roots in the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the 1980s and 1990s.

Building a Zine Collection

In our school library, we have a zine collection where students engage in "conversation" through presenting their printed work and interacting with the work of other students and artists. Beyond purchasing zines, you need only a few items: space, which can be shelves or clothespins; and string to display your collection.

I found inspiration in zine libraries at Barnard (, SUNY New Paltz (, and the New York Public Library ( divisions/general-research-division/ periodicals-room/zines). Though these institutions have more resources than most secondary-school libraries, they are good aspirational models.

I hang zines on the wall closest to the circulation computer, because students are frequently waiting there and it is an optimal space for browsing. Although our zine collection contains more zines than the ones featured in this image, I try to curate ones that relate to the thematic questions that students are discussing in school: activism, racial justice, and climate change. I keep the additional zines in a bin that is easy to sift through. One of the most difficult aspects of curating a zine library is finding age-appropriate material for middle-school students. Zines often explore taboo topics, and although these topics are of interest to teenagers, sometimes the content is inappropriate for a school library. Over the years, after attending zine fests and connecting with a zine community in New York, I have found great bookstores to peruse for zines. A quick Google search will introduce you to the zines available at Bluestockings, Booklyn, Interference Archive, and Printed Matter Inc. in New York and at Quimby's in Chicago.

Because zines are relatively cheap (usually $5--$10), you can build a solid collection with a small budget. Overall, I budgeted $100 to launch my zine library. As student interest in zines has grown, I have allocated more funding to the zine library budget.

Some student favorites in the zine library include:

* Asian American Feminist Antibodies, by Asian American Collective

* Cosmic Possibilities: An Intergalactic Youth Guide to Abolition, by AYO, NYC! ( docs/_2021_ayo-final-combined)

* Guide for Youth Protestors, by Jessalyn Aaland ( Guide-for-Youth-Protestors-2017)

* Police Abolition, by Monica Trinidad and Sarah-Ji ( ftpzines/docs/gbnf_zine_all)

* Zines!Zines!Zinesl (for kids), by Childish Books and Margot Terc ( ZINE-ZINE-ZINE)

Why a Zine Fest?

A core part of a librarian's job is bringing literacy-based programming to our schools. As the founder and co-organizer of Zine Fest dot Edu (, the only zine fest for zines created in and out of the classroom, I have curated a citywide event for students and teachers over the past three years. Inspired by Lisa Wilde's published cartoon Yo, Miss: A Graphic Look at High School (2015), I invited her and other educators to reflect on their experiences in the classroom by creating and self-publishing zines. The zines that were showcased at the first event in 2018 included Break Ups: A Teacher's Guide; Screens, Searching, & Cyberspace: Being an Educator in 2018; Reducing Implicit Bias, Teaching the Body Politic; and Yo, Miss #6: Changes, Vengeance, Trump & the Eumenides. In 2019, we opened the zine fest up to student participation.

My involvement with Zine Fest dot Edu has taught me that teachers and students are hungry for alternatives to summative projects and that the accessibility and ready-made qualities of zines are ideal for students to demonstrate understanding, visually and verbally. The goal of Zine Fest dot Edu is to amplify the voices of all folks involved in the education system and share authentic stories. Zines are formative, student-led pedagogical tools that can politicize and explore dynamic interpersonal moments in the classroom. For educators, zines are ideal projects to zoom in on minor, passing events in our classrooms and school communities that have great impact and often go undiscussed. Whether it's students expressing their love of Pokemon through fan zines, first graders writing about their dreams, or trans students discussing their queer identities, publishing these moments provides an outlet for dialogue, reflection, and politicization.

DIY Zine Fest

Zine fests are spaces where educators and students learn from one another through this creative, DIY, and collaborative medium. Although Zine Fest dot Edu is a citywide event, individual librarians can lead smaller-scale zine fests in their own schools, encouraging different students to table and share their zines.

I've found that it's extremely helpful to launch a zine fest by first selecting a theme. Consider an event that is centered around your community: zines about x place or zines on y theme that your library wants to explore, like activism, antiracism, or sustainability. You can also create a zine fest about a specific day, like Earth Day. Having a theme limits and focuses the content; it also invites zinesters to create new content based on that theme.

To find creators, first try tapping into zine communities that already exist in your area. You can google the global zine map that identifies places that sell zines. By connecting with these existing communities, you immediately tap into zinesters who know other makers.

I've found that the best way to connect to different zine communities is through word of mouth. There are also social media communities, including localized Facebook groups with zinesters who live in different cities. The Twitter account Fanzines publicizes zine fests and amplifies zines made around the world. Broken Pencil is a magazine about zines and zine culture. Each of these online communities can publicize your zine fest and attract more zinesters your event.

Zine fests have a range of programming. Some zine fests feature DIY craft workshops: you can invite people to lead one-page zine-making workshops, bookmark-making workshops, and stamp- or screen-printing workshops. Any handmade craft would be welcome at a zine fest. You'll need to provide paper, scissors, glue, markers or colored pencils, and collage materials. Access to a copy machine is also important, because letting people make copies of the zines as soon as they create them gives them the opportunity to control the means of production!

Some zine fests feature panels or readings. Zinesters who create work based on the theme can explore that theme in a panel, or you can have a facilitated reading. Readings work well when you can project the art that the zinester has made. Other workshops may include collaborative zine making, a 24-hour zine project, or DIY activities based on how-to zines.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, zinesters have proven that all aspects of zine fests can be done virtually. Readings, workshops, and the selling or swapping of zines can happen on Zoom. It is helpful to have a website that features the different zinesters, with links to their work. For Zine Fest dot Edu this year, I am bringing together different middle-school zine clubs in New York, and we are challenging the students to contribute one drawing or piece of writing for our 24-hour collaborative zine on the theme of Feels Good/Good Feels.

Zines can be a deeply personal, empowering format, and once you build a collection, you'll want to celebrate it with an event of your own!

Laura Winnick is a middle-grade librarian attempting to get tweens excited about critical media literacy, zines, and reading. She founded Zine Fest dot Edu. Her writing has appeared in Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Lit Hub, Women's Review of Books, and The New York Times Learning Network.

Caption: Photos of Zine Fest dot Edu 2019 by Aaron Purkey.

Caption: Laura Winnick's zine library display.

Caption: Photos of Zine Fest dot Edu 2019 by Aaron Purkey.

Caption: Photos of Zine Fest dot Edu 2019 by Aaron Purkey.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A669809597