Robb Roemershauser interviews 56a Infoshop Zine Librarian

Published here with Robb's permission. 

1) How did the 56a info-shop come together to make a zine library?
I guess we just all had a history with zines - making them, reading them, collecting them. The bulk of the start of the zine library came from one or two people who needed space in their houses and donated their piles of zines to us. Initially all the zines were in the more general archive that is a huge gathering of papers, books and flyers inside 56a but a few years ago we made a special dedicated space to make a proper Zine Library collection. It was inspired by the burgeoning creation of zine libraries around the world and also our interaction and writing for the awesome 'Zine Librarian Zine' outta Portland.

2) How is the zine categories at 56a zine library?  
Oh, we have so many zines on the shelves and also in boxes under the table that we are still in a process of figuring out categories although a lot of work was done recently by zine volunteers to create basic categories that were in some way cross-referenced. But, really, we are at the start (again) of re-jigging the whole library. When it was all sorted out before we used to have categories such as 'Sweaty boys screaming into microphones emotionally' or 'Zines that we couldn't be bothered to work out what they were' and so on. I think we will probably be a bit more precise when we re-jig the library again.

3) How many zines do you know you have collected in the zine library?
Total guess - 1000+. Some big, some small.

4) What are some of your personal favorite zine titles that you are happy to have them in the zine collection?
I was happy to donate 'Smell My Wooly Mammoth' to the collection back in the 90's. Happy because it was a great zine that I used to swap my zines with and because the name has to live on!

5) How do combine a anarchist zine library into a personal, music or comics together?
The more general archive in 56a is spread across loads of shelves around the building. It's got radical newspapers, books, flyers, badges, posters and graphics from all sorts of places and on all kinds of topics. I was digging into it again yesterday, resorting out the Practical and How-To section, and was astounded that we have made this collection of stuff. The Zine library is in the smaller computer room along one wall. I don't see a separation between zines and anarchism so that's reflected if you see our whole archive just doing it's thing day by day. The more recent dreaded debasement of zine culture into what one zine called 'cup cake-ification' is something I fear. That's where zine culture just becomes divorced from its DIY and heavy punk roots into something wholly zeitgeist and Facebooky. You know, standard template. All sugar, no politics (in the widest sense). Bah! Moan!

6) A zine library at a info-shop as I learn has its limitations. You can not preserve the zines that good. You can not watch over the zines if they get mess up unlike a college library? How do you try to do stuff with no budget to keep the zine library going?
Love, man. Pure love. And collective responsibility. And coffee. And tears, fights and making up. Brutal huh?

7) Do you try to have events at 56a info-shop and what have been some that were memorable.
We do have some events. Oh so many great things over the years - the shadow puppets, the 'On Subbing' reading, breakfast pancake cafes, I Made This Mistake live in the shop one Xmas with a crap guitar (we leant him). Map Festival. Radical Southwark festival. Zine Library weekender with workshops and all. ScumFest workshops. 10 year anniversary part with Funk Shed!  Free schools, skate party, heavy metal quiz night...

8) 56a info-shop is celebrating 20 years this year and is the zine library doing anything special for the 20th year anniversary?
That would be June 27th 2011. We be filing! Happy Birthday 56a. I dunno, bring a can and we can see what's up.

9) Is there anything else you would like to also say?
We are current accepting donations of rocking chairs. Everyone come on by and bring one down. We are friendly young and old motherfuckers and we make a special effort to make you all welcome. It's a great space and been a great adventure so far. Stop by. We are open for ideas for projects. We need help with the Zine Library. We have a new theory in the 56a and this is that we only need to sell one more book, file one more zine, hold one more meeting, print one more pamphlet before the accumulated work topples capitalism. We have no idea when this tipping point is, so come down and head with us towards the limits! Love to all.

XC 56a Infoshop London


I'm not sure if XC is Artcore. If you know Robb, you know that it's hard to get a clear answer out of him. He referred in his email to me to Artcore and also to Active Distribution. If I have the story straight, Robb published this interview in the new issue of his zine Quick Dummies: London Calling.

This is Robb: