Collection Proposal

The Proposal

Women's Studies Zines at Barnard College -- Pilot Project
Slight Revision of Initial Proposal Submitted to Carol Falcione, Dean
by Jenna Freedman, Coordinator of Reference Services in June 2003

Following is an informal proposal for collecting women’s studies zines (self-published alternative literature), at Barnard Library. Although zines have been around for a long time, few libraries have yet to begin collecting and preserving them. This project will allow Barnard to provide catalog access to these important publications on an item level, something that is not being done on systematically by any major library that catalogs with the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which includes virtually every academic and public library in the United States and 85 other countries. Zines are a rich and democratic form of self-expression that range from scholarly treatises on diverse issues to wildly creative artworks. The collection and preservation of these materials will provide both contemporary and future researchers a unique insight into today’s feminist culture.

NOTE: This is a static document, edited only slightly from what I wrote in 2003. Links may be bad. Distros may be closed.




  • In the area of women’s studies, Barnard Library is developing and maintaining a research level collection within the guidelines of our current collection development policy (i.e. humanities and social sciences, emphasis on the United States and Western Europe, primarily English language). We purchase nearly everything we find that fits the above parameters. Our approval plan includes the subject headings and key words "woman, women, gender, lesbians, and feminism," as well as “man-woman relationship" when it is clear that the work is of a scholarly nature.
  • It would be difficult to fully implement this policy with zines, especially at first. My recommendation is to select narrower parameters to begin with, perhaps titles focusing on particular Third Wave Feminism issues (BCRW staff could help us identify relevant subject areas) and the highest quality personal, autobiographical zines, aka "perzines," from urban women, especially New Yorkers, with every effort made to achieve a balance with regard to ethnicity and creed. I recommend attempting a comprehensive approach to collecting feminist and personal zines by women of color, regardless of subject, as they are poorly represented in the literature.
  • Although it is ambitious, I would like to include electronic publications--perhaps because it is ambitious. The truth is that e-zines are in just as much, if not more, danger of being lost over time as print materials. But, electronic preservation of born-digital documents is a significant issue in libraries currently and might attract grants.

Also see zineography at the end.

  • Independent and women's bookstores, like Bluestockings, Hue-Man, and Mayday in NYC. Others TBD.
  • Friends and acquaintances like Jim Danky (collected zines at the Wisconsin Historical Society), Chris Dodge (Street Librarian and Utne librarian) Celia Perez (former proprietor of zine distro, zinester, regularly attends zine conference in Bowling Green, Katia Roberto (smarty and consumer of zines), and Sandy Berman (librarian sensei of alternative literature).
  • Chuck Munson’s sites and publications, including FactSheet 5
  • Zine distros, like Pander and Frida ♥ Diego (FY D is closed, but it’s former proprietor has promised me any appropriate materials she still has.)


This will not be quick or easy, as it is very unlikely that we will find much existing copy in OCLC. I am very interested in getting cataloging experience and would be willing to pledge a certain number of hours/week to the project. If Michael does not have the time necessary to devote to the project in perpetuity, perhaps he could commit to a substantial investment of time to get the project started, and I would maintain it.

Processing (print)

  • Acquisitions: print zines will need to be ordered and paid for. Most zinesters can be expected to require payment by cash or check. A procedural abnormality is that these items will not fit the standard acquisitions mode. Billing is not an option. Some materials may have to be purchased by issue at a time at bookstores. A policy/procedure for handling collection costs will be needed.
  • Check-in: many zines are serial publications, though few of them are particularly regular, and they may or may not be thought of or treated like serials.
  • Because they are often flimsy and fragile, the materials should be preserved physically. Binding may not be the proper approach; perhaps archival boxes should be used to encourage delicate treatment. When possible, zines should be scanned for electronic preservation and access.


  • The best physical location for the zine collection might be next to the dictionaries or in the Periodicals area. They would be visible from the Reference Desk and current issues might be added to display periodicals for maximum exposure. Back files, if kept in print, can be more easily accommodated and are more logically housed in the periodical stacks than in the book stacks.
  • Even if they are in the periodicals stacks, the zines should be classed according to LC. An alphabetical list is just not practical for these materials. They have no spines, so there is no chance for a browser to read an item’s title without pulling it out. Even bookstores group zines by subject to enable customers to identify likely purchases without making a giant mess. This will be a research collection and should be treated as such—felicitous discovery should be a possibility, not the rule. Zine titles are often strange and don’t always give a good idea of the content, so a by title scheme would be frustrating for the user.


Center for Research on Women Library users While the Library is the appropriate location for this collection, based on access and control issues, it should be also available to the same non-CU researchers who utilize the Barnard Center for Research on Women. A card, stamp, sticker, or permission letter system will be arranged.

Zines will be non-circulating (as are all of our magazines and journals). Photocopying may be an issue, however, since zines are not particularly durable in format.


One of the main reasons for developing this collection is to preserve this type of publication. Zines are ephemeral and not widely collected in any systematic way. Even the least we do will be more than the most many zinesters are doing to preserve their work. I hope to get some good advice from friends Howard Besser (copyright & preservation guy, UCLA and/or NYU) and Julie Herrada (archivist and Curator of the Labadie Collection, which includes zines).

A goal is to digitize the print collection when this would not harm the material. Providing electronic access to print zines is important for research use as well as for preservation. The cataloged zines, with clickable subject headings, will be accessible in CLIO, both as print copies, but even potentially as “e-zines” –with the permission of the authors, of course. This will have an impact on staff and equipment (We will have to buy an appropriate scanner.), but students can likely do much of the scanning.

The preservation of e-zines is a hot topic these days. It will involve getting permissions from e-publishers, server space, and link maintenance.


Things that will cost money:

  • The zines themselves. $500 for a start-up collection?
  • Money for collection development tools and the ongoing cost of subscriptions.$200 for first year, $100 after that?
  • Allied Media Conference participation (Bowling Green, Ohio). $500
  • Binding?
  • Labels?
  • Staff time! To keep this project going in a meaningful way, another half or full-time position may ultimately be needed: a Zine Librarian or Zine LTA (Library Technical Assistant). Grant funding may be possible. Also a student worker.
  • Scanner
  • Additional server space


Existing budget
Although many of the zines will be treated as serials and they will live with the periodicals, perhaps the initial funding can be absorbed by the book budget. Women’s Studies is the Library’s premiere collection, and we already buy extensively. Most zines cost less than$5 each ($2-3 is closer to the average) and even a start-up collection would not have much of an impact in such a heavily collected subject field.

Grant Opportunities

  • Digitizing print zines and preserving “born-digital”publications should be fundable projects - covering equipment, server space, and staffing)
  • Barnard has some wonderfully literary alumnae that may be very interested in sponsoring an alternative literature project. We could name the collection after one of them, or name it after Zora Neale Hurston. A zine collection that is not only dedicated to women’s studies, but that also significantly represents women of color should attract money.


  • So far I have done searches in Library Lit, Education Abstracts, and MLA. I have begun looking through Chris Dodge’s comprehensive zine-ography that was last updated in 1998. What I have found is that the bulk of the writing about zines and zines and libraries was done in the late 1990s. I still plan to look at: Alternative Press Index, Alt-PressWatch, and other alternative sources. I have also begun looking at links from search engines like the Librarians’ Index to the Internet ( and from zine-friendly websites and weblogs. I haven’t found any evidence of a good list of what libraries are collecting what zines.
  • Subject headings: fanzines, e-zines, self-publishing, feminism—united states—periodicals
  • Libraries that own 1 or more of 28 zines listed in WorldCat with su=fanzines, kw=women or feminism or girls:
    • Bowling Green State Univ
    • Michigan State Univ
    • Minneapolis Community & Technical College
    • Minneapolis Pub Libr & Info Ctr
    • Ohio State Univ, The
    • Pittsburg State Univ
    • Texas A&M Univ
    • Univ Of California, Riverside
    • Washington State Univ
    • Wisconsin Hist Soc



  • Collecting and preserving materials currently underrepresented in libraries.
  • Possibly getting some attention for doing so.
  • Doing something really cool before Columbia does it.
  • Possibly attracting grant money.
  • Having a digital project of our own.
  • A great collection of zines could attract students.
  • Exciting and extremely engaging to at least one member of the library staff, and thus ensuring her loyalty for a long time.


  • This will be a lot of work.
  • The start up, especially, will be time consuming.
  • Duke does have some women’s zines, albeit not individually cataloged.
  • Exciting and extremely engaging to at least one member of the library staff, and thus ensuring her diminished focus on other job responsibilities.


  • Buy/subscribe to selection tools
  • Work out payment procedure for zines and begin soliciting them
  • Clear room in periodicals stacks for zines
  • Determine how to shelve and classify the zines and buy the materials to do so
  • Look for continued funding opportunities: contact alumnae affairs and/or development and get on grant seeking and writing mailing lists
  • Develop procedures for collecting e-zines
  • Determine how to identify them
  • Create a letter to zinesters soliciting their works
  • Publicize the implementation of the collection at each step



Review Sources


Library e-zines and blogs




  • Austin, Bryn. “The Irreverent (Under) World of ‘Zines.” Ms. January/February 1993. p. 68.
  • Chepesiuk, Ron. “The Zine Scene: Libraries Preserve the Latest Trend in Publishing.” American Libraries. February1997. p. 68-70.
  • Counterpoise zines issue.V6 n3. July 2002.
  • Davis, Susan. “Zines and Libraries.” Serials Review.v21. Winter 1995. p. 96
  • Dodge, Chris. “Pushing the Boundaries: Zines and Libraries.” Wilson Library Bulletin. May 1995. p. 26-30.
  • Herrada, Julie. “Zines in Libraries: a Culture Preserved.” Serials Review. v21 n2. Summer 1995. p. 79-88. (From “The Balance Point” column, edited by Ellen Duranceau.)
  • Hodgson, Kate, et al. “Zines, Women, and Culture: Autobiography Through Self-Publication.” Canadian Folklore Canadien. v19 n2. 1997. p. 125-35.
  • Orr, Catherine M. “Charting the Currents of the ThirdWave.” Hypatia. v12, n3. Summer 1997. p.29-45
  • Sepah, Torang. “Bold Type.” Ms. August/September 1999. p. 93.
  • Sherman, Aliza. “—Next Wave Zine Web Collective.” Ms. September/October 1998.p. 41.


Evolution of a Race Riot

This work islicensed under a CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License