Invasion of the Zines

Hauser Library launches “Zine Library” to incorporate new voices into its special collections.

By Josh Cox ’18 | March 15, 2019

Encased in a room of glass, the electric green and dazzling yellow covers of dozens of zines stand in stark contrast to the muted blue grey tones of the Hauser Library. Louder than Bombs, Hot Dead Bodies, A Blessing for Femmes, the titles immediately catch your eye and beckon you to check out Reed’s new Zine Library.

The project was initiated by Maria Cunningham, Reed’s relatively new special collections librarian and archivist. Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she loved going to the library and museum, a dual devotion that informed her career: she worked in the rare books department of the Milwaukee Public Library before joining Reed a year and a half ago. She is an ardent believer that the rare books and primary sources that reside in the archives are a resource and should be used as such. At Reed, she instructs students both in how to use the archives and how to handle primary sources more generally in their academic pursuits. She also manages the collection’s outreach and social media, planning events and curating the Special Collections and Archive Instagram page along with the other archivists.

The inspiration for the Zine Library came from Cunningham’s personal passion. As a collector of zines (mostly art ones), she has a healthy respect for the medium, and appreciates the fact that zines are independent, low-budget projects where authors and artists are more interested in sharing their thoughts and works than they are in making a profit. Though some trace the zine movement as far back as 1517 with Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses, Cunningham thinks it’s more realistic to place their start with the science fiction pulp magazines of the 1930s. Readers would submit their own ideas and stories to the Letter to Editor or Personal sections and soon built a bustling community of independent publishers. The popularity of zines ebbed and flowed after that until it blew up in the 1970s with the advent of Punk and again in the 1990s thanks to the Riot Grrrls, who used zines as a vital platform to discuss social issues.

Cunningham thought a zine collection would benefit both Reed and its students. The world of rare books is very white; adding zines to the archive allows for the inclusion of underrepresented voices and cultures. Reed’s collection focuses on zines made by Reedies, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and Portlanders, and zines about humor, protest, and other social justice issues.

Portland has an active zine community: it is home to the first Independent Resource Publishing Center, a non-profit that helps people access resources for creating independent media. It also hosts the annual Portland Zine Symposium, a convention which Cunningham actually helps organize, that draws over 150 independent publishers from around the world. Furthermore it is the headquarters of Microcosm Publishing, a publishing house run by Elly Blue ’05, with a large zine collection that focuses on personal and social change.

The Zine Library, which currently boasts 336 titles, is housed in the reference area of the library. The room served as the director’s office before the library was remodeled in 2002, then was used for storage and digital arts management until it was rebooted during Orientation Week.

The collection is also taking both suggestions and submissions! Anyone interested should reach out to Special Collections and Archives. Special Collections follows the Zine Libraries Code of Ethics: they pay for all of their zines to support the authors.

The collection is open from 8:30 am to 2:30 am on weekdays and 10:30 am to 2:30 am on weekends—check it out!

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Sick Zines!!!

Tags: Books, Film, Music, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion