A Student Ambassador's Experience with Zines and the Library

Zine exhibit

A zine exhibit is on display in the Hatcher North Lobby

A week or so ago, I went to pick up a book from Hatcher when my attention was captured by a Bikini Kill poster. It was part of an exhibit in the Hatcher North Lobby on feminist zines. As I wandered through the display of drawings, poems, rants, cartoons, and collages, I was struck by the unique power that zines have to speak directly to the heart. Even though these zines were made and distributed decades ago, I still found myself nodding in agreement with the insights and raw emotions found in their pages.

zine page

In November, the Student Engagement Ambassadors hosted an event for students to view zines from Special Collections and make their own with magazine clippings. I decided to go to Special Collections and read a few of the ones I didn’t have a chance to at our event. I took the elevator up to the sixth floor, went through two sets of glass doors, stowed my backpack in a locker (you can’t bring bags into the viewing room), and waited for the employee to bring me the zines since you can’t handle the materials yourself. I felt like an investigator being granted access to highly classified government documents. It was kind of comical to see zines—homemade, irreverent, and often just plain sassy—being treated with such delicacy.

I’m reading Marx for my sociological theory class, and I couldn’t help seeing the zines in a Marxist light—a connection which was sometimes made explicit by the authors. Bottom-up media like zines is a way for people to connect with themselves and to produce something that isn’t filtered and controlled by the mainstream media. An obvious downside, however, is that they can only reach a relatively small audience. That’s where the library comes in. By preserving these resources and making them available to students and staff, it connects people across time and space, ensuring that the pieces of soul embodied in materials like zines will continue to touch others.