Queer Zine Library are making zines more accessible for everyone
Committed to supporting and collaborating with the LGBTQIA+ zine community, the Queer Zine Library have been making zines accessible for those who might need them or want to enjoy them. From transforming their UK based diy mobile library into an online catalogue to launching a new series called Behind the Zines, and even publishing their first ever zine – they’re showing why zines are as important now as ever.
Read on to hear from the Queer Zine Library team about why they started their platform, how they’ve survived through lockdown, and what to expect from their first ever zine.
As you say, “zines are meant to be read and shared” – what made you want to start a platform that celebrates radical LGBTQIA+ self-publishing?
As part of our day jobs we work for large institutions which have zine collections in their libraries, and in those collections they have a lot of great queer material. But in order to see the zines, you either need to book an appointment, or view them from behind glass. This goes against the idea of zines as something to be traded and read and shared and used by everyone, and frames them instead as museum objects.
Zines are political. As queer zine makers we want LGBTQIA+ zines to be viewed as vital living breathing tools for self preservation, activism, and a rejection of capitalist mainstream publishing, rather than just as art objects which ‘Look Nice’. We want zine makers themselves to have a say in how their zine is catalogued. We want the zines to be touchable, and not just exist within London, but take up space in small towns where there might be less queer representation, in the hope that they will be seen and used by people who need them.
“As queer zine makers we want LGBTQIA+ zines to be viewed as vital living breathing tools for self preservation, activism, and a rejection of capitalist mainstream publishing...”
It's great that academic institutions collect queer zines but it doesn't mean it's always accessible to queer communities. Zines in institutional collections are also catalogued using fairly rigid cataloguing rules set by the US Library of Congress which go against the radical nature of zines.
You are a UK based mobile library, but with people not being able to physically access your collections during this time, what are you doing to bring the zines to the people?
It was the biggest obstacle to us once lockdown was confirmed. We had just finished our first tour the week before lockdown and we were on a real high. We had met so many amazing people in these incredible local community spaces. Once we realised that the library might be sitting in our flat for a long time with nowhere to go, we started thinking about ways to make the zines more accessible, and looking at what other zine libraries were doing too.
Because of lockdown, Behind The Zines was created. Over 3 months, we set up a Youtube channel and commissioned zine makers to record a video zine reading of their work. It was a great way to keep the library active, allowing us to engage with people who perhaps did not know what queer zines were or did not have access to our library, while financially supporting zine makers and creating ways for those zine makers to engage with new zine readers. We wanted people to discover their zines in a way they may not have before. We’ve decided to continue the format and hope to run a shorter Behind The Zines series later this year.
You share so many amazing zines on your social platform too – are there any which you would recommend for someone to check out if they don’t know where to start?
There are so many incredible queer zines it's hard to know where to start. We have selected 12 of our favourite zines as part of the Behind the Zines series so if you're looking for examples of powerful, funny, and inspiring radical queer self-publishing then all 12 of those titles are a brilliant starting point. Watch Behind the Zines series 1 here.
We are currently updating our online catalogue and adding links to any digital zines in the collection to help new readers access our library during lockdown. We have a small list so far but we are updating it all the time and you can read some of those queer online zines here.
“We want the zines to be touchable, and not just exist within London, but take up space in small towns where there might be less queer representation…”
One of the ways we try and make it easier for readers to discover zines is by adding subject tags to all of our catalogue records which means that readers can browse by topics to get some inspiration. Some good topics to get started with on our library catalogue include Queer punk, Mental Health, Relationships, Sex, History, Interviews, LGBT Spaces, Coming out. If you use these tags to search you will discover some incredible zines.
You’ve released the first ever Queer Zine Library zine which is so exciting! What’s inside?
We’ve managed to achieve a lot in our first year! So the zine is a celebration and reflection of that. It has lots of insight from our volunteers, people that have hosted the library, ideas for the future, alongside discussion from queer zine makers and zine readers on what queer zines mean to them and why they are as important now as ever.