“I think of zines as being sort of wonderful little unpublished magazines, or booklets, where the author is trying to express something that is really important for them to share,” says Madeline Veitch, zine librarian at Sojourner Truth Library on the SUNY New Paltz campus. “They’re typically done on a low budget in a very limited run, printed on a photocopier, and can be very low tech. They can be designed on a computer and printed, and there are electronic zines, but zines are really about the print culture, and preserving something of the intimacy of that. It’s this idea of sharing something made from one person’s hands to another’s.”
Veitch was already a research and metadata librarian at the campus library when the University Writing Board — which supports the development of writing-intensive courses across all academic disciplines — invited local artist and zine-maker Jacinta Bunnell and Barnard College’s zine librarian Jenna Freedman (also a SUNY New Paltz alum) to come to campus and do a program about zine-making.
“The students were excited about it,” says Veitch. “And I was really excited about it, having made zines previously and really enjoyed them as a unique format in a library setting. After that, we came up with a proposal [for a zine library at SUNY New Paltz] and have been going ever since.”
The collection of zines at Sojourner Truth Library numbers at least 400 now, she says. Many were created by SUNY New Paltz students or other Hudson Valley residents who enjoy using the format as a means of self-expression. Zines in the collection were either obtained free or at nominal cost that reflects the costs of printing.
Founded in 2014, the New Paltz Zine Library’s official mission is to “collect and celebrate zine materials that are underground, independent and handmade, reflecting the campus values of creativity, critical social inquiry and interdisciplinary research through the promotion of student expression on social and political issues.”
There is also a Zine Club on campus.
Weekend of activities
The New Paltz Zine Library will collaborate with local eatery Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary this weekend for several days of zine activities open to the community, free of charge.
The 24-hour Zine Challenge kicks off in the lobby of the Sojourner Truth Library on Friday, February 17 from 5-6 p.m., when zine librarians Madeline Veitch and Lydia Willoughby, assisted by intern Jasper Campos, will lead participants through a one-hour workshop on how to make a zine. After that, open studio time from 6-9 p.m. with plenty of supplies and assistants on hand to help with layout and formatting questions will allow zine-makers the opportunity to get their project started.
“Then the idea is that they leave and they keep working on their zine for the next 24 hours,” says Veitch, “bringing it back completed or nearly completed on Saturday afternoon between 3-5 p.m. We’ll help them with any last minute formatting challenges, and then we’ll make 20 copies of their zine for them.”
Those copies will be ready for participants the following day, Sunday, February 19, when the event concludes at Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary at 11 Church Street, where a zine reading and swap will take place from 7-9 p.m. Zinemakers can share their creations with others and trade copies of the zine they just created while enjoying coffee and baked goods accompanied by live music from indie bands Birdwing and Adult Mom.
The event is being co-produced by Kate Larson, who has contributed a number of zines to the collection on campus and also happens to work at Lagusta’s Commissary, which also maintains a collection of zines. Larson, a SUNY New Paltz alum, makes a serialized zine called “No Better Than Apples” with new editions introduced on a regular basis. Many zines are “one-offs,” says Veitch, “but there are people like Kate who serialize theirs. We see a range of things.”
A nationwide niche
The zine culture seems to indicate a return to the do-it-yourself ethos of the ‘70s, a bit of pendulum swing back from what’s become a largely technological world. Zines are a way to explore something creatively, politically and personally, Veitch says, “in a world where we do a lot of sharing online but in a kind of open-ended way.”
Exploring the range of zines that are out there, it seems that some are created by people who feel marginalized by society in some way, while others are made by people who simply wish to express themselves without having to answer to anyone, or who have something to say on a narrowly focused niche topic that would otherwise go unremarked.
Sharing and swapping zines is a big part of the culture, with various zine festivals held across the country. Barnard College will host its sixth Feminist Zine Fest this March. Jenna Freedman, Barnard’s zine librarian, notes on the college’s webpage that zines foster a community of creators and readers, but unlike a blog on the Internet, where content can be censored, zinemakers have free reign to express whatever they like.
Asked whether zines had any relation to handmade artist’s books, Veitch says she thinks they could be considered “cousins.” Artist’s books have “a slightly more precious quality to them, and I see them leaning more toward fine art. Zines are creative, and can include hand-created images, but they lean more to expression of the political, personal side.”
The 24-hour Zine Challenge at SUNY New Paltz requires pre-registration, as space is limited. Those who wish to sign up may do so here, which also links to the event’s Facebook page. Each attendee will receive a complementary bag of supplies (glue stick, Sharpie, etc.) along with a coupon for free coffee at Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary the night of the zine reading and swap. “We’re getting a lot of students registering,” says Veitch, “but we welcome people of all ages, including teens or kids with support from their parents. Anybody who wants to participate in this is welcome.”
The Sojourner Truth Library at 300 Hawk Drive offers a community library card for $30 per year, giving local residents access to check out materials, including the zines. Because it’s a state college, people can also walk in and use the computers and databases or peruse the collection — including the zine library — at no charge. More information here.