We’ve reached our tenth interview and so many more to come! Thank you to all of our participants who took the time to send us their interviews,it’s been interesting and inspiring! Today’s interview is from our own DZF team and The Forgotten Zine Archivist Mick O’ Dwyer!
“Dr Zinelove or: how I learned to stop procrastinating and finish making a zine is a zine about being a zine librarian who has never made a zine. It contains creative inadequacy, Princess Mononoke, the ForgottenZine Archive and the Ultimate Warrior. Read it if you want.”
1.What are zines to you?
Zines are a powerful tool used to represent the underrepresented.
2.What’s your first memory of zines?
My earliest memory of reading zines, though this may be classified as more of a magazine than a zine, is as a teenager reading a copy of the Slate. I think I picked it up in Tower, or Freebird, and I just thought it was savage. I still do. How it seemed to hate everything, and slag everyone, it was amazing. It also contained some of the funniest writing I’ve ever read. I still laugh at it when I re-read my old copies.
3.Why did you become zine librarian?
I am one of two librarians who run the Forgotten Zine Archive in Seomra Spraoi, Dublin. I went back to college to become a librarian a few years ago, and as part of our Master’s degree we had to work on a large-scale project. While most of my class were doing projects focussing on traditional aspects of librarianship, myself and a few friends wanted to do something different. Zines are the type of materials librarians usually hate, because they contain so little information about who created them. We thought it would be interesting to study them as there was a knowledge gap in that area. We also thought it would be great to study them in a non-traditional library setting. The fact that the zine archive is located in an autonomous social centre, frequented by anarchist, gave us that opportunity. You wouldn’t normally think librarians and anarchists would be a natural fit for each other, but ours was. Out of a group of 7 librarians, myself and Fahrenheit 45Tom are the only ones still actively involved.
4.What/who are your influences?
My main influence would be Jenna Freedman. She is a Zine Librarian with Barnard University in New York. She is an absolute legend! Her work with zines and zine libraries is immense, she seems everywhere in the space. You always see her name in mentioned in articles on zines, or on conference papers.
Even aside from zines, everything she does in librarianship seems to be interesting. Her work about activists librarians, setting up radical reference, it just reminds me of why I like being a librarian, and what opportunities there are to do different, important work.
5.Are you working on any zines at the moment?
Yeah, I am working on a zine called “Dr. Zinelove or: how I learned to stop procrastinating and finish making a zine”. I should have it finished in time for the zine fair.
6.Do you have a favourite zine?
I guess it goes without saying that I like Zine Librarian Zine. For zine librarians it’s a must.Aside from that, I like DearDeerBearWolfShark. It’s just so ridiculous and stupid. We have a zine in the archive called Busman. It’s a zine written by busmen, about being busmen and distributed to bus depots in Dublin. The content is not great, but I just love the fact that it exists. If you are into the Phibbsborough bus scene of 1978 it’s a real gem. I also really liked the Fiona Sparkles zine I got at the Dublin Zine Fair last year.
7.What’s the best things about zine libraries?
There are lots of ‘best things’. The main thing is the subject material. You get to work with material that is diverse, free from editorial restraint, and often overlooked in mainstream libraries. This makes zine libraries more unique.
Zine libraries present you with an opportunity to be creative in ways you would never get in traditional libraries. Creating zines is inherently DIY, and so is cataloguing them. When we were working on this archive we got to create our own classification/call number and cataloguing system. We found traditional library subject headings did not suit our archive. So we developed our own unique taxonomy of subject headings, specifically suited to our archive. This was a lot of work, but it was an amazing experience, and again, something most librarians don’t get to do.
I love the sense of community among zine librarians, even though we are all so spread out, and work in a variety of different spaces. I have often emailed zine librarians in other countries for advice when I have and issue with cataloguing, or whatever. I have always gotten really helpful, friendly responses from people I have never met, and probably never will.
With zines you get an insight into what it is like to live in a particular place at a particular time, which I don’t think you get in any other art form. As a zine librarian you are preserving history that doesn’t make it into books, or blogs, and that is incredible.
8.What are the worst things about zine libraries?
Aspects of cataloguing are infuriating. Trying to pigeonhole zines into specific subject categories, even though that zine might cover various topics, is really head-wrecking.
I guess lack of funding would be another. Our archive is in an autonomous social centre, run on a not-for-profit basis. No-one is paid for what we do, it’s completely voluntary. We are constantly struggling for funds for anything; magazine files, mylar sleeves, materials to make zines, etc.
9.How do you view the current climate for zine’s in libraries in Ireland?
I think there is a lack of recognition for the need for zines in libraries in Ireland. There is almost a snobbery regarding them. Sometimes when I tell other librarians about our archive they give me a “oh that’s cute” look, not realising that the archive is an invaluable source of information on Irish culture and local history. That it represents sections of society that mainstream libraries ignore.
I never see zines in public libraries, where I think they would work brilliantly in. Regarding academic libraries, aside from the wonderful librarians at Nival, who have just started collecting zines, I don’t know of any academic libraries that house them. I keep hearing rumours that Trinity has a zine collection. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know.
There is this idea that because zines, or alternative publications are not mass produced, or not peer reviewed, it makes than less valuable than an academic journal, or a book on Oprah’s book club. A lot of the time this is absolute rubbish! As librarians it is our duty to provide diverse, inclusive collections, appealing to all sections of society, and not just people who read 50 Shades of Grey. In Ireland this is one area libraries, in general, are not covering.
10.Do you have any advice for anyone who wants create a zine library or become a zine librarian?
Yeah, reach out to the greater zine community if you need any help. Read anything by Jenna Freedman. Julie Bartel’s book is great too. Most importantly, take heed in the fact you are working in a unique area, one few traditional librarians get the opportunity to work in.