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Zines & Alternative Press: A Guide to Historical Research
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Advanced Reference, Pratt Institute

Advanced Reference, Pratt Institute

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  • Some uses in academic research: marginalized voices, documentation of political and social movements that received little coverage by mainstream publications, e.g., early women’s rights movement, gay activism, etc.
  • Fanzines—origins of current zines can be traced back to the sci fi fanzines of the 1930s and 40s. Art + design zines often seem to break from the d.i.y. aesthetic and look really pretty, and can cost significantly more than a few dollars. Perzines—possibly what most people think of as the architypal zine—self-narrative, etc. DIY zines—I own several vegan cookzines, have also seen zines about how to fix your bike, drop out of school… AND MORE. Very few limits on the genre.
  • We catalog our zines (but not all libraries do!—and not all libraries catalog them the same way—more on that later). University X Library catalogs all our zines under the LCSH “Zines” with, as you can see in the above example, more specific subheadings. To see all the zines in our collection, do a subject search of “Zines.”
  • Say you find a zine of interest to you, and you want to locate related zines. Take a look at the string of subject headings in the catalog record. For instance, you become interested in the zine culture of New York, and want to take a look at other zines created in New York. Do a precoordinated search of “Zines -- New York.” Or, you may want to look at other review zines (similar to Factsheet Five); you can find these in the catalog by searching “Zines – Reviews.” Caveat—to do this kind of subject searching, you must already to know the correct terms used by the catalog. As previously stated, a good place to find out is by looking at the subject headings used by a zine that you already know you are interested in.
  • Utilize boolean operators of advanced keyword search for most effective searching.
  • History of cataloging alternative publications: Early anti-establishment papers, were never recognized as a distinctive category in the publication world of the US (despite their existence, albeit in smaller numbers prior to the 1960s); in library catalogs some may be listed under Series: Journals of dissent and social change. “Underground press” did not appear in the library catalog until after the 1960s—therefore, using this LCSH in search will result primarily in titles published from 1969 on.What is Worldcat: Worldcat is an online union catalog—that is a catalog of library catalogs—that enables users to search library catalogs across that world. From Worldcat, link to the individual library catalog. Filter results based on your location. LCSH is great but has its limitations. Many libraries also catalog their zines under topical subject headings (e.g., Feminism, Body and Body Image) with the subheading Periodicals. Time to keyword search.
  • Also discuss the bibliography Journals of Dissent and Social Change, microfilm collections of pre-1960s underground/alternative periodicals.
  • demonstrate an example search. Then have students practice searching on their own.

Zines & Alternative Press: A Guide to Historical Research Presentation Transcript

  • 1. ZINES, ARTISTS’ BOOKS, + UNDERGROUND / ALTERNATIVE PRESS a guide to historical research Sara Grozanick| LIS 620 Advanced Reference | Pratt Institute
  • 2. alternative press •origins in early 20th century underground and radical newspapers •take a viewpoint counter to mainstream media •publication motivated by non-commercial reasons
  • 3. ZINES… “scruffy, homemade little pamphlets”†d.i.y. ethic + aesthetic self-published, unedited, uncensored low-budget not motivated by profit†Duncombe, S. Notes from underground: zines and the politics ofalternative culture. New York, NY: Verso, 1997.
  • 4. fanzines literary zines diy zines art + design zinesperzines (a.k.a. personal zines) etc.
  • 5. zines as historical artifacts? potential to offer “a series of voices and experiences often lacking in the public historical record.” “represent a covert type of life narrative […] ephemeral yet powerful documents of personal testimony.” --Red Chidgey, feminist historian + zine-maker
  • 6. how to find + access zines inlibrary collectionsOR-- it takes more than Google
  • 7. start: library catalog University X Libraries catalogs our zines. subject heading: Zines.
  • 8. refining your search: subject headings
  • 9. when in doubt… try a keyword search
  • 10. catalog search: LCSH + Worldcat alternative press zinesUnderground press Zines publications Little magazinesRadicalism – Periodicals FanzinesCounterculture – Periodicals Self-publishingSubculture – Periodicals Underground press publicationsRadicalism – Periodicals Subculture – Periodicals
  • 11. enter—bibliographies, directories +indexes tools for discovering titles APC Directory of Periodicals check out the wiki for more
  • 12. database searching: AltPressIndexexercise: pick a topic “expert” searching to searchutilize some of these expert searching strategies
  • 13. questions, comments? for in-depth individual assistance make an appointment with the alternative press librarian for a research consultation