The Borough is My Library #4 edited by Alycia Sellie
(Catalog Number: M-AS03-BL04)
I was first introduced to Alycia through her work organizing the Zine Collection at Brooklyn College. A fine collection that I am proud to have my comics work be a part of, and one that exist directly inside the Brooklyn College Library. The zines themselves presented as simply another part of the library’s collection.
This injection of zines into an academic library is in keeping with the themes explored by Alycia’s work throughout The Borough is My Library Series. What is a library? What materials should be contained therein? Who has access to these materials? Whom does the collection serve? These are issues that Alycia has struggled with in her curation at Brooklyn College, and ones that I have had to contend with my work with the DiTKO! collection.
Previous issues of The Borough is My Library have addressed the role that alternative libraries play in a variety of communities, be it the streets of Brooklyn, the prison system, the punk scene at ABC No Rio, or the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have also included interviews with librarians who struggled to make sure that marginalized voices are not institutionally excluded from libraries. The fourth issue of The Borough is My Library continues this trend and features an itinerary of “Things I Love About Being a Zine Librarian” and “Things I Don’t Love About Being a Zine Librarian” by Jude. As well as an essay by Kiki and a comic by Elvis Bakaitis about forming radical reading groups. The majority of this issue being taken up a report by Molly Fair on the “social movement culture” library Interference Archive.
The first three pieces touch on the idea of what libraries could consider “proper” material and what might considered “improper”. In her “Things I Love” list Jude mentions getting to type up, “labels that say things like QUEER, COOKING, COMICS, SEX…” While In the “Don’t Love” section of her list, Jude mentions that she is afraid of getting in trouble if library patrons or administrators might find her materials in her collection “too edgy”. One can assume that those aforementioned labels might all (unfairly) fit in to the category of material that might be deemed unsuitable for a library collection. In both Kiki and Elvis’s pieces about Library School, they express frustration about the way certain subjects such as English / Romance Language literature is given preferential treatment in the systems used to organize library collections. And how issues of “racism, sexism, and homophobia” weren’t given a place within the discussion of not only the organizational systems within libraries, but how these systems then inform the “interactions betweens patron’s and staff.” This issue of availability to patrons is also reflected in Alyica’s foreword to zine which addresses the way scholarly publishing has become a profit driven system that exploits the hard work and research of academics to the detriment of universities.
It is in the article on Interference Archive that we see a potential solution to the concerns addressed in first part of the zine. Interference Archives goal being, “preserving, exploring, and making accessible what they termed social movement culture,” and to create a “social space for learning about movements of past and organizing for present day struggle.” And while the material collected there is of a political bent, they are addressing an issue all small press or zine collections deals with, “After the initial time of dissemination and distribution, where do these objects end up?”
In my stewardship of the DiTKO! Zine Library, I have tried very hard to make a place for any small press materials donated. The cataloging system we used is centered around the physical size of the object (for practical purposes), then by the author and the title of the work. Content factors being our the least concern. So curation has been a sort of grab bag. The zines and mini comics that come into my hands or the hands of donators forming the bulk of the catalog. While personal biases (my decade plus of experiences in the world of indie comics) will inevitably be reflected, I have tried to ensure that such bias has not been built into the systems used by this library. In putting the catalog online and making it all available for browsing on the 3rd floor of the Silent Barn, I am working to create a scenario where “access to materials is usually privileged over preservation.” All of this is comes from my concern that so much of this material if not simultaneously saved and made available, will become lost to history and meaning. Thus robbing the fruit of so many creators labor of both its value to themselves and to others.
Interference Archives are also working on “figuring out ways to make the materials we hold more accessible through cataloging, building an online presence and programing,” and to “make clear that they are the custodians, not owners of the histories their collections represent.” While their collection may skew to the more political side of the spectrum as compared to DiTKO!’s more art and comics oriented collection, both are seeking to preserve their individual slice of history. Add to this the Brooklyn College Library Zine Collection which focus on zines that are “connected to Brooklyn… that discuss life from the perspective of members of the Working Class… or zines by People of Color, and/or that discuss issues of race, culture, and identity” and it is I believe, all of our collective hopes that “we can help preserve and share this history which we are all indebted to and that we continue to define.”
- Robin Enrico