The Power of Zines

The Power of Zines

I’ve discovered a new obsession lately: the zine. In this post, I will get into a brief history and examination of what zines are and how they pertain to libraries. I will also share an example of how I recently used zines in programming with tweens and teens, and a video of how to make your own 8-page zine from a single piece of paper. I hope my post will inspire some thoughts about the power of zines as a medium for sharing your voice.

What’s a zine?

So, what is a zine? Generally speaking, a zine is:

  • small, self-published
  • cheaply made
  • created for sharing
  • a vehicle for ideas, voices, expression, art, activism

Zines originated as “fanzines” in the science-fiction fandoms of the 1930’s, later expanding into counterculture movements of the underground press before the information explosion of the internet. Zines have an interesting history and have been, and continue to be, an important part of giving people a voice beyond mainstream media.

Zines are used to share passions and creative works, engage in activism, call out injustices, provoke discussion, and organize protests and other forms of community action.

There are libraries of zines around the world, such as the newly reopened Toronto Zine Library. Recently there has also been a surge in online zines.

What goes in a zine? Anything you want!

Zines & Libraries

Zines, an empowering medium with a grassroots history of expression and activism, are a natural fit for libraries and as such could work well for library collections and programming. Libraries are not neutral. Libraries fight censorship and support freedom of expression. We are community led and serve the general public with collections and services that suit their wants and needs. If zines are established or emerging in our communities, it may make sense to consider them for our library collections. Zines can be an excellent inspiration for programming as well.

Tweens, Teens & Zines

Recently, with a grant provided by Alberta Culture Days, my library held its first ever Arts & Litfest, a two-day celebration of writing, art, and creativity for all ages. We worked with our local Arts & Crafts guild to hire people from our community to talk in a local author panel, perform cultural and Indigenous interactive storytimes, and run artistic workshops. We also provided activities, games, puppet shows, and other programming. One such program was my zine workshop for tweens and teens.

I work in collection development now and rarely do programming anymore, so I was a tad nervous; what if nobody showed up? Teens, especially, can be hard to bring in for activities. Happily, my program was fully registered within two days of posting!

Zines can greatly appeal to tweens and teens. Young people are used to being asked to write about things they don’t care about, to create school projects based on narrow, prescriptive topics. How exciting, then, to have the opportunity to create something tailored to their individual tastes and interests! Zines present an opportunity to reflect: what do I care about? What do I want to say? What am I passionate about? Zines offer a cheap, easy, customizable and fun way to self-publish information about one’s passions.

Here is just a small sampling of some of the zines that resulted from our workshop, which included themes like sports, kpop, animals, TV series, mental health, anime, and more! It was really cool to see what the participants put together.

While my workshop was a brief 1-hour introduction to zines, I could imagine a more in-depth program including multiple reoccurring sessions dedicated to topic brainstorming, information gathering, layout planning, etc.

I could tell that some of the participants really enjoyed learning how to make a zine, and several of them took home my instruction pages on how to fold and cut a piece of paper to make more zines. The power is in their hands!

How to Make a Zine

To learn how to make your own 8-page zine out of a single sheet of blank paper, watch this short video I made!

As you can see, the needed supplies to make a zine are minimal:

  • a blank sheet of computer paper
  • a black fine-tip marker
  • scissors/cutting knife
Here is my example from the video in case it helps.

The thing I love most about this style of zine is that it can be quickly and endlessly duplicated by photocopying just the one side!

Want to jazz things up a bit? Here are some suggestions for additional embellishments that were popular with my tweens and teens:

  • Stencils (especially for lettering)
  • Scrapbooking/origami paper
  • Stickers
  • Colored Markers, Stamping pens, Highlighters
  • Double-sided tape
  • An HP sprocket sticker printer (this was a hit with my group! It’s an investment but the paper requires no ink and prints with a sticky backing that is ready to be cut and applied to paper.)
Dream It, Zine It

So, with so much power in your hands, what kind of zine will YOU make? It can be overwhelming to be faced with a blank sheet of paper, so I created these prompts to help get thoughts and ideas flowing.

  • What’s your story? Everyone has a story worth telling!
  • What’s something you’re passionate about?
  • What makes you mad?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What do you feel the need to communicate with others?
  • What audience do you want to reach? (Parents? Friends? Family? Society? etc.)
  • Do you have a favorite poem? Song lyrics?
  • Have you witnessed or experienced something meaningful?
  • What do you want to change in the world?
  • What do you know a lot about?
  • What’s something you know how to do?
  • Who inspires you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • How do you practice self-care?
  • How can you make someone’s day?
  • How can we make your community a better place?
  • How can we make the world a better place?

Make a zine about something you’re passionate about. Fill it with information, stories, poetry, comics, drawings, collages, photography… whatever works for you. You can then photocopy it and share it with others, or leave it in various places for strangers to find!

Shauna Murray has worked at Wood Buffalo Regional Library for over ten years in Reference and Information Services roles. She is currently completing her MLIS online through the University of Alberta, where she also obtained her Bachelor of Education with Distinction in 2015. She is passionate about critical literacy, community-led programs and services, fact checking, and diversity in collection development. Don’t talk to her about graphic novels unless you are ready to hear her wax poetic about the versatility of comics and how they are a format, not a genre! Her hobbies include needle-felting, printmaking, cosplay, and going on adventures with her dog Tegan. You can find her on Twitter and other social media @HideNGoShauna.

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