Fixing Up the Fringe
Do It Yourself? No Way
This is the second in a series of articles by Josh Medsker as he attempts to re-establish a zine library in Austin. For the first installment, go to austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2003-05-09/books_feature.html, and keep an eye out here for future installments.
Zines are an individualistic medium, but as a medium, their primary function is communication. People create zines to scream out "I exist." They also do it to connect to others saying the same thing. -- Stephen Duncombe, Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture (Verso, 1997)
As I walked out of the Rhizome Collective's meeting on April 13, I had already scrawled out in my notebook a rough to-do list aimed at getting this zine library up and running. I had a whole lot of work in front of me, never mind the fact that I have two jobs and other writing projects on the side. Still, I was giddy that day, looking at the wide open space where the zine library would be. It has been a dream of mine to own a bookstore with a cafe - I guess a zine library is close enough, for now. Come to think of it, I'd probably need a license to sell espresso, anyway. Maybe I'll just get a drip coffeemaker and give it away.
The day before the first Chronicle article came out, I went online and made a lo-fi Web site detailing what the Austin Zine Library is trying to do, and what sort of help we'll need. I also put a Community notice in the Chronicle to enlist help hauling stuff, cataloging zines, and doing other gruntwork. I worked on the Web site right up to the last minute and was late for work that morning. It was worth it. When the article came out, I received about a half-dozen e-mails, with almost that many trickling in during the next week.
I fired off a mass e-mail to the volunteers, asking them questions like "Have you done a zine before?"
"I've been indirectly involved in a bicycle zine that my husband did in Dallas," replied one volunteer, who added that she works as a Spanish translator and offered to help if that sort of demand should arise.
"I blog, but I've never made a paper zine," replied another.
"Sorry to say I never did put out a zine," replied another. "Even though I was into punk and indie rock in high school, I was about as shy and oblivious as you can get (no excuse, I know)."
I also asked them why they were interested in helping with the Austin Zine Library.
"Zines are yet another example of what people are doing in their daily lives to stay, as much as possible, outside of the system," one volunteer wrote. "A zine library means all those efforts are put together so everyone in the community can have free access to them and get inspired by them."
My favorite response started with "Well, I could give you some bullshit answer all about how zines have impacted my life, etc., but the truth is more like this ... I have been looking for some way to get more involved in the community for a while." She went on: "I live alone and pretty much work alone and I just miss the hell out of other people and being a part of things. I am not the coolest hipster on the block but my interest is sincere and don't think myself too cool to do all the mindless stuff that will have to be done to turn a bunch of boxes into a running library."
I scratched out some free time in my work schedule, and, after an aborted attempt at a work session on Thursday, May 22, the zine library finally got some love a few days later, on Sunday. You can imagine my shock when I walked in and saw that the entire library space had been taken up with stacks of plywood, a couch, a hutch, what looked like the husk of a restaurant counter, and a greasy two-ton commercial stove.
Susana Roca, the Spanish translator, and T.K. McGuirt, the one who isn't too cool to do mindless stuff, showed up. The blogging lady showed up later, after we'd all left for the day, after we'd done some pretty mindless stuff. We hauled all of the furniture and wood and everything else out of the space. We left the stove, for now. We organized one large box of zines by genre. We also moved a desk into the space and co-opted some empty file cabinets to serve as temporary zine storage. It wasn't the most philosophical day, but we did what needed to be done. And you know what? It almost looks like a library. In a ramshackle, punk rock sort of way, of course.
I've also been working on having a benefit show for the zine library. Ben, who does the local comic Snakepit, agreed to do the fliers. And I've found some bands who want to play: The Americans UK, a dirty-sounding punk & roll band with a New Wavey lead singer, and OK Beth, a bunch of indie-rocker girls who I've never heard, but are rumored to be badass. At a June 1 Rhizome Collective meeting, we hammered out more details, including a particularly helpful one: the date, which is June 28, from 9pm to 1am. So, there are only three more things to do: get a P.A., get the Neal Pollack Invasion to play, and last, but definitely not least, get beer donations from some local breweries.
To volunteer, or for more information, check out www.geocities.com/theaustinzinelibrary .