Fixing Up the Fringe
'I was sick of the place, and sick of staring at all of the work to be done'
This is the fourth in a series of articles by Josh Medsker as he attempts to re-establish a zine library in Austin. For the previous installments, go to austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/authors/joshmedsker.html, and keep an eye out here for the fifth and final one.
The disillusionment set in two days after the Austin Zine Library benefit, when my fiancée Leigh and I came in to clean up the warehouse. We scrubbed and straightened for hours, then we returned the kegs, and I went to work at the bookstore. I'd finally quit my second job in June to prepare for the benefit and take a breather because I was getting frazzled.
In the past, the volunteers and I would meet in the mornings on Sunday, my only day free from work and other obligations. With a group of us at the Rhizome Collective, we could knock out a big chunk of work in a few hours, and we wouldn't need to meet any other days. But in the weeks after the benefit, fewer and fewer people showed up to help. Organizing the library was turning into a logistical nightmare. Everyone had work and other things that came first, which is understandable because no one is getting paid, but the work was still wearing me down. I came in a week after the benefit and worked for an hour. I was sick of the place, and sick of staring at all of the work to be done. I decided to take the zines home to catalog. Although it was the only thing left to be done, it proved to be the most time-consuming.
I went out and bought about a hundred dollars' worth of magazine holders, and set to cataloging. Zach Vowell, another volunteer, took some home, as well. On Sunday, July 27, I brought the cataloged zines back to the warehouse, and began cataloging the rest of them. I left two boxes underneath the tables to rotate in later. It was in the high 90s at noon, and I'd been working for two hours already. The giant fan wasn't working, and there was no AC. The sweat was dripping down the back of my ears and off my nose as if from a leaky faucet.
As I was working, Denise, one of the people running the Food Not Bombs kitchen next to the library, came over and wanted to talk with me about the space. Their group had been on hiatus for several months, and apparently hadn't been told about the library. Great, I thought. More hassle with the space. First the stove, then the furniture, now this. She told me that they wanted to use both sides of the cutting table, which was right next to our reading tables, and that the makeshift wall I had placed between the cutting table and the zine library would probably have to be moved. I protested that the library space would look terrible without the makeshift wall, so I proposed a "rolling wall" -- a piece of plywood on wheels -- that Food Not Bombs could roll in and out. She agreed and assured me that none of the library space would be encroached upon.
After about 20 tense minutes, I was wiped-out and ready to go home for the day. Between Zach and me, we'd finished three-quarters of the cataloging. I planned to come back a few times during the next week to finish everything. On the upside of all of this, we've been getting donations from people across the country. I also snagged a rolling, cube-shaped bookshelf from Barnes & Noble, and ordered the full set of Zine Yearbook, an annual anthology of the best zine writing, with some of the money we'd raised from the benefit.
I also got a call from the UT Informal Classes office, asking me to come in for an interview about the zine-making class I'd proposed, which will include a jaunt to the zine library.
The library will be ready to open on Sunday, Aug. 10. I'm going to brew some coffee and see who shows up. Even with all the frustration and stress, I'm still excited about the opening. We all busted our asses to get this library finished, and now it's done. That's all that matters to me.
The Austin Zine Library will be open Sundays 10am-3pm, and Tuesdays 5-8pm. To volunteer, or for more information, check out www.geocities.com/theaustinzinelibrary.