One of the exciting things about working at the Library as Incubator Project is learning about librarians who have a creative practice and seeing how the library supports and informs that practice. Today’s feature from Rebecca Rubenstein introduces a librarian/archivist who has created a series of zines that encapsulate that dynamic. Don’t miss Rebecca’s other posts on library-as-incubator happenings in the NYC area! ~Erinn

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All four issues of The Borough is My Library

by Rebecca Rubenstein

I recently spoke with Alycia Sellie about her zine series The Borough is My Library. Alycia writes about libraries and archives she is passionate about. Her zine showcases alternative libraries and archives, as well as activist librarians working at traditional libraries. It focuses on issues that, as Alycia states, “should be at the heart of librarianship no matter what storm swells outside our doors.” Through her creative zine, Alycia pays tribute to and captures the spirit of these organizations.

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Tell me a little bit about your background and what got you interested in zines.

Alycia Sellie (AS): I made and studied art in high school and college, and went into librarianship as a day job, although that day job has now somewhat taken over and replaced my earlier practices with studio art.

In library school, I came to know James Danky and gravitated to his approach to librarianship, which was inclusive (he tried to collect all of the serial materials produced within Wisconsin as the Newspapers and Periodicals librarian at the Wisconsin Historical Society) and elusive (he aimed to collect items that were “unique to OCLC,” or that other libraries neglected or intentionally shied away from).

I became interested in zines when I began to think about all of the artistic and textual materials that I knew were created by people, but that were not collected generally by libraries. My initial relationship to zines was that I started creating events about zines (I founded the Madison Zine Fest in 2004) before I had ever made a zine of my own, so I’m a bit more of a zine librarian first and a zinester second (although my past artistic practices somewhat yearned for zines and blending text and images).

Images of Issue 1

LAIP: What is kinds of pieces do you publish in The Borough is My Library?

AS: BIML is composed of a mish-mash of essays, comics, and discussion written by myself and others about work in and out of libraries that touches on the kinds of work that information activists do as day jobs and as volunteers.

The first issue was created just two years after I moved to Brooklyn and it is composed of pieces written by activists and librarians involved in library or literary projects in NYC that were inspiring to me. The second issue is a collection of interviews of librarians and information activists, where I asked others how they merged their professional work with larger goals of social justice. The fourth issue talks a bit about Occupy and other projects that I had been focused on at the time—projects like taking on digital restrictions and starting a zine collection at the Brooklyn College Library. And the most recent issue has contributions by folks involved in the Interference Archive, zine libraries, and alternative/DIY library education.

Images of Issue 2

LAIP: What motivated you to start the zine?

AS: I had been reading a really glorious library publication, Synergy, published by the Bay Area Reference Center in the late 60s and early 70s and edited by Celeste West. Synergy became a focus for a scholarly publication that I was working on at the time, but I also wanted to do more—I wanted to create something like Synergy for today, something that got outside of the highly glossy, professionalized, and vendor-driven publications that we librarians are expected to read and into something that wasn’t afraid to raise questions or reject library hegemonies.

Around the same time, Desk Set asked me if I’d like to create a zine to debut at their annual Biblioball celebration. I liked the idea of making a zine that would benefit a library-related group, and so I created BIML, and all of the profits are donated to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens.

Images of Issue 3

LAIP: How can librarians contribute to the zine?

AS: I’m very interested to hear other librarians’ ideas for what BIML could be. I did not create an issue this year because I was off writing a thesis, in the past I have asked librarians who told me that they really enjoyed the zine if they wanted to make a piece, because I assume that if someone likes the zine they would know what they’d like to see in the next issue. In that way, I have gotten to know people through the zine, or I came to know people through projects they then write about for the zine.

But I might send out wider calls in the future. I would like to do an issue about the relationships today between libraries and vendors or corporations, or working class issues in librarianship, and if I do a more theme-based issue, I think I would send out a call for contributors.

Images of Issue 4

LAIP: Tell me about your future goals for The Borough is My Library.

AS: Right now the goal is to make another issue! I took this year off because I had deadlines for some major writing projects (I work full time and am about to start my tenure clock as library faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center), but I want to get back to the process-oriented aspects of making the zine, like printing and constructing it. Maybe I’ll do a better binding and sew the spine of the next one—all the others have just had staples on the spine to hold them together. It’s always easier the earlier I start on it, but it’s hard to start early! This question is making me realize I’ve got to set up some reminders right now to keep me on target. 

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Detail of a page from Issue 4

LAIP: Where can I go (in the digital and/or physical world) to find out more about the zine and your other projects as well?

AS: Info about me lives in two places right now—on my website where I occasionally write and have a reading log, http://alycia.brokenja.ws.  My more scholarly work and professional CV lives at http://asellie.commons.gc.cuny.edu/

 

rebecca_rubensteinRebecca Rubenstein is an artist who earned her MFA from from Pratt Institute before enrolling as an MSLIS student at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University. She recently completed an internship with the Librarian for Fine Art at New York University’s Bobst Library. One of her projects there was to build a Lib Guide which includes online and print professional development resources for visual artists. She currently works in the eLibrary of an educational software company. Visit her website at www.rebeccaprojects.com.

 

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