To commemorate the end of International Zine Month we did a short interview with Rachel and Patrick of the Toronto Zine Library.
When and how was TZL formed?
Patrick: The zine library was formed in 2005. It started as a thread on a now defunct Canadian music message board. Suzanne, who wanted to start a zine library, posted a message looking for others who were also interested. I had recently finished at library school, and a zine library was something that I was also interested in, so we started emailing back and forth. After finding some more people, we started out as a traveling library, with the idea that we would collect and catalog zines from zine fairs. A year into our existence, we were offered free space at the Tranzac Club, and we’ve been there ever since.
Approximately how many zines do you have cataloged?
Patrick: We’ve got around 2100 zines in our catalog, but hundreds more remain to be added.
Has the local DIY/smallpress community been supportive?
Rachel: In some ways it has been, but often it seems like Toronto’s zine/DIY/small press scene is pretty disjointed on a whole. We attend many of the zine/small press fairs in the city, such as Canzine, Zine Dream, and the Toronto Queer Zine Fest. The TQZF invited us last year actually, so that was pretty awesome. Some of the support we receive from the community comes from people who are/were involved with the TZL, so it’s hard to say that it’s coming from a broader community. I think if anything, Toronto could use a tighter community, or at least more communication between the DIY/zine/small press communities.
What are some of the biggest challenges the collective has faced in keeping the library running?
Patrick: It’s challenging to find volunteers that want to stick around. It’s really easy to get burned out.
Rachel: I second the volunteers and getting burned out. We’re not doing anything revolutionary here, but when everyone is juggling their own lives and you don’t always feel like you’re (the TZL) is appreciated, burn out is almost inevitable. Sometimes we get some volunteers who help out for a bit, then vanish. Luckily we have some volunteers that are sticking around keeping the TZL going.
Being a zine archivist offers a unique, almost macro, perspective on zine culture. Do you notice any trends or patterns regarding the form, style or genre of the zines being submitted?
Rachel: Many of the new zines that get donated from the Toronto area in the past several years seem to be art or comic zines. The art/comics scene seems to be where a lot of interest in zines is coming from, at least in terms of creation. We frequently have people donate their old collections, or parts of it, and that’s where some of the fun – for me, at least – of looking at things comes in. These donations tend to have the bigger name fanzines, like MRR, Punk Planet, Profane Existence, etc. Often there’s some political stuff mixed in, as well: punk and politics. Seeing the change in how people put their zines together is also interesting, especially when you’re comparing your standard black and white photocopies to more, um, “crafted” art zines. But hey, there were attractive looking perzines back in the 1990s, too. Often you notice that once a zinester starts making more than one or two issues of their zine, they put more thought into the choice of paper, of including illustrations (sometimes), better text placement and reproduction; sometimes it’s as simple as including a more formal outer cover. i’d say there’s more zines covering gender and queer issues being made lately, but we got a fairly large donation last year of zines covering those themes and they were made 10+ years ago – it’s amazing to see how long ideas linger around before they are more broadly discussed.
What are some of your current, and all-time favourite zines?
Rachel: Uhhh, hmm. There are a lot of great zines out there. One series that i generally show when i do zine workshops is a zine called Sound Minds, from Ottawa. My brother picked some issues up for me along with other zines while he was away at university, and i’ve loved them since. i don’t exactly know why i like them – they’re just goofy and irreverent and had some great cut ‘n paste graphics. i don’t know. i tend to get excited over a variety of things, like a zine of pizza reviews in Toronto, or a comic illustrating the song ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’. There’s a lot of great zines out there.
If one of your friends wanted to start a zine library or public collection, what specific tips would you give them?
Patrick: Don’t over think cataloguing and classification. If I was starting fresh, I would try to use as few categories as possible, but do a better job describing each item individually.
Rachel: I guess maybe think about how you’re going to store your materials after you’ve cataloged them. Paper can be surprisingly fragile at times.