Today, we spent most of our lab session collecting metadata from a bunch of zines in Hampshire’s collection. Several of them have been processed by our zine librarian, but some others are unprocessed — part of a recent donation of 1990s zines from intersecting networks of feminist, POC, and grrrl creators.  We’d practiced cataloging a little during our regular class session on Tuesday, as a way to apprehend, first-hand, the relevance of the issues and questions Freedman and Kauffman and Drabinski raise in their work on zine cataloging & queering the catalog.

On Tuesday, students experienced how time matters to zine cataloging: they had about 30 minutes of work time — not enough when you’re hoping to read an entire zine and faithfully represent its contents, and find other information that can be tricky to locate on the zine itself…not to mention looking it up on WorldCat and ZineWiki for additional cross-referencing. They also deliberated about what subject terms to use to describe the zines, keeping in mind both the reality that our metadata won’t be perfectly representative (now or in the future) and that we can make ethical choices around the language we use to describe someone’s work.

This morning, we had a bit more time to catalog, which involved doing a bunch of stuff at once: reading zines, describing their contents, searching for data within the zine pages, consulting external sources for additional information, laughing at amusing zine content, articulating subject terms, getting familiar with the Barnard Zine Library’s list of genres, and more. By the end of our lab session, students had cataloged 17 zines, enough to do a tiny text analysis & data visualization of the zines’ subject matter:

Word cloud of zine subject terms
Data visualization of subject terms describing zines we cataloged in class.

Next week, we travel to the Sophia Smith Collection to visit the Girl Zines Collection. Our framing questions for the week are:

  • Building on Janice Radway’s talk, “From the Underground to the Archive in 10 Years: Girl Zines, the 1990s, and the Challenge of Historical Narrative,” how does the classification of a zine collection as a “girl zines collection” or a “riot grrrl collection” shape our expectations about its contents?
  • How does the foregrounding of girl/grrrl matter (what are the benefits, problems, consequences of this choice)?
  • How does the larger context in which a collection is housed (e.g., the Sophia Smith Collection) matter to users? To donors? How is access mediated and shaped by institutional context?


— September 15, 2016

What Do You Think?