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31 March 2010 @ 01:20 pm
"I'm riot grrrl; she's zines"  
This morning I visited with Lisa Darms, the Senior Archivist at NYU's Fales Collection, and the founder of their Riot Grrrl Collection. Since our two collections have been grouped together in the press (look for an article coming out soon from the Village Voice), Lisa thought it would be nice if we met and invited me to go and see her at Fales. She also gave me a sneak preview of the collection, part of which she hopes to make available to the public in September or so.

I thought it might be useful for researchers and general zine fans to have a little compare and contrast of the two collections. As Lisa put it, "I'm riot grrrl; she's zines." (Me being "she.") While it's true that many of the zines at Barnard are of or about riot grrrl, and that there are zines in the Fales collection, that might not be the worst broad differentiation. Here are some of the specifics...

Special & Circulating Collections, as opposed to Archive
Zines, rather than Personal Papers
The main difference is probably in approach. Barnard's zines are really a special collection not an archive. Some of the zines contain notes written from the author to the reader, but our focus is on the zines themselves. At Fales, the zines are a small, though of course import, aspect of their holdings. The true heart of their collection are the papers of riot grrrl movement figures--Becca Albee, Johanna Fateman, and Kathleen Hanna so far. Lisa showed me a number of zine flats from the early 90s, and I think in Johanna's box there were a bunch of zines by other people. There are also letters, notebooks, original art, and I think I saw a large bag that I didn't think to ask Lisa about in the moment. As it turns out, among Kathleen Hanna's accomplishments, she's a natural archivist. She kept all of her riot grrrl materials and has been carting them around for years.

We're actually doing an okay job at Barnard of preserving our archives copies of zines, but second copies of our zines circulate, which is hella different from an archive. The scene at Fales is by appointment and pencils only. To be clear, I am not criticizing this practice. If I had Kathleen Hanna's letters, I wouldn't put them in open stacks either!

Catalog, as opposed to Finding Aid and some cataloging
The Fales zines will be primarily described in a finding aid, though I believe Lisa said that zines will also be cataloged in BobCat. The zines at Barnard are all cataloged in CLIO, and I have no plans to develop a proper finding aid, though I'd like to continue to improve how our website presents the collection.

Fans, as opposed to Musicians
The Barnard Zine Collection does feature a few zines by a few medium to large names in riot grrrl, but really it's more about everygrrrl. Much of our holdings are from the personal collections amassed by women like Marissa Falco and Lauren Jade Martin, for whom music was secondary content in their own zines. I don't recall offhand if Marissa wrote much about music or the riot grrrl movement at all in her own zines. Lauren I believe referenced music and was more focused on the politics of riot grrrl. Ms. Hanna is the person most identified with riot grrrl in the whole movement--"Suck my left one" and all.

Jenna, as opposed to Lisa
Both Lisa and I are interested in the politics and the movement, rather than just the music for our collections, but there's something else that I address in our collection development policy, "...with an emphasis on zines by women of color." and "We also collect zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders." Both statements I think really ground the Barnard collection politically and psychologically in this time period, even though many if not most of our zines are from the 1990s. My own engagement with zines is primarily 21st century, though I did have some involvement with literary zines in the early 90s. Lisa knew her subjects personally in the 90s, and I suspect that in addition to her training as an archivist, that orientation has a great influence on how closely defined her collection is and will continue to be. The collection at Barnard is probably a little looser, which perhaps reflects my personality as much as my orientation and training as a reference librarian, vs. Lisa's as an archivist and historian.

Next month I'm giving a talk at the Midwest Archives Conference (<--the link is a pdf of the program) tentatively titled, "Confessions of an Accidental Archivist and Amateur Cataloger," which will explore what happens for better and for worse when a reference librarian is in charge of a special collection. In doing so, I expect also to learn more about the differences between archives, special collections, general holdings and weird hybrids like the one I created here at Barnard. More on that after the conference perhaps!

Now, time to get back to the day job part of my day job, prepping a library research session for a First Year English class.

Jenna, grateful to Lisa Darms for the talk and the tour!
Current Location: 203
tumbelnevers on March 31st, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
i love this post especially for its insight into libraryworld. thanks for making this excellent explanation. and i need to learn what a finding aid is, because i've never heard of that before and it has such a quaint sound to it.
Barnard Zine Collection: jennabarnardzines on March 31st, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
Hey M,

I'm glad you liked the post. :)

"Finding aid" is kind of quaint! If you don't have luck finding what you want to know about finding aids online, let me know and I'll try to post a good definition.

tumbelnevers on March 31st, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
looked it up and i get it. yay for learning a new term. the nuts and dried fruits at the coop are shelved in the basement, and you can look up garam masala cashews in the finding aid (a visual list of what's where) before you go hunting down aisles. of course i don't know if you can call it a finding aid if it's edibles, not archives.
reluctant bridge-burnersuperblue on March 31st, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
i would love to hear more about your discussion. zine librarian is my dream job, but i'm also a huge fan of reference and special collections, manuscripts and archives.
Barnard Zine Collectionbarnardzines on April 14th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
soccerposeur on May 7th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
NYC treasures
Loved reading this, Jenna. Good distinctions between archives and zine colletion, and I loved reading some of the specifics you encountered at Fales.
(Anonymous) on March 3rd, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
Dobry blog
proc ne:)