By Ann Matsushima Chiu and Raymond Pun
Zines are fascinating primary sources for self-expression, creativity, engagement, and research. They are self-published work that often include a variety of texts and images on any topic such as health, literature, activism, science fiction, and many more. Providing useful perspectives, some are written by marginalized voices not often included or cited in scholarly resources. By encouraging readers to visualize and reconsider topics, zines can help people reflect upon their own experiences and the experiences of others. Many libraries have added zines into their collection, with some even organizing zine-events where participants can create their own zines. In this interview, Librarian Ann Matsushima Chiu shares her experiences supporting zines in library instruction and programming.
Ray: Thanks for speaking with us! I am a fan of zines, having worked at NYPL’s Periodicals Division when I first became a librarian and encouraging readers to explore the zines collection. Can you tell us about your current work and how you got interested in zines?
Ann: Currently I work as the Electronic Services and Instruction Librarian at Warner Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, where I teach library instruction and research skills. I also organize library programming in the form of lectures, panels and workshops and explore mobile device use and information seeking behavior of undergraduate and non-traditional students in order to improve library services.
I did my undergraduate degree in Visual Arts and became interested in zines as I grew attracted to art as social practice. Zines are very inclusive and welcome a variety of skill levels and interests, as it is a format that is by and for the people. Because zines were founded in punk culture, zines and independent publishing have continued to allow subversive, alternative, experimental, political and marginalized voices to exist. I have been making zines for the past decade, writing about my culture, my family, and personal experiences as a mother and woman of color. For the past five years, I have become involved with organizing various zine festivals and symposiums, and more recently have begun merging my librarianship and zine knowledge together.
Ray: The idea of creative zine festivals can be so powerful and connective to do the work we do as librarians. From your experiences, how can zines be incorporated into library instruction?
Ann: When incorporating zines into library instruction, first I select zines to hand out that have intersectional topics and themes. For example, Shotgun Seamstress by Osa Atoe is a zine by and for Black punks. Native Zinetress by Melanie Fey and Amber McCrary is a zine series connecting feminism with Native American/Indigenous rights and issues. Because professors usually request that I guide students in how to find journal articles through databases, I have found that the intersectionality of themes found in zines gives students interesting examples of search terms and keywords to explore through electronic resources. Students are then be tasked to find a few journal articles related to the themes in their zine. Students will also be asked to attempt to locate the zine in the library catalog or WorldCat, as well as to attempt to find an ebook related to one or more of the zine’s themes.
Ray: I agree, the themes and content in zines can be helpful for students to think differently about their keywords when they conduct research online. What are you working on next with zines? Do you see anything you’d like to experiment with?
Ann: In 2017, I published a chapter entitled “Engaging the Future of Zine Librarianship” in Yago Cura & Max Macias’ Librarians with Spines: Information Agitators in an Age of Stagnation. Here I interviewed two zine librarians, one working in an academic library and one working in a public library. I would like to continue interviewing other zine librarians, some of whom are teaching zines in library instruction, some who work as librarians as well as organize zine fests, some who organize zine-fests and zine-making events as library programming and outreach, etc. Most recently, I am making zines on motherhood as I just birthed my second daughter. I also make zines regarding reproductive justice issues, particularly around abortion for Asian American women. I would like to continue to advocate for zine making as a tool for social justice and constructivist learning. Zines are powerful, and I encourage you to use zines in your instruction if you have not yet!
Ann (A’misa) Matsushima Chiu is the Electronic Services and Instruction Librarian at Warner Pacific University. Ann received her MLS from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. In her personal research, she leans into her experiences as a zinester, librarian and community organizer as much as possible. She has been exploring the future of zine librarianship for some time, and recently published a chapter in Librarians with Spines: Information Agitators in the Information Age, edited by Max Macias and Yago Cura.