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LIBRARIAN INTERVIEW: Kelly Wooten

In the months before I started at UNC's Library Science program in 2006, I received a ton of support from its students and graduates including Kelly Wooten, Duke University's resident zine librarian.

Formally, Kelly is the research services and collection development librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, which is part of the Rubenstein Library, and Sexuality Studies Librarian for Duke Libraries. She does reference, instruction, and outreach for women's and LGBTQ history collections, as well as curating zines and other materials documenting modern feminist activism. She received her BA in Women's Studies and English literature and her MSLS from UNC Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she enjoys watching Murder She Wrote and taking pictures of her cats, plus answering interview questions from the likes of me!

741.5 And Then Some: What is your personal connection to zines, and how did you come to work with them professionally?

Kelly Wooten: While I did make a zine in high school in the 1990s, I wasn’t much of a zine reader or part of the zine community in any way. I can’t even remember how I knew what a zine was, but by then zines along with riot grrrl had been featured in national mainstream media so they just seemed to be in the air. When I was in graduate school for library science at UNC Chapel Hill, I found out about the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, part of the special collections library at Duke--a perfect place for my interests in women’s history and for learning more about archives. This was shortly after the Bingham Center acquired the Sarah Dyer Zine Collection, which I eventually made the focus of my masters paper. Flash forward a few years, I am now the research services and collection development librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center, and part of my responsibilities include curating, providing outreach for, and facilitating research with the zine collections.     


741.5: How do you define zine for your collection, and what kinds of zines do you collect?

KW: Zines are generally little photocopied pamphlets but can vary in appearance and content quite widely. Our zine collection of over 5000 items consists primarily (but not exclusively) of zines by women and girls written from the early 1990s to the present. A majority of our zine collection was donated by zine writers and collectors who were actively creating and trading zines in the 1990s and early 2000s. We continue to receive donations, as well as purchasing historical and currently produced zines by women and trans people about a wide variety of topics including gender, sexuality, social justice and activism, craft and DIY culture, travel, and health. 

741.5: How do comics factor into the zines in your collection?

KW: Sarah Dyer, the first donor to our zine collection, is also the creator of Action Girl Comics and had a great interest in women comics artists and writers while she was collecting zines. Her collection includes a concentration of mini-comics, self-published comics, and zines with a significant comics component. There are comics throughout the other zine collections as well.

741.5: What sort of special considerations do zines warrant? Are there any unique challenges for description, access, preservation, and so on?

KW: The Zine Librarians community (zinelibraries.info) is the go-to place for discussion about the special treatment of zines in all kinds of different collections--public libraries, academic libraries, archives, and independent zine libraries. Our collection is organized by collector, with that person’s zines kept together and organized alphabetically in acid-free folders and archival boxes. They are described at the title level, sometimes with additional issue-specific information, in collection guides--essentially box lists of the zines. Zines are similar to comics in format size and fragility, so if they are in circulating collections, they may need special housing like mylar sleeves with backing board.

741.5: Durham has hosted the Zine Machine Festival for a few years now. What's your role in the festival?

KW: I don’t have a formal role with the Zine Machine Festival as an individual, but the Sallie Bingham Center has been a financial sponsor and had a table at the event since the Festival began. I had worked with two of the founders, Bill Fick and Bill Brown, as instructors for classes on comics and zines, so I did have conversations with them and offered advice as they were planning the event. Last year I gave a talk on the history of women and zines during the program.

741.5: Are there any notable books, professional groups, or other resources for librarians interested in adding zines to their collection?

KW: I mentioned the Zine Librarians group previously and will repeat that recommendation--we are a wide-ranging group with all kinds of interests and experience related to zines and libraries. No credentials are required to join the email list, and there are loads of resources available on the website. We have an annual unconference hosted at different locations across the country, which is incredibly fun, educational, and collaborative in all the best ways. There are many great books that offer an introduction to zines--I’d start with these two:
  • Bartel, Julie. From A to Zine: Building a Winning Zine Collection in Your Library. Chicago: American Library Association, 2004.
  • Watson, Esther Pearl and Mark Todd. Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? New York: Graphia, 2006.
And for a focus on feminist zine culture, I recommend:
  • Eichhorn, Kate. The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013. (And not just because it includes an interview with yours truly!)
  • Piepmeier, Alison. Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
A longer list is available on the Bingham Center website.

741.5: If researchers want to use the collection, what's the best way to get access?

KW: If you want to use our collection, take a look at our guide to see if there is something in particular you want to request--if you’re not sure, I always recommend box 1 of the Sarah Dyer Collection. Then read over the page about visiting the Rubenstein Library for directions on how to register as a researcher (we’re open to all with a photo ID--and if that’s a hardship, let me know), request boxes in advance, and how to get to the Rubenstein Library on the Duke University west campus where we are located.


Portrait by Duke Photography; zine photograph by Mark Zupan of Duke University Libraries.

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