When Barnard zine librarian Jenna Freedman first proposed the Zine Library in 2003, she wanted to open the door to storytelling unfettered by the usual rules of publishing. Zines — short for fanzines and magazines — are self-published booklets of texts and images, usually made with a copy machine.

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Jenna Freedman (right)

“I’d only been [at the library for] about five months when I presented the proposal,” said Freedman. “Zines were on the shelves a year later.”

Barnard’s Zine Library marked its 20th anniversary on April 5. The following day, it hosted the New York City Feminist Zinefest. This popular, non-Barnard affiliate annual event draws hundreds of local zine makers to display, sell, and workshop their publications. This year’s event included more than 60 zine makers and featured a vast range of perspectives representing myriad identities.

Among those who signed up was Sojourners for Justice Press, a micro-press that publishes short form and ephemeral zines, pamphlets, and booklets that engage do-it-yourself, Black feminist, and abolitionist ideas. Another was The Wheelhouse, dedicated to an intersectional approach to social justice and providing space and resources for marginalized individuals to create art and build community.

“It’s a great time for people to come together, share their work, and discover new creators,” said Freedman, who is among the event organizers.

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The Evolution of Zines at Barnard

In 2010, Freedman initiated the Barnard Zine Collective, an unofficial organization that has thrived at the College. As a zine maker, she observed the rise of the feminist-focused zine movement and wanted to give Barnard students and faculty access to this rich resource for learning about different perspectives.

“What I hoped it would accomplish was bringing a wider range of voices to the shelf and legitimizing what [zine artists] have to say by putting their voices on the shelf,” said Freedman. “Zine makers tend to hold minoritized identities. These are people who don’t always have access to an Ivy League education.”

Above: Barnard Theatre Department administrator Kate Purdum ’22 created the zine Surrender the Jello: A Manifesto for Dance Criticism Among Other Things in 2021.

Zines have been a medium for self-expression for generations. Freedman recalls them being used as an instrument of the punk movement during the 1970s and ’80s. “When girls and women started making them, first they were angry,” said Freedman. “The early feminist zines pushed back against the male-dominated music scene with messages like, ‘I’m not with the band; I am the band.’”

“When women started making the zines, they also got more personal,” said Freedman.

Tomorrow’s Pages: What’s Next for Zines at Barnard

Barnard’s Zine Library holds frequent zine-making sessions, but most of the College’s collection represents writers outside the student and faculty communities. When Freedman wrote her initial proposal, she expected to have to purchase all of the zines for the collection. However, she quickly began to receive zine donations from people’s personal collections.

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Nayla Delgado ’24, the Zine Library’s student assistant, working on the library’s “Hispanic Heritage Zines.”

The library and its reputation have since grown — it now is home to over 14,000 zines.

“People make zines because there’s a greater intimacy, more like one-to-one communication,” said Freedman. “My favorite zines are the ones that have content you wouldn’t want to put online. So, I appreciate the vulnerability. I appreciate the intimacy.”

Freedman’s focus for the Zine Library’s next chapter is to have more students and faculty leverage its vast collection for research. “We have a lot of external people doing research with zines, but not as many internally.”

To that end, she started a monthly feature called “We’ve Got a Zine for That,” in which the library shares a topic that zines can speak to. Reflecting on the 20-year anniversary, Freedman hopes that — long after her time at Barnard — the Zine Library collection will continue to grow and bring marginalized perspectives to the Barnard Library stacks.

“As much as I take joy and pride in what I’ve done,” said Freedman, “I’m also excited to see what my successor will do.”