‘The difficult part is giving yourself the freedom to make something imperfect.’ Q&A with the Glasgow Zine Library

The world of zines is open to any subject – from electric pylons to TV shows to Bruce Springsteen – and its work doesn’t need to be validated by huge audiences. Lauren Davis (Director) and Chris Yeoh (Communications Officer) of the Glasgow Zine Library explain why zines are the antithesis to viral culture. 
 
How did the Zine Library start – and what is the idea behind it?
Chris: Glasgow Zine Library started with Glasgow Zine Fest, an annual festival which began in 2013. The library, which opened in September 2019, is a community library and archive focused on self-publishing. Since then, we’ve managed to offer community meals during certain holidays, and since the pandemic we’ve operated as a food bank collection point while we’ve been closed to the public.
 
What is zine culture like in Glasgow compared to other cities?
Glasgow has a rich culture of DIY, from artist-led spaces and collectives to small community arts initiatives. Because of the art school, Glasgow has a huge creative buzz to it, and a constant influx of new makers, which results in new and exciting projects popping up all over the city. There has always been so much self-publishing happening here, and across the UK, and we feel privileged to add our voice to it. 
 
 
Did you want to be on the Southside specifically or was the location down to chance?
The Southside has always been important to us, and when we wanted to open a physical space there was no question it would be anywhere else. We all live here, and our volunteers are largely based here too. There’s an absolutely amazing ecosystem of like-minded organisations in Govanhill and beyond, and it’s been a joy to be able to tap into that, learn what everybody else has been up to, and see where we fit in.
 
Apart from those in the collection, what are some personal favourites (zines or magazines) among the staff?
Chris: OH this is a hard question! As you might imagine, lockdown ‘quaranzines’ are a bit of a thing: prominent zinemaker Holly Casio’s newest zine is a collection of all the comics she’s been making during this time. I love zines that are mixed media, for instance a music zine like ‘Move Under Ur Own Power’ (a zine about women and queer people making DIY music) comes with a downloadable playlist of the artists that are featured, and Chosen Family (a ‘mixtape’ zine of queer, non-binary artists and musicians) came with a mixtape casette! – bonus points for that last one because the creator donated all the proceeds to various US Bail Funds.
 
We have a thrilling number of zines about Bruce Springsteen in our collection, which are all collectively my favorite, though “Butt Springsteen,” by CJ Reay at Black Lodge Press (a personal fav of mine) combines a lot of my interests
 
Lauren: I always second any love of Holly Casio! She’s not just an amazing zinester making my favorite comics, but she’s also a zine librarian and a zine community builder. We have a thrilling number of zines about Bruce Springsteen in our collection, which are all collectively my favorite, though “Butt Springsteen,” by CJ Reay at Black Lodge Press (a personal fav of mine) combines a lot of my interests. I love perzines (personal zines) and fan zines about tv, so I also enjoy reading zines that bring those things together, i.e., a zine where someone might discuss the significance of their favorite tv show. 
 
 
 
What are the creative benefits of zinemaking? 
Chris: Zines by their nature can be so small-scale, for an audience of one, that you don’t need to worry about being sophisticated enough to make them. They are the antithesis of ‘viral’ culture, the need to have work seen, or acknowledged by a wider audience in order to be validated.
 
Lauren: Zines are a really great egalitarian medium where there is no competition. We just make things and we celebrate that we make things, and we learn through making things and we teach through making things. I think there’s a lot of self-discovery there, and I think there’s a lot of discovering others. 
 
We’ve been present for the birth of zines on everything from types of electric pylon to taxidermied animals of Eastern Europe
 
How can people make zines at home? 
Join our workshops! We regularly run pay-what-you-can/free zine-making workshops, which are exclusively on Zoom etc. We instruct people on the basics of zine-making, as well as the ‘why’, and give time for discussions of ideas. It’s honestly amazing hearing people talk about their interests at these workshops – we’ve been present for the birth of zines on everything from types of electric pylon to taxidermied animals of Eastern Europe. 
 
The secret is that there is no secret! Now everything’s online for the time being, there’s never been a better time to learn how to make zines. Zine-makers, distros, and zine libraries like us are sharing resources and knowledge, as well as hosting zine clubs on Instagram Live. Look up an instructional video on youtube, get a pen, a piece of paper, and some scissors and you are now officially a zine-maker. The difficult part is giving yourself the freedom to make something irreverent, or even imperfect!