Zine Union Catalog

An introductory descriptive paragraph, problem statement, and *what* our tool/thing will do:

Zinecat.org is the home of a union catalog dedicated to zines! A union catalog is a resource where library workers can share cataloging and holdings information from their libraries. The Zine Union Catalog (ZUC) lets researchers discover zine holdings by searching a single catalog, and helps librarians copy catalog records to facilitate lending across libraries. ZUC serves educators, researchers, librarians, archivists, and anyone in the general public with an interest in zines.

Zines are self­-produced and self­-published literature that often feature counter­cultural, political, and artistic content. They are produced in small runs, and are often distributed directly by the author or through “distros” (i.e., specialized distributors of alternative publications). As such, zines provide a first­hand, personal, and documentary account of social, political, and art history movements and provide evidence of knowledge production and dissemination within alternative communities. They are used by humanities scholars as primary source documents on a variety of topics, and are regarded as a critical record of third wave feminism and the riot grrrl movement, punk rock and the punk aesthetic, popular culture and fandom, and local history in urban centers.

Zine Union Catalog Logo

Because zines exist in a counter-­cultural space, they have historically been collected and circulated by independent zine libraries. Over the last fifteen to twenty years, public libraries, special collections, and academic research libraries have begun collecting zines as both scholarly resources and as part of leisure reading collections. This hybrid environment of zine collections translates into dispersed, often erratic mechanisms for access. Zine descriptions and metadata, and thus discovery of zines, is scattered across library catalogs, archival finding aids, standalone databases, spreadsheets, and online platforms such as LibraryThing. This situation poses impediments to finding and using zines in aggregate for research, teaching, and learning in the humanities. The Zine Union Catalog (ZUC) seeks to aggregate metadata from these disparate sources.

Thus, a collaborative group of zine librarians, metadata specialists, and web developers is working to develop the ZUC, which is designed to be:

  • A cross­-repository resource for zine research, providing access to metadata about as many zines, and in as many ways (Linked Open Data, links to digital content, etc.) as possible.
  • A collaborative platform for cataloging zines and creating authority files for their creators, by persons both within and external to the library profession.
  • A hub for zine research, where partners can seek inspiration and collaboration.
  • A promotional and educational resource for the zine genre.
  • A tool capable of supporting projects to incorporate digitized (and born digital) zine (and zine-­related) material into other platforms such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).
  • Scope and contents of proposed ZUC as a reference resource

The ZUC, as a reference resource for the zine genre, will contain three primary components:

  • Catalog records for zine titles (descriptive metadata), which give both identifying (e.g., title, creator name, production date and locality) and contextual information (e.g., subjects, genres, abstracts, biographical and historical details)
  • Holdings information (details about libraries that hold specific issues, and how to access them)
  • Digitized and/or digital content when available

The catalog prototype contains a sampling of records from three zine libraries, with a limited number of fields represented in each record: creator, title, non-normalized date, and non-normalized publication location. When the ZUC is launched, contributions will be opened to any library, and the scope of the ZUC will grow to represent zine collections and zine metadata across the globe.

Since September 2014, the Zine Union Catalog (ZUC) planning team, a nationally­ distributed group of zine librarians, metadata specialists, and web developers, has held regular virtual meetings and undertaken preparatory work for the development of a an online platform that aims to be a fully inclusive metadata aggregation and discovery interface to enhance free access to information about zine holdings across the United States.

A set of personas and/or user stories and use scenarios:

Aphra Squirrel is a professor of media studies writing a book on feminism and zines. She is just beginning her research and casting a wide net to see what types of zines are out there. The Zine Union Catalog helps her identify zine collections with relevant holdings. Dr. Squirrel visits multiple zine libraries and archives and becomes enraptured by zine description and access points. She ultimately writes a chapter in her book about zine cataloging as feminism praxis.

Miguel Cohen is writing a book on Jews in punk. Not expecting much, he conducts a cursory search in WorldCat to see if there are zines he should consider. He is astonished by the number of results and writes a whole chapter of his book on Jewish punk zines. However, he misses entirely zines from zine libraries not included in WorldCat, including the Queer Zine Archive Project, the Denver Zine Library, and libraries that do not have online catalogs. Devastatingly, Cohen’s book will lack references to half a dozen radical trans Haggadahs that he would have found if he’d used ZUC.

Sea S. is an adult now, but when they were a teen they were kicked out of their house for being queer. Their dad disposed of their zine collection. They don’t know how and they don’t want to know. Finding and visiting the zines of their youth that helped them understand their genderfluid and queer identities and build community around them helps them make peace with what they lost. By being able to find and access the zines that formed them after twenty years, they have even come to a place of detente with their father.

Full fledged version:

In 2015, the zine librarians zine union catalog working group developed a list of functional requirements.

ZUC Functional Requirements

One might look at this list and be concerned that the collaborators are too far to one end of the simple to complex spectrum. Having already completed a bare-bones prototype, our main goal for this semester is to prioritize and sequence the above elements, perhaps even direct some to  the someday = LOLnever file. Following is a first pass at separating the urgent from the someday. Items crossed out are completed.

ZUC Priorities

How much time the full-fledged version will take and how much of the skills you currently know and what you would have to learn.  

The aspirational list is quite extensive and is the product of many years worth of discussion in planning for the Zine Union Catalog.  It is likely that the full fledged version will take many years to reach full maturation, but there is currently a functioning prototype (thanks to DH Praxis and the hard work of the ZUC team at the GC in addition to the work done by the Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group).  

The main goals for the ZUC project this semester is to draw a strategic roadmap of the project and plan for its continued development and growth over the next several years, in addition to identifying and defining the main priorities for ZUC’s development (see annotated list above). Main priorities include defining the governance structure and identifying funding opportunities. Additionally, we would like to ensure that the Zine Union Catalog is accessible and adaptable as it continues to grow in functionality and content.  The project will regularly consider universal design best practices as it develops.

Bulleted list of Project Goals:

  • Articulate ZUC project organizational structure
    • Draft policies and document standards and workflows
    • Governance & Advisory Board
  • Continue metadata aggregation and normalization tools and workflows
    • Build templates for ingest to ZUC
    • Adhere to principles of universal design
  • Identify grant and other funding opportunities

To accomplish this, we have identified skills we have and skills we need to continue to develop or outsource:

Currently available:

  • Identified tool for building Zine Union Catalog: Collective Access.  General understanding of ZUC’s backend architecture, design, and functionality (it’s been several months since we’ve had to work on this, so we need to refresh our skill set here),
  • Ability to import several records from a collection through mapping functionality (refresh needed),
  • Short term project planning – Jenna and Lauren can get through the project week to week, but it’s the long term planning that is overwhelming
  • Defined metadata standard for catalog records – ZineCoreX (adapted from DublinCore)
  • Commitment to the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics
  • Many talented zine librarians, catalogers, and developers following the project’s development (more outreach is needed!).  This includes:
  • Team Northeast US Zine Librarians (Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group)
    • ABC No Rio zine librarian, to be named (the collective member most interested in this project has moved to RISD, so we may be able to work with him from there)
    • OK Fox, Silent Barn
    • Rhonda Yen Kauffman, MIT
    • Alana Kumbier, Flywheel and Hampshire
    • Honor Moody, Radcliffe
    • NYPL zine librarian, to be named (founding zine librarian recently retired)
    • Papercut zine librarian, to be named
    • Kelly Swickard, MICA
    • Katie Haegele, Soapbox
    • Brooklyn College, if they identify a zine librarian
    • Joan Singh is working on adding a zine collection at Lehman College
    • Anne Hays may have a zine collection in the works at College of Staten Island

Needed:

  • Universal design – how can ZUC be designed so that it’s adaptable and accessible?
  • PHP: Jenna and Lauren would like to be more comfortable with this programming language so that our ability to work with Collective Access and communicate more effectively with developer(s)
  • More outreach to community invested in this project’s success – Advisory Board, Blog, Social Media, defined relationship with Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group
  • Long term planning – GOVERNANCE / ROADMAP / FUNDING

Governance:

  • Look to Zine Librarians Zine Union Catalog Working Group for the groundwork of the governance structure.  
  • Models (as mostly identified by the Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group)
  • Advisory Board
    • We have identified several individuals to serve on the ZUC Advisory Board, but there has been sporadic outreach to seek their feedback in the last year (since prototype launch).  It would be great to increase the communication with this group and to coordinate efforts with the Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group that has done a lot of planning already.
    • Nomination form from ZLUCWG
    • Communication with AB
    • Feedback from AB

Roadmap:

Our model for the roadmap will be the proposal set forth by the Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working group roadmap here

  • April – June, 2018:
    • JF & LK will have a framework for moving forward with the project and an outline of the proposed governance structure
    • Set up a regular conference call with Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working Group members
    • Identifying (and apply for??) three sources of reasonable funding
  • July, 2018:
    • Zine Librarians UnConference – Minneapolis, MN July 12-14.  Opportunity to meet with stakeholders, catch them up on the work that’s been done, and to introduce the project to those unaware of the Zine Union Catalog.  
      • Perhaps propose two sessions at unconference:
        • Universal Design discussion
        • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Zine Union Catalog but were afraid to ask!
      • Post un-conference work with Milo Miller from the Queer Zine Archive Project in the Zine Union Catalog (add more records, refine metadata fields, etc.)
      • Funding/Grant applications as identified through work in ITP2
  • August – September, 2018:
    • Reach out to members of the zine librarian community and working group (and beyond) to enlist for governance committee members and continue to seek community feedback for ZUC development.
      • Governance groups:
        • Funding
        • Technology
        • Organizational/administrative
        • Grants
        • Artisanal metadata (standing)
        • Publications
    • Funding/Grant applications as identified through work in ITP2
  • October – December, 2018:
    • Documentation and review growth of governance structure progress.
    • Re-evaluate timeline and update as needed
    • Evaluate progress on acquiring funding for ZUC development
  • Early 2019 – beyond: with governance structure and roadmap outlined and in place, work on building out the Zine Union Catalog can take center stage. Plan for long term hosting of ZUC (currently two year lease on reclaim hosting that will expire in early 2020).  ITP Independent Study and then Capstone work will allow for further development.
  • Ongoing:
    • Communication with stakeholders & outreach to the community.  

Funding:

(a.k.a. Grants, but we’re certainly open to other funding opportunities)

Stripped-down version.

Since a prototype for the Zine Union Catalog already exists, the tool to use has already been identified (Collective Access).  After being awarded an ITP Micro Grant, the ZUC will have server space for another two years.  Now, the priority is to set up a roadmap and governance structure to ensure that the project will continue growing.  At a minimum, we would like to meet with stakeholders at the Zine UnConference in July, 2018 and to re-establish regular communication with the Zine Librarians Union Catalog Working group (bi-weekly or monthly conference calls).  

We recognize that our priority at the moment is not to continue developing the Zine Union Catalog, but to ensure its long term growth.  Nonetheless, at minimum, we would like to see the addition of one more set of records from another collection to the ZUC and testing the site with our personas created for this assignment.  However, this might not be accomplished until July at the Unconference.

The stripped down version should take us until late summer, 2018 to finish.  It is possible to have a comprehensive roadmap by August, 2018 after the completion of ITP2 & attendance at the Zine UnConference in July, 2018.  We plan on continuing the work on ZUC during ITP Independent Study and for our Capstone course.


 

Jenna’s Personal Reflection:

Process

For better or for worse, I am more of a doer than a planner. Working on the zine union catalog (ZUC) primarily in a project management role has, rather than helping me learn to scaffold ZUC’s development, has caused me to feel helpless. I am a somewhat organized person and have experience with project management, but all of the unknown and criss-crossing elements, many of which are far beyond my technological skills are daunting, even paralyzing.

Working on ZUC, first in Digital Humanities Praxis helped me (and the rest of the ZUC team: Lauren Kehoe, Martí Massana Ferre, and Alex Segal) with some of the doing, I still feel like I’m flailing in the planning. My primary goal for this semester is to build a roadmap, or perhaps a flowchart, given the complicated and interdependent nature of the catalog requirements.

Feedback wanted

One of the main areas in which I seek guidance is in making ZUC accessible. The ZUC crew is intensely principled, as evidenced by the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics (ZLCoE). Creators of the ZLCoE give deep consideration to people of marginalized races, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities, but less to the disabled. I am new to Universal Design and am looking forward to learning more about it and how to make ZUC appealing to people are physically, neurologically, mentally, and emotionally othered by many web projects.

From Luke and Maura

We are further blessed to have in our professors scope cops–advisers who are strategic and experienced in keeping a project on-mission. As fellow librarians, Lauren and I are able to speak Maura’s language, and have commonalities with her perspectives and bibliographic values. It’s nice to have common ground like that and not have to work to even make out what someone has to say.

 At the same time, we benefit from getting a perspective beyond the library bubble. I am eager to learn from Luke’s expertise with teaching teachers, digital scholarship, and tech project management.  

From classmates

I hope that classmates will share suggestions and dreams for ZUC from personal perspectives, but I am especially interested in how they might make use of the catalog in their own pedagogy. Lauren and I are lucky to have access to smart and thoughtful scholars and teachers from a variety of disciplines and approaches.

I’m feeling stupid because my asks sound generic, awkward and faux-flattering, but they are for real. I tend to be an independent, self-reliant kind of person, and quite possibly don’t know what I need or how to integrate other people’s contributions. Real talk: so far in MALS I’ve learned a lot about myself–how I learn and process, but I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I know what to do with the self-knowledge I’m gaining.

Skills/Assets

Have

My primary strength in all of this is my deep knowledge of zine community and culture. I am a zine maker, a zine librarian/cataloger, zinefest organizer, zine journalist, and zine scholar. What I am saying is Zine People Are My People. I suppose, in some circles of academia, my lack of objectivity (a concept I don’t believe in) could be seen as a weakness, but to me, being embedded in zinedom is an asset. It means I know who to ask for feedback, and people trust me. I have been vulnerable in print and online, navigated take-down requests, written articles about zine cataloging, and had zinesters sleep on my couch.

I have read and cataloged thousands of zines and am conversant in AACR2R and RDA cataloging practice. I say “conversant,” because even though I’ve been doing original cataloging for ten or so years, for-real catalogers are probably appalled at some of the liberties I take with assigning Library of Congress subject headings, and my inexact punctuation. Regardless, I have a great love for the catalog as the intellectual heart of the library and am passionate about description. Really. I am not as embedded in the library cataloging community as I could be, but I am blessed to have close friends and ZUC collaborators who are champion catalog nerds.

Speaking of collaborators, they are perhaps my greatest joy and blessing on this project. The zine librarian community, and the CUNY GC ZUC team are driven, creative, brilliant, and silly when necessary (which is often). Many zine librarians have graced my couch, too, and I theirs. The warmth and dedication of the zine librarian community, and now Lauren, is magical.    

On the less magical, and more technical side, I have competencies in HTML, GUI web and CMS editing, and CSS comprehension if not coding.

Need

Most of the skills I need to develop are technical, though. I am afraid my brain just can’t do code. I find it tedious and get overwhelmed quickly. I can poke around the command line a little, and thanks to years of Boolean searching, RegEx make sense to me, but I’m not sure those skills are super handy at this point.

I can navigate CollectiveAccess’s (CA) front end, but it’s back end is complex, and there’s the whole annoying cPanel thing to deal with. I think I just need to get back to hunting around. Fluency takes a while. I was hesitant to start using Drupal back in 2004, and it’s no big thing now. Unlike Drupal, which only requires HTML and WYSIWYG, CA, at least through cPanel? calls for PHP.  

I have begun a study of PHP this semester, using a web program to skill up, but I have been inconsistent in my practice.

The other areas in which I had greater knowledge are more complex metadata relationships, BIBFRAME, linked open data (LOD). I believe these expertises are typically held by hybrid cataloger/coders. I think I could gain certain competencies if I just had more time.

Time is my ultimate lack and need. I hate to be a whiner, but working full time and taking even one class per semester while having an active professional life is a significant challenge for me.


Lauren’s Personal Reflection:

Obvious statement alert: developing a project is hard!  Long term work on project development is even harder!! I’ve had experience with project planning here or there in my professional and academic lives, but I have yet to work on a multi year, technical project that existed before I became involved and will definitely grow to include many more contributions beyond what I am putting in.  I want to acknowledge the amazing work that so many zine community members have already put into making the Zine Union Catalog a success, but I also want to note that there is still much much more work to be done!

I would also like to disclose that I am still feeling like a bit of a misfit in the zine community.  I don’t make zines, I don’t collect or catalog zines, and I’m quite new to reading them. Nevertheless, I am awed by the zine community: creators, activists, librarians, and everyone else.  Also, they’re quite a welcoming community, so I never feel excluded, but I am daunted by my inexperience. And speaking of inexperience, managing the technological expectations (including cataloging) have also provided me with some doubts as to my place in the project.  Before enrolling at the Graduate Center, I knew that I would have to learn many new skills, but I did not quite take into account how very time consuming this would be when juggling a full time job (that often consumes my life) and the many personal obligations I have. As anyone who is working full time and taking graduate courses knows, it hard to accomplish all the things you want in the time you want to.  Although, I know I will persist.

My continued commitment to this project is motivated by the fact that the contributions made to society by the zine community is definitely worth all of the effort it takes to organize, store, catalog, and make findable through the Zine Union Catalog.  I’m also motivated by the desire to challenge myself to learn new technological skills and help make this project a success! Lastly, my collaborator and colleague, Jenna Freedman, is very inspiring and who has provided me with countless moments of motivation (some she knows about and many she doesn’t).  

Working in the DH Praxis course was a great, yet very intense, experience.  Taking four students and giving them three+ months to propose, plan, and execute a digital project is not an easy accomplishment, but I am very proud of the work that we (Jenna, Martí Massana Ferre, and Alex Segal, plus me) were able to complete.  However, the goal of that course is quite different from ITP2, so it has been somewhat challenging for me to adapt my focus away from the mania of developing a project in three months to taking three months to plan for a project over the next few years.

What I’m most looking for this semester from Luke, Maura, and the class is to have plenty of feedback regarding the development of ZUC’s governance structure and long term roadmap so that it is scaffolded in a realistic and accomplishable way.  Additionally, any feedback on the functionality of the Zine Union Catalog site would be really helpful. Specifically, it would be great to be provided with guidance in the best practices of defining a governance structure for this project and to get an idea from the members of ITP2 how they would/could/should use the ZUC.  Jenna has created several personas for this midterm, but some real life user testing would be a great contribution to the development of the project.

If Jenna and I were to have the opportunity to contribute all of our attention to ZUC, it is likely that version 2.0 could be rolled out within a few months, but working on ZUC is only one of the many obligations we have at the moment.  During DH Praxis, many hours of class time and regular Saturday afternoon sessions were applied to developing the ZUC prototype. ITP2 is a different kind of course and there’s not the same expectation to deliver a product at the end (and it’s also better to spend time being more thoughtful and strategic about ZUC’s growth), so the motivation/goal for this semester is different (and perhaps a little frustrating as I keep expecting to be able to commit myself the same was as I did in Praxis and move the project forward more quickly).  I do think at this point in the semester though that Jenna and I will be able to reflect thoroughly and come up with a solid, if not entirely complete, plan for the next phase of ZUC growth.

 

Responses

  • JT Pickens says:
    Might have said this before, but I’m a huge fan of this project! I think a way to strengthen the proposal, specifically in regard to planned governance, is to expand on the rights of the zine authors in ZUC.

    For example I’m curious how ZUC would handle authors who may want to be excluded from the database and/or use ZUC to request the return of zines from libraries holding them. This issue is complicated by cases like Buffy Disaster, of course. In another example, authors may want to correct the database. When an author changes name or pronouns, or just spots inaccuracies in the data, whom do they contact and how?

    I imagine in these cases one can reach out to Herders, but perhaps having a more explicit points of contact in the governance structure would be useful? Either specific individuals or a sort of issue ticketing system?

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