Code of Ethics – Acquisitions

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Methods of acquiring zines

Because the creators of zines often lose money (or barely break even) on their creations, financially supporting zinesters by purchasing directly from them can help sustain their ability to keep making zines. In addition, purchasing zines demonstrates respect for the value of the zinester’s work. However, a library’s zine-purchasing budget may be very small (or non-existent), so donations may be a large portion of acquisitions. In general, it’s better to have donated zines in your collection than none at all!

The following methods of acquisitions are rated in order of preference:

  1. Purchasing directly from the author or publisher. Solo authors/artists are usually not set up to accept money orders or credit cards.

  2. Purchasing from a zine distro. Zine distros are small distributors who buy zines from publishers at a discount then resell them. Distros are often easier to purchase from, with online catalogs and the ability to accept checks or credit cards. However, zine authors/publishers get a smaller cut when zines are purchased through a distro.

  3. Receiving donations from the author or publisher.

  4. Receiving donations from third parties. It can be difficult to determine where the donor acquired their zines, so this can be a mixed bag (see discussion below).

  5. Creating unauthorized copies. While some zinesters see no problem with this, especially for out of print materials, many others find it unacceptable and see it as a breach of trust.

  6. Purchasing from an unauthorized third party. This might include purchasing items from other collectors or sellers online, for example eBay. Opinion is split on this: some zinesters find it very objectionable when others sell their work for profit, others are more laissez-faire.

 

Potential problems with having zines in libraries/archives

Because of the often highly personal content of zines, creators may object to having their material being publicly accessible. Zinesters (especially those who created zines before the Internet era) typically create their work without thought to their work ending up in institutions or being read by large numbers of people. To some, exposure to a wider audience is exciting, but others may find it unwelcome. For example, a zinester who wrote about questioning their sexuality as a young person in a zine distributed to their friends may object to having that material available in a public library. In addition, zine creators, as counterculture creators, may be particularly likely to be distrustful of traditional institutions (such as government or academia).

For this reason, third party donations can be particularly tricky. While it might be an admirable goal to ask permission of zinesters to include their work in our library/archive, or at least inform them that their work is in our collection, this is usually prohibitively time- and effort-intensive.

[Not sure if deaccessioning zines is part of “acquisition” or if someone else will have addressed this? When would we deaccession zines? When would we not do this? What’s okay to do with deaccessioned zines: recycle, donate to other libraries, selling to benefit library?] What if a zinester wants a zine taken out of the library? Either donated to another library, returned to them, or flat-out destroyed? What to do in the case of duplicates?]

Collection development

 

Having a publicly-accessible collection development policy specifically for your zine collection is highly recommended. The definition of what a zine is is nebulous, so having parameters spelled out can help prevent unrelated materials from creeping into your collection (for example, political newsletters, literary journals, or brochures) when they are unwanted. A written policy allows your institution to seek out certain zines that fall within scope while being able to confidently reject material that doesn’t. [stole this sentence from the Collection Policy Primer, it’s a good one!]

 

Because of the unlimited subjects that zines can be about, you may want your collection development policy statement to include specific areas of interest that you want to develop (for example, zines of local interest). You might consider describing your core collection as well as special interests and exclusions.

 

Zine librarians/archivists should strive to promote a variety of viewpoints in the zines in their collection. The very heart of zines is their ability to give voice to those who are not traditionally represented in libraries/archives, so it is vital to include zines from underrepresented populations, with consideration to zines created by people of different races/ethnicities, genders, classes, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and so on.


[should we append this section with the collection policy primer? Or make an adaptation of it for the code of ethics?]

Zines are much more than the zines themselves. Zinesters who send or trade zines through the mail often add things in the envelope to their readers (like stickers, personal letters, candy, toys) and ornately decorate the envelopes. These additional items may offer additional research or interest to patrons. Zine librarians should consider which items, if any, should be collected (and how to make note of these in the catalog record).

By Violet and Rhonda

 

 
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About jenna

Zine Librarian at Barnard College
publisher of the Lower East Side Librarian Winter Solstice Shout-out, Reading Log, and one-off zines.

10 thoughts on “Code of Ethics – Acquisitions

  1. I really like “Because the creators of zines often lose money (or barely break even) on their creations, financially supporting zinesters by purchasing directly from them can help sustain their ability to keep making zines. In addition, purchasing zines demonstrates respect for the value of the zinester’s work.” I think it would be stronger to end it there. The next bit “However, a library’s zine-purchasing budget may be very small (or non-existent), so donations may be a large portion of acquisitions. In general, it’s better to have donated zines in your collection than none at all!” is true, of course, but I’d rather not cede that right away. Could it go at the end? Or not appear at all?!?

    • I like this, too, and I would vote to retain the entire passage, or at least the sense of it. Something, anyway, that both stresses the validity of donations as a source of acquisitions and proposes that, when feasible, purchases of materials should be considered more appropriate because funds are going to support zinesters and their work.

    • Even with that said, I’m not sure I like the idea of a formal ranking of methods of acquisitions. I think this might seem too limiting and would unnecessarily restrict institutions as to what they try to acquire. Also, although I agree that overall purchases are more considerate to zinesters than donations because they supply money to the creators, to suggest that purchases are somehow more ‘ethical’ than donations is unfair particularly to public institutions that more likely than not won’t have funds available for large purchases of zines. So sme may have to make a choice between ethics and having a fuller collection.

  2. Should #2 include independent bookstores? Or would that go under zine distros, as a 2a, or something like that? I think buying from Bluestockings or Quimbys is as legit as buying from a distro.

  3. I think deaccessioning recommendations belong in this section. I feel like “potential problems” could also go farther down or be lightened up a little. We don’t want to give administrators ammunition, but of course we do want to be honest about what the challenges are.

  4. Would it be worthwhile to get into how punk and zines are sometimes perceived or portrayed as primarily white, middle class activities, thereby erasing people of color from the narrative and history, as additional fodder for acquiring zines by POC in the underrepresented voices section?

  5. “Zines are much more than the zines themselves. Zinesters who send or trade zines through the mail often add things in the envelope to their readers (like stickers, personal letters, candy, toys) and ornately decorate the envelopes. These additional items may offer additional research or interest to patrons. Zine librarians should consider which items, if any, should be collected (and how to make note of these in the catalog record).”

    This is a very good point, but I wonder if this is more of a processing issue, that could go into a set of zine processing guidelines.

  6. “Zine librarians/archivists should strive to promote a variety of viewpoints in the zines in their collection. The very heart of zines is their ability to give voice to those who are not traditionally represented in libraries/archives, so it is vital to include zines from underrepresented populations, with consideration to zines created by people of different races/ethnicities, genders, classes, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and so on.”

    This is so very true, and I love the sentiment. Again, though, what an institution collects – including the variety of voices – will depend on its own collecting strategy, which might be much more specific.

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