Open Meeting #1

We held our first open meeting on August 21st at the George Washington Browne room at the Central Library.

It began with a short introduction to the EZL, transcribed here:

“ Hello and welcome to the Central Library. Thank you for coming – its great to see so many new faces here. I’m Lilith Cooper, and this is my colleague Abi Melton, and at the moment we are in charge of running the Edinburgh Zine Library project.

This project came about after a series of conversations between ourselves, other zine makers, and then between us and the Art and Design Library here at the Central Library. We wanted a zine library in Edinburgh to increase access to zines, to build on the growing community of makers, writers, illustrators and artists here in Edinburgh and to elevate and legitimise zines as a form of artistic and self-expression, as personal and social histories, and as a way of ‘doing’ activism or feminism. Zines are often a place for stories and experiences that don’t fit in the overarching dominant narrative of mainstream media, a place for marginalised voices, and we want the library to act as an archive of contemporary zine making in Edinburgh and beyond, as well as inspiring and facilitating more creation, more story telling.

At the moment the Zine Library consists of a filing cabinet in the Art and Design Library, thirty-odd zines, an online catalogue, and the two of us. We have a very basic submissions and cataloguing process. We want to make the most of the culture of zines that encourages sharing, reproduction and replication, with total respect for the original work, and so we have attempted to create a submissions process that uses creative commons licenses and asks specific permissions. This is part of the reason we are focusing on contemporary zines for the moment, although there are lots of ways that we could start to archive older work and we’re excited to explore this at some point. This is an example of how zines are catalogued at the moment. Creative commons licenses are a set of copyright licenses that give specific permissions, designed to allow more freedom than traditional copyright. If you want to learn more about this there are some handy infographics at the back, or come and chat with us.

There are lots of ways that the zine library could potentially expand, and crucially we want to be as collectively run as possible and shaped by our members and the community we are part of. We’ve spoken to the library about the possibility of holding workshops on zine making for adults, and potentially in the future for kids too, of working with other community groups, of making part or all of the library mobile. There’s obviously a lot of growing we need to do with submissions, as well as the potential to apply for funding in the future to actively acquire zines and put some money back into the community.

Within this, there are loads of ways for people to get involved, and we really want this to be an opportunity where you can use your interests, experiences, passions and knowledges to shape the project. We’ll need people who are into libraries and archives to contribute to cataloguing and collection development policies, event management, website design, social media, community outreach, workshop facilitators, and obviously people who are passionate and interested in zines.

How to get involved then? So the library is going to be structured as a group of members. When you become a member, you’ll meet with me or Abi at a time that works for both of us, and sign our members agreement. These clarify your responsibilities as members of the library to do things like respect copyright or follow our safe space agreement and our responsibilities to you. It will be very informal, and will be an opportunity for us to talk about what you want to get out of participating in the library, about anything you might need from us in order to get involved, and a chance for us to

get to know you a bit better. Once you’re a member you can join any of our committees, as well as table new ones if you feel there’s a job needs doing!

We have mapped out several committees – handling cataloguing and collection development, community outreach and workshops, social media, marketing and event planning, and inclusion and accessibility. There’s obviously overlap between them, and whilst we have a smaller membership we will hold general members meetings followed by smaller committee meetings in one evening. I won’t go into too much detail now – if you put your name and contact information down we will email you with all the information from this evening. Myself and Abi will be part of all committees to start with, but we hope they will take off and have a life of their own. The only exception to this is the BAME group which will be part of the accessibility and inclusion branch. We intend to hold this space open and provide resources to anyone who identifies within this group if they wish to run this committee.

Alongside committees we will hold semi-regular open meetings where members and anyone else from the local community can attend and discuss things that relate to the whole library, its future development, and also people can find out more about getting involved.

So, what’s next? We’ve got some exciting things coming up in the next few months. We’ll be holding a proper opening event here at the central library. We’re working on increasing submissions, and creating a process for cataloguing these and developing our online catalogue. We want to start talking about and developing workshops. Unfortunately, the location of the library means it is not wheelchair accessible, so we are looking at solutions for how to improve accessibility.

We’ve got a couple of mailing list forms on green paper at the back and front of the room where you can put down your details to receive all the information about volunteering and the next members meeting. There’s a separate list if you’re not interested in volunteering but want to stay updated with the library, where you can sign up to our monthly newsletter, which is in this corner on the pink paper. If you want you can also head up to the art and design library to take a look at the filing cabinet – although our whole collection is here and at home at the moment we intend to put the first lot of zines in by the end of the week. Please also come chat with us – it would great to meet you and put some names to faces. There are vegan snacks – some are gluten free which are labelled – and the packets are behind them in case you need to check for allergens and some soft drinks. We’ve got some zines from the collection for you to read, and also you can have a look at how we’re cataloguing them, and have a read of some of the stuff on creative commons if you’re not familiar with it.

Does anyone have any general questions they want to ask?

Thanks so much for coming, and we look forward to chatting with you. “

This was followed by questions and short discussion. This included discussion of the ownership of the library. The Zine Library is currently owned by the collective ‘Edinburgh Zine Library’ and is housed by the Art and Design Library. So we, as EZL, take on the full responsibility of the library, and absorb the risk. We discussed the possibility of digitising some of the library, which is something we could explore in the future but currently we are focusing on the physical collection. We discussed possible funding routes and the need for a coherent and thoughtful collection development policy. It was asked whether the library took a political stance, and we explained that the library would be apolitical – in the sense that it is not aligned with a political party and would accept any zine so long as it followed the safe space agreement. In fact, we are keen to collect zines that document or explore political activism in Edinburgh and beyond. That said, whilst the terms of our safe space agreement should be apolitical, for some people they are considered political stances. We will continue to explore and discuss this. Finally we discussed the need for the EZL to write a clear mission statement, and this will be a central part of the first members meeting.

We are always looking for members, and people with an interest in zines, libraries, DIY culture or archives to get involved. If you’re interested please get in touch!