Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT zine library records history, creativity through self-published works

Skyler Sharp
Visual arts liaison librarian Tina Tran poses with two magazines on Oct. 9, 2023. This section is dedicated entirely to magazines and is located in the Fine Arts Library.

On the fifth floor of the University Fine Arts Library, a section crammed with over 600 plain gray folders conceals a colorful, creative collection of zines. 

A zine, pronounced “zeen,” like a magazine, is a self-published booklet circulated within a small community covering a wide variety of topics, such as subculture, activism, personal narratives, DIY guides and more. The University maintains over 600 zines collected through donations and purchases from student, local and regional artists. Lone Star Zine Fest, which happened Oct. 1, included zines from the University community. 

“(A zine) is a piece of ephemera that will disappear if no one preserves it,” said Tina Tran, the liaison librarian for visual arts at the Fine Arts Library. “Keeping that piece of ephemera for future researchers and students and staff, even the public to come in and view is very important.”

With a single sheet of paper and a photocopier, Tran said independent creators bypass the restrictions of large publishing houses. She said the University’s libraries purposely purchase zines by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists to elevate these marginalized voices and increase their stories’ availability. 

“With zines, it’s the individual that decides,” Tran said. “You can get your ideas around, you can get your thoughts and the type of literature that you like around (by) being able to express yourself and know that there is a community out there that appreciates your voice.”

Tran said the modern availability of resources and information sets Gen-Z creators apart from the zines of 1980’s punk and 1960’s sci-fi. She said most modern zines focus on their responses to the media, political activism and cultural awareness.

“(Zines) move towards different alternative cultures,” Tran said. “The younger zine makers are trying to promote pieces of their culture in very digestible, cute ways.”

Tran said the library’s collection began when an Austinite involved in the punk scene donated his zines, now kept in special collections with other rare and unique zines. Since then, the library grew with contributions by the boxload from all over the world, including New York and Europe. 

“It used to be every single month until we were like ‘Sorry, we haven’t finished processing please, can you slow down a little bit?’” Tran said. “(The artists) want people to remember their thoughts and to relate to them. The fact that we preserve them is very different because zines usually aren’t kept in repositories.”

One of these donations came from The Longhorn Furries, a student organization interested in the art and costumes of anthropomorphized animals. They created a zine entitled “Academia,” compiling original artwork, writing, and even mathematical equations to tell the UT experiences of 22 students. The idea originated from art history graduate student Belle Walston.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of online communities that have made zines as an expression of what that community looks like in a material form,” Walston said. “I thought it would be a fun way to have a record of our year together (since) what happens online isn’t necessarily permanent.”

Studio art junior Levy Cao who designed the zine’s cover art now directs this semester’s zine, “Arcana.” They said they hope to continue the tradition of including a multitude of art styles, such as photography and creative writing, to produce a zine symbolic of the group.

“I really hope that years and years from now,” Cao said. “Someone will be looking through the zine collection and they’re like, ‘Wow, like, I’m not alone’ (by) looking at what people in the past have made.”

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