DIY Digitization: Creating a Small-Scale Digital Zine Exhibit

The following chapter excerpt is from the first section of the book: "Small is Beautiful: Planning and Implementing Digitization Projects with Limited Resources." Download the entire chapter (PDF) or purchase online at


Melissa L. Jones (College Summit)


2010-08-05_1548The Barnard Library Zine Collection is an innovative special collection of dynamic popular culture artifacts. The zines in the collection provide a democratic and vibrant glimpse into the movements and trends in recent feminist thought through the personal work of artists, writers, and activists. The author finds that in order to improve access to and generate interest in such niche collections, institutions have a responsibility to overcome barriers to digitization and begin sharing their collections online. This chapter discusses the development of Barnard’s first zine digitization project: Elections and Protests: Zines from the Barnard Library Collection Online Exhibit, launched in the summer of 2008. The successful project demonstrates that it is possible to build effective and engaging small-scale digital collections using simple and inexpensive technologies.


The Barnard College Library began collecting zines in 2003 in an effort to document third wave feminism and riot grrrl culture. Zines are self-published, usually inexpensively produced works by writers who subscribe to a Do It Yourself (DIY) philosophy. Generally, zines are created out of an interest to communicate or express ideas that might not otherwise find acceptance in the mainstream media. Although zines as we know them today were born from the punk movement of the early 1970s (Duncombe, 1997, p. 21), they are part of a long history of small-run and “amateur” publication.  Whether calling colonialists to arms in the days of the American Revolution or subverting censorship and challenges to free speech in Soviet Russia (Wright, 1997), alternative publications are a natural and important tool for preserving free speech.

Although zines are low rent ephemera, several public and academic libraries across the country have begun to recognize their value. At the forefront of the field, Barnard’s collection has nearly 2,500 holdings providing unmediated access to the voices of young women on such subjects as race, gender, sexuality, childbirth, motherhood and politics. Zine Librarian Jenna Freedman’s outreach and advocacy work helps to legitimize zines, not as radical historical footnotes but as valid literary and historic works worthy of collection, preservation and study.

As the Zine Intern in summer 2008, my role was to help Freedman to increase access to and interest in the Zine Collection. The result of my work was Barnard Library’s first digital collection, an online exhibit entitled, Elections and Protests: Zines from the Barnard Library Collection. This project employed a DIY approach to digitization, making use of materials and resources at hand to solve problems and overcome challenges rather than relying on mainstream or out-of-the-box technologies. This project demonstrates that small-scale digitization projects can be topical, useful and impactful for a variety of stakeholders.

Download the entire chapter (PDF) or purchase online at


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