About Zines at University of Texas Libraries

The University of Texas Libraries houses DIY publications like zines and chapbooks in three different sites across campus: the Fine Arts Library, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, and the UT Poetry Center at the Perry-Castañeda Library. Each site specializes in particular subject matter, such as art and music zines from local artists, U.S. Latinx and Latin American content, and poetry and creative writing. Though all three sites have a unique history with DIY publications, they all share a dedication to honoring this medium as a form of cultural production that deserves serious academic attention and long-term preservation.

Zines at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection has long expressed a committment to preserving popular culture through small press and DIY publications from across Latin America and the United States that include Caribbean graphic novels, Brazilian cordeles, Argentine chapbooks, and cartoneras. The zines highlighted in You Are What You (Do Not) Eat are only a small sample of growing U.S. Latinx holdings pertaining to zines and graphic novels that have been purchased since 2017 from zine fests in Austin, Albuquerque, San Antonio, and New York City as well as online. Additionally, the Benson is the official repository for the Puro Chingón Collective, a local art collective which regularly publishes their own zine. All of these items, and more, can be accessed in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room on the east side of campus.

Zines at the UT Poetry Center at the PCL

In 1965, poet and artist Ruth Stephan gave an endowment to UT for a landmark poetry collection. (She even gave books from her personal collection!) In 2014, the UT Libraries opened the UT Poetry Center as a home for the Ruth Stephan Poetry Collection. Such a prestigious collection may not, on first glance, seem like a home to crafty zines and handmade, DIY books. However, it has a wealth of poetry chapbooks and creative writing zines, some published as far back as the 1950s. In particular, the collection includes handmade and staple-bound chapbooks published locally in Austin and Texas. Most of these were published in short runs, making them ephemeral and rare. Some are entirely unique to the UT Libraries and aren’t held by any other library! The chapbooks and creative writing zines held in the Ruth Stephan Poetry Collection are available for browsing at the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL).

Zines at the Fine Arts Library

The Fine Arts Library’s Collection of zines began to grow in earnest in 2012 under the stewardship of former FAL head librarian Laura Schwartz. Laura, fascinated with zines, wanted to build a collection that could be shared with library patrons; the reasonable cost of zines making their collecting possible. She set her collecting parameters – art and music, and/or local and regional artists; and frequented Austin stores such as Domy Books, owned by zine collector Russell Etchen. This relationship later resulted in Etchen gifting his Zine Collection to the FAL. Laura also worked with knowledgeable library colleagues like Beth Kerr, former FAL Dance and Theater Librarian, and Katherine Strickland, PCL Maps Coordinator, who shared their knowledge and made their own additions to the FAL Zine Collections. Laura then made the decision that the zines be searchable in the library catalog and available for checkout. Former Arts and Humanities Liaison Librarian Becca Pad, equally enthused about zines, continued to make additions to the FAL Zine Collection; wrote a LibGuide for them; and helped head the UT Libraries’ participation in the immensely popular Lone Star Zine Festival. Thanks to Becca’s vision, there are now also plans for a new zine exhibition space on the 5th floor of the FAL which will focus interest on these unique collections.