Self-publishing as resistance: Political zines from the collection

To continue the exhibition move to the next room: Getting personal: perzines from the collection

The Audre Lorde Questionnaire to Oneself

I confess to being a little obsessed with Audre Lorde – “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” by her own description, oh, and a Librarian – but so should you be. Tiny and so simple (the zine is folded from an A4 cream page) yet this zine, to me, feels like a powerful weapon.

Cover image zine.  Text in black reads The Audre Lorde Questionnaire to Oneself. Image of Audre Lorde smiling with glasses and mid length dreadlocks. Printed on cream paper.

The zine comprises of four questions, taken from her essay: The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, written and delivery in 1977 and then included in her books (both available at UAL Libraries): Sister Outsider and The Cancer Journals

The full essay is available online and you can listen to Lorde reading part of the essay: Audre Lorde – Your Silence Will Not Protect You.

What I love about the zine is that there is space for the reader to record their answers to the questions within the publication allowing them to immediately engage with these questions in a way that reading them in the essay does not.  The catalogue record records Audre Lorde as the author of the zine and although the words are certainly hers the short bio included in the back pages make me think that the zine maker is another individual.  For me this simple example is a demonstration of the power of the zine form to inspire and galvanize action of the individual.   

Read a thoughtful reflection on Lorde’s essay, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post. And an essay on The Cancel Journals

Our copy of this zine is kept in Folder 81: Library catalogue

Think it over: IWW

In The Elephant’s Graveyard (1976, BBC play for today) a melancholy-funny pastoral, set in the hills behind Greenock’s IBM plant as it was, there is a monologue about hoarseness.

Hoarseness, specifically, of the shop stewards, or union reps, who so ruin their voices on the radio, chat shows, and other, gala, events, that when it comes time to speak for their members, they can but croak.

Perhaps this is why, in the post-industrial Greenock of today, belief in the big unions is so low; not least amongst the people there who worked through the town’s decline. Who’s to say?

What’s so beautiful about Graveyard is that focuses on, and gives, simultaneously, a solid yet dreamy life (that is to say, in all caps: LIFE) to a strata of the working class otherwise utterly demonised in the Anglosphere: the quote unquote work-shy.

But why, or rather why not: why not be work shy? Why should we want to toil at all?

Because, as this zine forcefully argues, and as Graveyard hazily posits, we work with other workers, of our class, and they need us.

Not to meet deadlines or quality targets, but because their struggle for self-determination is yours too.

So many people claim to speak for the working class: bosses, politicians, bureaucratic union officials; only a union of solidarity, with workers the world over, and with direct action wherever possible, can speak for it with any sense or authority.

So argues this zine, and the international workers of the world, its subject.

Cover image of Think Over It: An Introduction to the Industrial Workers of the World by Tim Acott. Black and Red font on a cream background with an image of the International Workers of the World symbol on the left hand side. The O or over is falling to the bottom of the page.

What to make of it, what would Greenock make of it? When the whole world itself seems hoarse?

Turn to the worker next to you and ask, if you can.

Our copy of this zine is kept in Folder 46: Library catalogue

Librarians and archivists to Palestine 

Described as a punk rock travel diary, this zine collects contributions from a delegation of librarians and archivists to Palestine in 2013. Now, punk rock travel diaries are one of my favourite subgenres of zines, and my favourite part of a punk rock travel diary are the lists of food and snacks eaten along the way. This zine doesn’t disappoint: Za’atar, Musakhan, Maqluba are amongst some of the highlights. 

But fellow librarians documenting the occupation of Palestine feels particularly relevant and vital as I consider how I can use my own platform and privilege to be a useful member of the boycott against apartheid.  

It’s maybe a little bit cliched of me, but like a lot of library workers I confess to visiting libraries when I’m on holiday or away from home as some form of busman’s holiday. And so it’s heartening to read about the delegates visiting bookshops, libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage sites. Such trips include a visit to the Khalidi Library located in the Old City of Jerusalem to view historic works such as a gilded 400 year old Qur’an. The library remains open to the public and continues to resist numerous attempts by the Israeli government to sieze the property.  

The day that I read this zine for the first time, Samir Monsour’s bookshop in Gaza was destroyed in an Israeli air strike. The loss isn’t just in buildings, it’s in books, history, culture, traditions, community, livelihoods, and homes. The zine describes the erasure of this history and while it might seem trite and kind of cliched for librarians to focus on the devastating loss of bookshops and libraries, it reveals much more about what is really lost.

Librarians and archivists to Palestine can be read in full online as well as other pdf zines created by this delegation.

The zine is held in our library catalogue, folder 40.

To continue the exhibition move to the next room: Getting personal: perzines from the collection

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