By Lindsay Gibb
I want to write a love letter to the library.
A big part of this desire comes from the book I’m reading at the moment called Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas. Douglas is a young librarian in Orange County who sort of fell into the job and then began blogging about life in the library for the McSweeney’s website. In his book he discusses the positive effect the library can have on its community, librarians who know nothing about books and the oddballs who frequent the building. His writing paints the library as the kind of place where anything can happen, but mostly not much happens — at least not the kind of stuff that gets on the nightly news. To me, that’s the allure of the library. It’s where the little stuff gets done that might just make a big impact: that search for a book that changes a life.
I’ve also been reading about the work of Jenna Freedman, creator of the zine Lower East Side Librarian. A zine librarian in New York City, Freedman travels the States speaking at conferences about how to integrate zines into public and scholarly libraries. She also runs a blog that lists her fave Library of Congress subject heading of the week and deals with various cataloguing and collecting issues around zines. Her approach to librarianship is communal, and involves creating methods to better integrate zines into both archives and the education system.
Right now Broken Pencil makes a small contribution to giving printed ephemera a home through our zine collection housed in the Toronto Reference Library. The modest collection sits in magazine holders on shelves above the periodicals desk. It doesn’t look like much, but there are 500-plus titles available going back 10 years or so, mostly of Canadian zines. We’re always looking to build on this collection, so if you want to send us copies of your zine, or if your own zine collection is gathering dust and destined for the recycling bin, please send them to us (attention The Zine Library) at PO Box 203, STN P, Toronto ON, M5S 2S7.
I’m reminded of the library on a daily basis as I look around my house at the piles of graphic novels with call numbers stuck to the spines. My husband discovered not so long ago that his addiction to graphic novels was spiraling out of control. It’s okay though — the library is happy to serve as his enabler, supplementing the comic shop whenever his supply gets precariously low. He probably reads somewhere between four and 10 graphic novels a week — and often serves as my helpful catalogue of indie comic information when I need some quick answers — and that wouldn’t be possible without a good collection of graphic novels at the library.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has also deemed the library the perfect place to share comics with the public. Upcoming is the fifth edition of TCAF, held at the Toronto Reference Library for the second year in row. It is the first time TCAF has held two editions in consecutive years (it has been an everyother-year event since 2003), and it’s the first time it’s returning to the same location. The two day event is quickly becoming a world renowned festival. This year it will host artists such as Daniel Clowes, Seth, Marc Bell and Sonja Ahlers (profiled on page 18), as well as a small press room sponsored by Broken Pencil. Is this the kind of noisy crowded event a library should be hosting? Absolutely!
When thinking of collecting and cataloguing material I must also point to our webmaster, Derek Winkler. He spent the last six months revamping our website so that more of Broken Pencil’s content is archived online, including almost all of the zine and book reviews that have appeared in BP since 1995. Brooke Ford, our new co-assistant editor, is now in charge of trying to make our website a place where updates are more frequent and discussion is a little more lively.
Discussion was very lively during the third edition of the Indie Writers’ Deathmatch. The top four stories and some of the most noteworthy comments can be found starting on page 21 of this issue, and the entire archive of the competition (and the previous two competitions) are on our new website.
When I profess my love for the library it’s not the official book-filled buildings that I feel connected to, but any type of archive, whether it be virtual like the online zine library at zinelibrary.info or alternative, like the Chicago Underground Library (undergroundlibrary.org). As long as they’re run by passionate people who cherish the artifacts under their care, libraries are my kind of place.