Library employability: obtaining technical or job-specific skills through real life experience

I have recently decided to go ahead with a library postgraduate qualification and have an unconditional place starting in September. I will be doing it part-time, distance learning, while I continue to work 32.5 hours a week. I definitely think that this is the right study choice for me for various reasons.

  • I have already done a Masters, which I paid for using the career-development loan. I have now paid this bank loan off but am therefore ineligible for the new postgraduate student loan scheme.
  • As you may know, I already work in a library. I feel that working in a library while doing the course is the way to come out of a library qualification strongest. I appreciate not everyone is able to enter the sector and be able to do the course simultaneously, but it is in my opinion, the wisest course of action. (an alternative that I feel is equally valuable for recent graduates, is to do the paid traineeship then follow on with the masters but that is not an option for me at this point)

Anyway Activia Training are running a Scholarship competition and here I am, blogging to enter it. You can read about and enter the competition here.

The prompt I have chosen to answer is:

Why is having good technical or job-specific skills important and how will this make you more employable?

Personally I got my work ethic from my Dad. He left school at 16 and was not an academic person, but he has inspired me to work hard and be my true, honest self my whole life. To ‘do my best’. He regularly said all he wanted was for me to ‘be happy’, which can sometimes feel a bit like an unachievable goal, but has given me the angle that academic excellence isn’t the be all and the end all.

I got my first role in a library with no library experience at all. All of my jobs have lead on from the last one, with one element of the role being useful for the next job. I worked retail, which helped me get a receptionist job, and a call centre job, both of which helped me get an office job. NHS temp work helped me get a job in an NHS library, because they valued my understanding of the workforce and hospital environment. They valued my transferable skills, which as a Geography Graduate, I may as well have tattooed on my forehead by now. I had experience of the core day to day expectations of a library assistant, even if I demonstrated them in non-library examples.

I am really excited to finally be doing a library qualification, I have thought about doing one since 2011. Even when I have finally achieved it, I know that what will set me apart from other candidates for library jobs in the end will be my experiences. I have had a paying job in some form since I was 13 and am not above any kind of work. So much of my work experience has been agency work, low paid and unstable, often dull or repetitive, but it has helped me prove my resilience. I have shown I am capable of fitting into different work environments, pitching in, navigating different challenges and being part of different teams with the drive to undertake any challenge. I have proven I can speak to all sorts of people, help identify what they need from a service, and make the process of finding that information accessible to them. Oh wait, that is what librarians do! I have also done volunteering which is a fantastic way to get experience of real world technical skills required at work, in an actual work place. I volunteered in a school library for a year, helping with basic tasks and a few events, and later on in my life, when a role came up as a FE College librarian, I was able to use many examples from that volunteering experience in the job interview, which I was successful in and then offered the job. I know having that work experience was integral to my success. My degree was also appreciated and useful but could not have fully prepared me for it.

Academic qualifications are great but in job interviews, you need to bring real world examples, not just hypothetical knowledge. The library qualification is recognised as a professional qualification and referred to in many person specifications, so I know I will need it to apply for jobs and be shortlisted, yet in a lot of ways it is a benchmarking qualification, a tick box I need to tick. I am excited to expand on what I already know from my experiences of working in libraries, through attending the lectures via e-learning, and connecting with the course leaders and other students on the course, but ultimately it will be my real life experience that will set me apart.

This course expects you to have some work experience of libraries before applying, whether it is paid or voluntary, so it is quite unique in that it values real life experience highly and integral to the process of transitioning from being in library school to securing a paid role in a library. Quite right in my opinion. How do you know a career path is right for you if you have no experience of what it will actually be like! Again, volunteering is a great way to suss this out and provide examples of projects and tasks you have done.

I have always been committed to continuing professional development (CPD) which is valued highly and talked about a lot in the library profession. I believe that I am good enough to apply for senior library roles already, based on my experience, and sometimes over the past few years, I have wondered if I should try and make it in the sector without a postgraduate library qualification, on my own merit. I am motivated and career-minded; continuously learning and developing my skills. I care deeply about what I do in my working life, and the sort of organisation I want to work for, and assess my motivations on a day to day basis. I currently work in an NHS library and absolutely love it. I care so much about what NHS professionals strive to deliver on a 24/7 basis, and by working in the library I can support them and their educational needs so they can be better at what they do.

My personal understanding of the NHS workforce comes from a lot of work experience on the ‘coalface’ of the health service, temping in administrative roles where I have communicated directly with clinical staff and patients and I understand their day to day priorities and pressures. No education could have taught me the experience in making decisions and taking action in the moment, when an urgent fax arrives and I have had to make a call and ensure the doctor can make the right decision based on the information to hand. I have always sought to be a better, more knowledgeable and understanding human being. So much of what I learn is through interactions with people on the job, conversations with colleagues, peers and people who come to use the service I provide at work. I don’t think I will ever stop learning while at work, and I do believe learning through formal education is also a great opportunity and one which I look forward to.

Many of the technical skills I use on a day to day basis at work have become innate, and I do not appreciate them from a theoretical point of view because I just DO them. I learnt and developed my working and technical knowledge over time, under the mentorship of my supervisors and mentors (both in paid and unpaid work), colleagues and the wider library community, through day to day repetition and enhancement, asking questions as they come up. I think the postgraduate course will help me to contextualise what I do and reframe it in a language I perhaps don’t have the confidence to use in job interviews when I describe what I do.

In particular, so much of library work is process-driven and we just love procedures. You can memorise a document on using software or cataloguing stock but nothing is as valuable as doing it, in the moment, talking about it with colleagues and learning from mistakes. Acknowledging this is key to understanding what it is like to work in a team and delivering a reflexive and dynamic service where every single day is different and who knows what question might get asked.

I still do what my Dad advised; I do my best, every single day. Even if some days my best isn’t the best. I feel that I bring as much as I can to the workplace, and with support from Activia I would be able to progress and drive positive change in libraries going forward, in decision making roles using this postgraduate qualification as a springboard without as much of a financial barrier.

Read more about the Activia scholarship here



Professional Twitter and Mental Health


Before I begin, this blog post is inspired by some of the conversations that have been taking place in the Mental Health Twitter community: in particular the above tweet.

As someone who has worked in the NHS for quite a while (in non-clinical roles, I should add), and on a personal level, experiences mental health issues myself (I do not currently work in the Mental Health sphere of the NHS, though briefly have) I have definitely noticed what both of the above authors are referring to. I have noticed it in other sectors as well though it is perhaps slightly less damaging outside of healthcare Twitter. I know most librarians reading will surely admit that most of the interactions they have on their professional twitters/library accounts are with their peers, rather than those they provide a service for. If that is the case, who is this social media content for?

I’ve been having some misgivings about the concept of ‘professional twitter’ for quite some time, especially in the past year as I have felt the need to do more work tweets or managed professional accounts and had targets to meet with regards to creating content. By ‘professional twitter’ I mean twitter accounts either set up in a professional capacity to represent a service itself, or tweets by personal accounts that are ‘about work’.

I am currently trying to take a social media break so it seems a bit bleak that I am now going to blog about twitter but I am hoping this will help me to organise my thoughts a little bit.

What with the trend of minimalism and konmari and digital detoxing and all of that, the word intentionality comes up quite a lot. What are the intentions you have when you post a tweet?

  • Maybe you want to share useful information
  • Maybe you want to post a picture to get positive responses
  • Maybe you want to publicly thank a colleague rather than emailing or telling them face to face they did a good thing
  • Maybe you want to prove you are actually working from home, honest
  • Maybe you want to talk about yourself because you are super important aren’t you, definitely, probably.
  • Maybe you want to humblebrag about your super important and exciting career.
  • Maybe you are angry and want to tell people off for doing things wrong, or being legitimately evil and having bad ideas

That wasn’t intended to be a burn list or anything; if I am really honest with myself I have had a lot of these intentions, and I don’t even think they are bad reasons for wanting to do anything. I know most of the time overwhelmingly positive content on social media is PR, I KNOW stuff on social media is staged and filtered and written purposefully for whatever reason.

So yes, I KNOW ALL OF THIS, I can’t bear inauthenticity at all yet here I am finding myself feeling pressured to participate in it and guess what, it HUGELY affects my mental health. Yet, I don’t want to delete Twitter. I remember back in the heyday of Facebook (2007/8 or so?) someone creating a Facebook group entitled ‘if you aren’t on Facebook, you don’t exist’ and it gave me SUCH existential dread. If I delete Twitter (and actually you could interchange this with LinkedIn) will people forget about me, will I be less relevant, will someone else take my old handle and either never use it so I can’t have it back or start some kind of terrible account I fundamentally disagree with. If I really think I only matter or something I do is only valuable if I have told Twitter about it, what does that say about me? What does that say about every day I live through where nothing is worth shouting about. But also, do I really need a colleague I worked with 15 years ago to know what I still think on a day to day basis? Why is that?

My MA dissertation was on Museums using social media to try and engage visitors with their collections and the overwhelming finding was, most engagements were with other Museums on social media or people working or hoping to work in the sector. Not the ‘hard to reach’ audiences (a problematic phrase in itself) that they hoped to be in touch with.

My undergraduate dissertation (can I just shout out to anyone else who did Human Geography and constantly has to battle peoples assumptions that they know about rivers and colouring in and want to be a geography teacher, I do know about colouring in but sadly that was not an element of my degree) was on the use of the internet to build community in a real life geographical location. What I found there was that lots of white middle class people liked to chat with each other on messageboards (this was pre-facebook groups) about litter bins and HMO’s in an area that was actually incredibly ethnically diverse but… wasn’t represented in their little online enclave. *sarcastic pondering face emoji*

So what am I trying to say, I guess I am trying to say that Twitter is a useful information tool. But writing a tweet isn’t doing the actual work. Is writing this blog post any better? I don’t think it is, but it’s something I can read back on when I need to remind myself of what actually matters to me and what feels good in my working life. Social media invariably feels like a kind of a smokescreen blocking out the actual groundwork that matters to service users. I don’t think that means it should stop being used, I don’t think it is a bad thing or a waste of time (unless you are spending too much time on it, not sure what the measurable range of this might be though! I am sure some researcher has done one) but if its purpose is to send out a message so far removed from reality that it does harm to service users (ie. the tweet I mentioned at the top) then that can’t be good. Some prolific tweeters appear to spend most of their time on Twitter and it makes me wonder, what are they doing in the office, what do their colleagues think of them, what AREN’T they tweeting about? Also, if I am one of their service users, is this what I am paying for? (either via subscription or taxes).

I have learnt so much from the internet, but I need to also implement that knowledge and those tools in real life and I am starting to feel like tweeting about them is not the most effective use of my time.

I am still on twitter @ingridboring and will probably stay there (because god forbid I suddenly cease to exist, ha) but I hope to spend more time being a better version of myself irl and if that means I lose relevance online then: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If I am only relevant if I am joining the echo chamber of false-positivity about all the good work I am trying to do, then what does that really mean. I don’t feel good about feeding a false narrative about what it means to be doing the work I do, especially when I know it impacts on my own mental health and is potentially picked up on by service users.

If I want to be awful and relate this back to minimalism (ew don’t worry I hate myself enough already) I could aspire to tweeting more mindfully or intentionally, then this regularly thrown around  William Morris quote will do: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”. 

Honestly, social media is the biggest mental health trigger for me and I need to be real with myself and take steps to feel better so I have the strength to continue to do what I need to get done for as long as possible.

It’s quite scary to put this out here, and so I am going to schedule it and then probably freak out and consider deleting it and pretending everything is totally fine LOLOLOL.


Oh, ps. I recently read this article on cellphone addiction which really resonated with me too. Some days I literally struggle to walk down the street without looking at my phone or reading a book because of social anxiety and if that starts to impact on me even leaving my house, which I feel it has started to, then something has to stop here.

2018 round up: part 2- Libraries/other non-library work

I continued to work as an Enquiry Services Librarian for the NHS this year, and I started this blog initially to try and document my progress with CILIP Chartership but I have to admit I have decided not to continue with it. I have had a couple of moments throughout the process where I wavered a bit with it. I question a few things about it but the main reason I left was the fact that it’s a qualification with a major caveat in that you need to be a fee paying CILIP member for the rest of your career to use it/display it anywhere. CILIP membership really isn’t cheap and I questioned what I was getting out of it as a part time librarian. I definitely am a massive advocate of CPD so will continue this blog as part of my own reflective practice and career development. I strongly believe you do not need to purchase a membership or pay for education to be capable of doing valuable things in your place of work and continue to learn and improve your existing skills.

Having said that, I did invest in the e-course offered by the ALA lead by Maria T Accardi and entitled Feminist Librarianship: Re-Envisioning Library Work  it was in no way a small amount of money, but at the time I felt an urge to do the Library postgraduate qualification and had a spot on the distance course at Sheffield but some reticence about my ability to do a distance learning course. I had done an online course before with the Open University and didn’t love it, so worried it would be like that. I figured if I enjoyed doing e-learning again it might work out.

I have to say I absolutely loved every minute of the Feminist Librarianship course, probably because I am so passionate and committed to intersectionality and applying it to my work as much as I can. I feel that it was such a great opportunity to reflect on what I do on a daily basis and discuss it with other librarians who were pretty much all from the USA or Canada, I think, but actually I really appreciated their experiences and I learnt a lot. One of the most amazing resources I learnt about was In the Library with the Lead Pipe – which is Open Access so you should check it out it is a complete wealth of information. Many of our readings were from this site.

I did defer my Postgraduate Diploma offer at Sheffield to 2019 and am still undecided on if it is the right choice for me. Money is the issue, rather than interest level. I do love working in libraries and I know I have a lot to offer. I am looking at funding opportunities but also wondering if I am satisfied to remain at my level and develop in other ways, rather than investing in a qualification when being a manager is not my goal in this career. Some more reflection will come I am sure but that is where I am at right now.

Some really nice library things that happened this year were:

I got to attend a regionally organised training day in Leeds on literature searching and I feel so much more confident with doing literature searches than I did this time last year. I could definitely do them a year ago, but it does feel like the best way to improve your skills is to practice and discuss them with colleagues. I really appreciate these training sessions that health libraries put on, and love meeting other health librarians.

I attended a LISNPN event in Manchester, which I already blogged about but honestly, this was such a fantastic experience and I met some of my very favourites on library twitter. Thank you to LISNPN for inviting me, I would probably not have considered myself a new-professional if I hadn’t been invited, to be perfectly honest as like I say, I do not have a LIS qualification and am unsure about doing one for various reasons.

I spent 6 months working part time in education events administration in the NHS, so got to lead on some medical education study days and worked really hard on a 4 day conference in the hospital where I already work in the library. It was exhausting work but I am proud of myself and I learnt a great deal in my time there, particularly with regard to marketing best practice and mail merges! I also got to continue with a project I had been collaborating with the department on, while at the library which ended up getting an award at the LIHNN Christmas Study Day, so that is pretty awesome!

A lot of the work I did in Education Events has helped me improve the offer at the library and also established a dialogue between two departments which were not previously working very closely, so that is really exciting and particularly in the NHS, feels like a massive achievement.

I have started training with The Reader Organisation which has been really awesome. What they do is brilliant and I learnt a lot of new skills in leading group activities and discussions which I didn’t have a great deal of experience with before. I am hoping to use elements of their practice in a series of book groups at the Christie.


The first book group took place in December and people turned up! I had been very nervous about this for some reason, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We read The Girl with 9 Wigs by Sophie Van der Stap which is a memoir of a cancer patient. We collectively decided to continue the group every 2 months, and to do a non-cancer-related title next time, so in February we will meet again and are discussing The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner.

In Autumn I started a new part-time role on the NHS at 70 project at Manchester University which has been amazing so far. I couldn’t believe it when the role came up, it just seemed like the perfect combination of all my skills and passions and then I was lucky enough to be the person they chose! We have had training from the British Library in archiving and managing audio files which is new for me, within the workplace at least. This has been such an interesting and enriching experience for me so far. I am also getting trained to do oral histories so if you are reading this and would like to be interviewed by me about your experiences with the NHS either as a patient, family of a patient, or as a person who has worked or currently works in the NHS. Please let me know.

So I am still a part time librarian without a LIS qualification, and most of my focus is still on the NHS, while I am at work. I feel like the combination of my roles right now is something I have previously only dreamt of and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do both of these, but also want to acknowledge that in 2018 I was very hard on myself, I never stopped trying, I worked really hard and some of my non-career goals were overlooked. This year I plan to allow more time for them.

2018 round up: part 1 – Zines

I thought I would sum up my highlights of 2018 and start with zine ones, professional ones can wait until next time.

  • Me and Steve from Salford Zine Library got published in Art Libraries Journal and the article is Open Access, hereDchDmCNWsAEz1qy


  • Northwest Zinefest 2018 was Salford Zine Library’s biggest and best zinefest yet and took place at Partisan Collective this year – we have ironed out a lot of the organisational issues of running a zinefest now, and addressed a lot of the feedback from the past two years. We are hoping to come back even stronger next year, follow us on twitter for updates on this @nwzinefest same name on instagram too and we have a Facebook page somewhere.




  • The zine library has been closed for most of the year but we were included in two incredibly exciting exhibitions. Firstly Processfest which was an OOMK takeover of Somerset House in London and the zine library got a space for a pop up commission which I worked on. It was so amazing to meet so many like-minded people and have interesting discussions about self-publishing across the weekend so I am incredibly grateful that Salford Zine Library were asked to come be a part of the event. OOMK are awesome, you should go and look at all the incredible work they do.


  • There is also a pop-up zine libary as part of the most excellent Represent! Voices 100 Years On exhibition at The People’s History Museum which will continue to Sunday 3rd February 2019 so you have loads of time to go and take a look.


Focuses for 2019: 

  • We are reopening the zine library officially next Spring and hopefully (in my opinion) this will include at least one event to celebrate. All information about Salford Zine Library is on the website and the Zine Library Twitter account.
  • Personally, I would like to do some cataloguing so that the catalogue on the website is more up to date, and I would like to have more conversations about cataloguing zines and the ethical considerations about that. Feel free to tweet me or comment here with your views!
  • I would also like to do a survey of users of the zine library, we don’t often reach out to ask opinions, we tend to let things tick along. I think this is super important, so want to try and do this.

NHS @ Manchester Pride


It’s been a while since I last updated but I just wanted to update to say I represented the NHS in the Manchester Pride Parade for the second time this year and had a really positive experience. It’s such a lovely atmosphere and the crowd’s love for the NHS section is overwhelming!

I also bumped into a fellow NHS Librarian which is always a nice surprise!

I am hoping to submit my Chartership very soon so more updates on that soon…

Belated reflection on the #NLPNConnect Networking Day with @NLPN_

This was back in early May now, but I am at the critical writing up stage of my Chartership and so here I am, reflecting on it.


The day had the useful hashtag #nlpnconnect and also NLPN have published a guest blog post on their blog here so if you are really keen to read more then there you go. I know there is at least one terrible photo of me on the hashtag so you might enjoy that.

Firstly I must be completely honest as is my way, and admit that this event would probably have completely passed me by if I hadn’t been invited to be one of the ‘speed networking’ people. I had literally no clue what this would involve but it’s nice to be asked isn’t it! Anyway I am so glad they did approach me because honestly I had SUCH a positive experience and it really got me enthusiastic about libraries again as I met so many likeminded people who were doing inspiring work. It encouraged me to finally get on and do this Chartership thing I’ve been dragging my heels over, and it was one of the reasons why I decided to make this blog, which seems to be going okay, so that’s awesome.

It was on a Saturday, us poor new library professionals giving up a precious Saturday! There was coffee and cake though.

Some reflective thoughts on the day:

  • It made me think more about what it means to be a library professional. I did wonder if my job title was the reason I was invited to be there, and if that mislead the organisers into thinking I had a LIS qualification, which I don’t. Am I therefore not a New Library Professional? I did a bit of soul searching in a previous blog post about this. Ultimately, I think this has pushed me forward a bit in making strides with Chartership, because I know I have the experience and know in a way I do self-identify as a Library Professional or at least Para-professional, but for some reason without that piece of paper, others may not agree.
  • It made me realise how far I have come. I went to a New Professionals Information Day run by CILIP back in 2011/2012 I think it was actually this one blogged about here. At the time I was a Library Assistant at the Bodleian Healthcare Libraries (a great place to work, btw) and was still undecided about if I should do a Library MA or a Museum Studies MA. In the past 6 years since then I have spent 3 years in libraries, 1 doing that Museum Studies MA and the other 2 years working in the NHS. I feel like all of this experience has been incredibly valuable, even the masters in a way, and being back in libraries is the right path for me. While I have not done a lot of library networking in that time, I have done a lot of public speaking and museum networking and I realised that I felt more confident this time, perhaps with a bit of time and experience under my belt. I was not shy to introduce myself and get chatting with people who I wanted to meet and find out more about their roles.
  • The presentation/workshop on Library Job Titles, Future Library Skills run by CB Resourcing contained a lot of things I already knew, so maybe I’m cleverer than I realised? It also contained things I knew to question, so maybe my information analysis skills are also better than I give myself credit for. I felt able to query something I was confused by, and there was a critical discussion at the end which felt really useful.
  • The Networking session was interesting, I went around 4 tables and sort of did a mini presentation (with literally no notes or anything) about who I am, my role and my journey to this point. I think I was the only one without a LIS qualification (correct me if I am wrong, someone!) but my job was a real example of one where if you didn’t read the job description, the job title may have put you off.
  • I highly enjoyed meeting others on the day, in particular Jen from who promoted the network, which was incredibly new at that stage. The irony of her promoting a diversity network to a room of white passing people was not lost on me, or her actually, but being an ally is important, do the work. Go follow them on Twitter here if you have not already. I also met Harriet (whose blog I have been enjoying very much) and got to speak to them about doing the Library MA at Sheffield, where I have an offer.
  • It was great to chat with academic librarians for the first time in a while actually, and gain some insight into what they get up to, including collections and open access work. I also chatted with some FE librarians, and as I spent a year covering Maternity in a college library, and also spent a year volunteering in a secondary school library and absolutely loved this work, it was fantastic to chat to them about themes in their line of work, particularly the loneliness of the solo librarian.
  • I also got to hear Penny Andrews chat about values which is definitely something I am interested in and have thoughts about. In particular the way that librarians and CILIP like to talk about what it really means to be a librarian. I found this to be very insightful and I have been doing a lot of reflective thinking about why I got into this and what I want this work to achieve going forward.

Anyway sorry for all the waffle, but I needed to get this down for posterity, and Evidence. Thanks to NLPN for putting the event on, I will keep an ear to the ground for another event like this in future.



Zine Librarianship part 1 of 19,375,685 I am sure

I originally wrote this as part of a response to the e-course I previously blogged about here: Feminist Pedagogy in a Library Context but I feel it is important to be transparent about some of what I try and do as part of Salford Zine Library so I am reposting here so it is open access.


I would like to approach this week from the context of collections at Salford Zine Library, where I am part of the volunteer team. As our website states: “Salford Zine Library seeks to preserve and provide access to zines from around the world, as well as promoting zines and DIY culture through workshops, exhibitions and other events. There are currently over 2000 (the website actually says 1500 but this is very old) zines in the collection, all of which have been donated by zine makers and collectors.”

I am one of a team of 4 volunteers, there are no paid staff though sometimes we get commissioned or paid to run workshops or exhibitions. We work to administrate, promote and make the zine library accessible, and I am increasingly aware of the importance of critical practice and feminist pedagogy when it comes to zine librarianship. Absolutely everything we do is informed by these themes. As zines are a form of free press and are self-published, they often raise up voices and views of marginalised authors who may otherwise struggle to get published. We are a donations only library as we do not have a budget for purchasing zines, but I am becoming increasingly aware that this may be a barrier for some who cannot afford to donate or post zines to us as they need to cover the cost of producing them, as such their work will not be represented in the library. We allow donations in person at various events we attend and try to attend a variety of events across the UK to help with this. I do personally purchase zines with a view to adding them to the collection, but as we are volunteers and the library largely relies on applying for funding or donations, this is not always feasible.

We try to relinquish librarian ‘control’ of zines by not having them displayed in a certain way. It is a reference library but so far we have not labelled zines, and though we may end up doing that some time, we do not plan on shelving them in a particular order. It is also not staffed so we do not monitor the collection and the reference only system currently only works on a trust system and the library is based in an area of a cafe.

While the lack of ‘rules’ ‘order’ or ‘conduct’ may make the library less accessible in some ways, as visitors may be confused by the absence of them, or struggle to find things in what might come across as chaotic, we hope that the friendly space makes users of the library feel confident to dive in without worrying that they are disrupting any categorisation on the shelves. The subject of cataloguing is an ongoing conversation we have been having with others who follow us on social media and attend our events, so is not set in stone and may develop over time.

As volunteers in a library of this nature, we try to avoid positioning ourselves as experts, particularly because all of us in the team are white, but also because zines are inherently creative and can be approached as a medium in many ways. We know a diverse network of zine makers and hope to provide a community and put on events that showcase work by makers, rather than formally curating the library or making rules about what a zine is or isn’t, though we may have our own opinions on this. This school of thought also informs the open collections policy, as we accept any zines as long as they are self-published. So far nothing completely offensive (ie. racist) has ever been donated, though if this happens we will have to discuss how to deal with it and I imagine we would do that via a dialogue with the zine community, much of this dialogue takes place on social media and in person at zine events.

An issue that comes up a lot with zines is consent, the creator may wish to be credited in a certain way, or want their material back. We are open to requests like this at any time. It is important that creators of zines retain control over their output, and we want to reflect their wishes if for example their pronouns change, or they are no longer happy with having their work included in a public space. Zines can often contain personal or sensitive information and we try to take this into account rather than having a more rigid collections or cataloguing policy. As a zine-maker myself, I have seen my zines catalogued in a way I was not happy with online, and I requested it be changed, and the library refused because they catalogued based on what was on the printed material which is obviously traditional library practice. I found this to be frustrating and unfair as I was the author, and zines are not a traditional medium! Another issue with zines is digitization. It is not seen to be best practice to digitize zines in full, although some authors may do it to their own zines, we would not do it without consent. Digitization in the library world in general is seen to be a positive thing, but again due to the subject matter and the regular use of pseudonyms and anonymity in zines, it would not be ethical.

The ‘power structures’ of cataloguing and librarianship mentioned in Saunders (2017) felt relevant to the themes of zine librarianship and as such we are mindful as zine librarians to have a quieter voice than those contained in the material on the shelves.

A question I want to ask is: how would you go about cataloguing a diverse collection in a way that is accessible, non-hierarchal/prescriptive but also helps people navigate a lot of material to find what they need? We want to avoid formal cataloguing altogether, for the reasons outlined above, but also if people are seeking particular resources we want to make it easier to find things.

Edited to add: Myself and Steve, one of the other volunteers, recently wrote more about Zine Librarianship here in this open access article entitled “Everything has something worthwhile to say” published in Art Libraries Journal earlier this year.