ABC No Rio Zine Library Benefit Party Tonight
Today, Friday March 23, the ABC No Rio Zine Library throws a benefit party to raise money for much needed archival materials, just in time for the building’s reconstruction. Following below are details about the party tonight and then an introduction to ABC No Rio with an interview about the history of the zine library with the director, Steve Englander, and a zine librarian, Jack Bratich.
ABC No Rio Zine Library Benefit Party
Friday March 23 from 8pm to 1pm. Sliding Scale: $3 – $20. Beverages and zines will be sold.
1. Cristy Road: a zine and comic artist will read and do a slideshow.
2. Seth Tobocman: an illustrator and cartoonist will do a slideshow of his woodcut-influenced art with music accompaniment by Eric Blitz.
3. Chester Comedy Improv
4. Recorded music for sure. Live music by a brass band possible.
About the benefit tonight, Jack says that the first floor will be open for the party. If enough other zine librarians show up, we’ll also open the library or at least take groups of people up for a tour. The party will include zine and comic artists presenting their work with entertaining stories, slides, and musical accompaniment. We have an improv comedy troupe that gets the crowd in a merry mood. We will have music later to get the party in a lively dance mood. We’ll have beverages for sale along with our duplicate zines.
An Introduction to ABC No Rio and The Zine Library:
ABC No Rio is a bastion of activism and anarchy. Built from a squat that claimed the building in 1980, it has managed to hold onto the structure and its ideals for the past 32 years. After raising funds for years, they are finally tearing down and rebuilding the structure this year. Its an amazing story that will continue to influence and inspire generations to come.
ABC No Rio has many facilities on its premises, such as a computer center, print room, darkroom, gallery space, and the zine library. This library has been part of No Rio for twelve years since they acquired the collection of a book store that already had amassed a huge amount of this type printed matter. Luckily, they saw the importance of archiving these cultural documents for future generations to study and be inspired by. In the spirit of keeping alive an underground culture that had spread through cheap zines and newspapers before the digital age, the library has archived over 13,000 zines and looks forward to expanding the collection in the new building, acquiring more archival storage materials, and moving into a larger space. We will miss the homey, tagged up atmosphere of the old space, but new, clean, well-constructed and sturdy surroundings will be safer for the collection.
The collection accepts independent, underground publications, including music, cartoon, graffiti, and activist themed materials. Please donate copies of your zines to keep the culture alive and preserve the history of your times. Plus, if you don’t have a laptop or a smart phone, you can always create, read and disseminate a printed publication so they will never completely fade away as a viable means of communication and activism.
An Interview About the History of the ABC No Rio Zine Library:
12oz: What is the history of the beginnings of the ABC No Rio Zine Library? How did you come to rescue the Blackout Zine Library fourteen years ago, as it states on your website?
Steve Englander: Blackout Books was an anarchist bookstore on Avenue B. A few of the folks involved began collecting zines, but when the collection got too big for the small storefront space, it was relocated to a squat up in the South Bronx.
At about the same time that ABC No Rio was given the opportunity to formally (and legally) expand programs and operations throughout the building on Rivington Street, that squat up in the Bronx came under threat of eviction.
We were looking for new projects that meshed with No Rio’s mission and purpose, and this existing collection of zines needed a secure home. A number of people involved with No Rio had been involved with zine culture in the 80s and 90s, or were just really into zines, and it seemed to be a good fit, so we took it on. This collection of zines started at about 3,000 items and has since grown to over 13,000 in the subsequent years.
I don’t think anyone could claim to have been the “original” librarian, but former ABC No Rio volunteer and board member Miranda Edison facilitated all of this, and with a few others, established the Zine Library at ABC No Rio. Miranda has since moved out of town.
Blackout Books was actually formed at ABC No Rio. In 1993 a few people began selling anarchist and other political books and pamphlets at punk shows and other events here. Soon after they moved to the Avenue B location and set-up a more formal store. In 2000 the landlord raised the rent and Blackout Books closed up shop.
12oz: As the head libarian now, how long have you overseen the library? What is your background and what other work do you do outside the zine library that relates to it?
Jack Bratich: Just to clarify–I’m not the head librarian. There is no head librarian. We’re a volunteer-run collective so these kinds of positions don’t exist. Among the zine librarians who currently have shifts, I’ve been here the longest. However, another zine librarian who’s on hiatus was the one who introduced me to the library in the first place. But I don’t have any more decision-power than anyone else.
My other hat is as professor of media studies at Rutgers University. Even though I teach classes on popular culture and social media, I believe in the power of print media and therefore volunteer here to ensure the preservation and circulation of these media forms.
12oz: Are their any goals that are different now than they were before you got there? What are the goals now for the collection?
JB: If you’re asking about our collection policy, it’s not a hard and fast code. However, we tend to focus our collection on material that would not be archived elsewhere (or in very few places). Therefore we tend not to take items with bar codes, with advertising, or items you could find elsewhere (poetry chapbooks, for example). We do discuss and revisit this policy on occasion. For instance, a couple years ago we had a discussion about whether or not to continue holding and cataloguing Vice magazine. While it does have some important subcultural roots it has become much too slick and commercial for our collection. We decided to keep a box of our earliest issues but de-accession the other ones and discontinue cataloguing any new ones.
12oz: What are the goals for the environment that the “library” seeks to promote?
JB: The goal of the library is multifold: it’s an archive for researchers (we’ve had people come in recently to study riot grrl music, gentrification). It’s also a reading room for people who want to browse or to get inspired for a zine they’re already working on or thinking of making. And it’s a convergence space for people to come to talk about their own zines and zine libraries. We’re a destination for lots of travelers (US and from abroad) who work in zine libraries or make zines. They’ve heard of the ABC No Rio and teh library and just want to come in and soak it up. I think of zines as an early form of social media (as a form of personal expression that was distributed through social groups, subcultural spaces, etc.)
12oz:How will the library change after the building is razed and rebuilt?
JB: We will have 3 times as much shelf space for our overgrown collection. We’ll also have a couple workstations.
12oz: How will the money raised at the benefit be used in the library?
JB: We’re raising money to buy acid-free archive quality bankers boxes to replace the cardboard ones we currently have. Our goal is also to put all of our zines in plastic sleeves to protect and preseve them.
Text and Photo: Daniel Feral