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FAQs about Zines at the New York State Library

What is a zine?

[Definition adapted from Wikipedia]
A zine (an abbreviation of the word fanzine, or magazine; pronounced "zeen") is most commonly a small circulation, non-commercial periodical publication. A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 100.

Zines are produced in a range of formats, from computer-printed text to comics to photocopies and collage, to handwritten/drawn text. Print remains the most popular zine format, although electronically-disseminated "e-zines" are a growing phenomenon, which by their nature challenge the commonly-held "limited-circulation" image of zines. Small circulation zines are often not explicitly copyrighted.

The range of topics covered is broad, including fiction, politics, art, poetry, personal journals, social theory, or any single topic obsession far enough outside of the mainstream to prohibit inclusion in more traditional media. While independent, self-produced printed works have existed since the beginnings of published literature, the term "zine" is specifically derived from science fiction fan literature (a.k.a. "fanzines") commonly thought to date to the 1950s. (Science fiction continues to occupy a major sector of zine publishing.) The rise of "punk rock" or "new wave" music in the 1970s, with its emphasis on confrontational, anarchic, self-produced, unregulated content, distributed largely outside the mainstream music trade, appears to have fueled an explosive growth in the publication of zines which mimic many of the graphic elements common to the iconography of the punk movement. Like science fiction, punk rock remains a strong current in zine content.

While zines may be highly subjective and idiosyncratic, there is an element of "community-seeking" in their publication. Titles have a nominal cover price, and can often be obtained free of charge via exchanges with other zine publishers, a form of barter that is reminiscent of the "amateur journalism" movement of the mid-nineteenth century.

What is the zine collection?

The New York State Library's zine collection, formally titled the "Factsheet Five Collection" is essentially the ten-year (approximately covering the 1980s) archive of titles collected by Mike Gunderloy, as founder/publisher of the review zine, Factsheet Five. Gunderloy donated the collection to the NYS Library as he was preparing to end his connection with Factsheet Five. The zine titles in the collection were acquired as documentation of Gunderloy's having published Factsheet Five in New York State, not as part of any particular interest in or commitment to collecting zines per se.

Does the collection contain more than zines?

In addition to zines, the Factsheet Five Collection at the NYS Llibrary contains Mike Gunderloy's organizational records and production documentation, correspondence, other contributed publications and assorted ephemera (broadsides, posters, cards, monographs, audio- and videotapes, mail art, computer disks, press kits, etc.).

Can I borrow zines?

No. The collection is kept in our Manuscripts and Special Collections (MSC), and only available for onsite research.

Is there a list of all the zines in the Factsheet Five Collection?

No. Approximately 6,000 titles have been cataloged individually in our online catalog. This represents less than half of the total collection. However, catalog records are minimal and include limited subject-heading access. The remaining "unprocessed" zines have mostly been sorted alphabetically by title. To view a list of cataloged titles enter a "keyword" search in our online catalog, using "factsheet five" as a search term.

Are there any other zines in the NYS Library's collection?

As fallout from the acquisition of the Factsheet Five Collection, the NYS Library continues to receive occasional gifts of individual zines and zine collections, from zine publishers or other parties who have heard of our holdings. For the most part these gifts are unsolicited. The NYS Library does not subscribe to any zines.

We do not have an active collection development plan or policy especially for zines.  A general principle guiding our collection development policy—and our policy towards zines—is to retain only those titles published in New York State, or with a demonstrable link to New York State history and culture.

How are the zines preserved?

Zines—as with our other special collections—are housed in acid-free archival folders and boxes and stored in climate-controlled stacks.  Oversized and special media are housed separately as needed.

Last Updated: May 20, 2021