Make and Collaborate: Zines in the Library

In the school library where I work, part of collection development consists of curating a selection of YA zines. I’ve always been passionate about zines, and I had noticed there weren’t many YA zines created by or geared toward the younger of the young adults–the middle school crowd. I started introducing zines through makerspaces, but now our zines stand on their own as independent lessons and opportunities for collaboration.

Zines tend to be small, handmade mini-magazines with smaller circulations on a wide range of topics. For more detailed information on zines, the Barnard Zine Library has an excellent website and About Zines section along with a Teaching with Zines section that includes a few different lesson plans. The Fales Library and Special Collections, part of NYU, has an extensive collection of zines, too. This resource may not be practical for many school librarians, but having zines in a formal library setting like this seems to validate the zine format for many of my students. They begin to see a zine as something with potential value, something people might want to read or share.

A few ways we teach zines in our school library:

  • Compare and Contrast Informational Texts: In this zine lesson we’re not only looking at informational text; we’re also teaching the zine format by having students analyze zines and articles from well-known magazines. This does require having some nonfiction-based, informational zines on hand or having access to some.
  • Exploring folktales and fairy tales: This zine lesson addresses the traditional stories as well as any retellings, like Marissa Meyer’s Cinder or Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson. Students use these as inspiration to write their own retelling or “fractured” fairy tale synopsis.

  • ELL: Classes make issues of their zine hELLo using their native languages and then translate their work into English. The most recent issue, hELLo Delicious, is a compilation of recipes from each student’s country of origin. The library hosted a zine release party featuring dishes from the zine.

  • Research Skills: Content for these zines is generated by students using library databases to research and write on a chosen or assigned topic within a set theme. Research zines can be tailored to almost any subject, which could open the door to some new library/classroom collaborations.

  • Pop Culture and Current Events: Students are currently working on a Missing History zine by researching names and biographies of the human “computers” featured in the movie Hidden Figures, the YA adapted Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, and the Flocabulary set on Katherine Johnson.

  • Personal Growth and Self-Expression: Last year a student asked for a book on feminism. We didn’t have what she wanted, so she made a zine on feminism and donated it to our school library. Based on her zine, we figured out she was specifically interested in third-wave feminism, and we were able to help her find more resources on that topic.

Teaching zines in the library has been rewarding and fun. I’ve been working on a zine exchange, where I trade student-made zines with other school librarians. My goal is to get a bigger trade circle and introduce my students to new ideas and different types of people while encouraging students to express their ideas and grow creatively. Are there any other zine librarians or anyone wanting to exchange some zines?

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Makerspaces/Learning Commons


2 replies

  1. “Are there any other zine librarians or anyone wanting to exchange some zines?”
    Yes! I’m a Teacher Librarian in BC, Canada and I did a Zine project with an Art Class a few years ago. Please contact me to swap:)

  2. Hey Esther,

    I’ve been unplugged for the last week, on Spring Break, and it looks like your school is on Spring Break this week, maybe??

    This might be obvious, but what’s the best way to get in touch with you?


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