Books Made With Heart
By Jakob Longcob
If you’re at all like me, the only time you spend in the Berkeley City College Library is 10 minutes or less, frantically trying to print out an assignment right before class. I urge you to slow down for a few minutes and take a look at the zine collection our library has to offer. Sitting neatly on the right side of the library, a humble rack about 10 stacks deep houses over 60 colorful, small zines. If you’re unfamiliar with exactly what a zine is, zines are self-published books that are usually about a specific topic. They are made by hand at minimal cost and are intended to be distributed as far as possible.
Zines are important to modern culture because they give everyday people the ability to publish their work in high quantity at a low cost. They are usually produced with photocopiers and cheap printers at Kinko’s, then stapled and folded by hand. In a time when everything is hurriedly consumed through an iPhone screen, it is a breath of fresh air to sit down and flip through a zine that has been made and put together with sincerity and love. You could use websites like Twitter and Tumblr to do that same task while reaching more people, free of cost, yet those platforms lack the authenticity that zines carry in their pages.
While our very own library has a diverse collection for you to browse, there are zines available throughout the Bay Area. The BCC Voice sat down with writer and San Francisco resident, Clare Kinkaid to talk about her self published writing. “I like zines because I can staple and fold a few essays together and just leave them places around town,” Kinkaid said, “I don’t know where they’ll end up, but it’s fun to know that they’re actually somewhere in the world, not just on a screen.”
This act of leaving forms of communication out in public is like the real world version of the internet. It will reach fewer people, cost slightly more money, and take more time, but the entire process is the reward. Part of the joy that comes from making zines isn’t just the final product, it’s the whole journey of creating the content, cutting and photocopying pages, maybe stapling your finger, and distributing it out into the world, knowing that some person out there will come across your labor of love and hopefully feel or learn something from it.
One of the great things about zines is that they can be about anything and look like anything they want. I chose at random three zines from the collection in the library, and each are unique in content and in form. The first one on the list is “Adult Contemporary” by Leo Puppytime. It features a short story about why the author feels so stressed out, with “comic book” like illustrations to go along with it. The story seamlessly goes from getting bed bugs to having a boyfriend to his roommate’s attempted suicide, and ends with meeting his father for the first time. All of this fits into 14 tiny pages. The book itself has a deep red cover and is bound by two staples; the writing is handwritten and honest.
The next zine I looked at is called “San Francisco Libraries.” There is no official author, but an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org is on the back cover. This zine features over 20 line drawings of, you guessed it, San Francisco public libraries. They all look like they were done by an architect, but also look like they just came out of a personal sketchbook. The zine folds out like a map would, and even features a map showing all the public libraries in the city.
The last zine I checked out is titled “Copwatch.” It’s small in size, measuring about 4 inches by three inches making it true to its subtitle “Pocket Guide.” Despite its size, its yellow card stock and cover photo of Lady Liberty being choked out by police caught my eye. It folds out like a three face pamphlet and lists the proper steps to be taken when dealing with police. It clearly states your rights and the cop’s rights. The back cover reads, “REMEMBER You have legal rights, but many police will not respect your rights. BE CAREFUL — BE STREET SMART.” It also has a list of phone numbers to call to help with legalities. This zine is great because it is practical. It serves a purpose and is meant to be carried in someone’s pocket. It goes to show how diverse in content and aesthetic zines can be.
The next time you’re in the Berkeley City College library, take a moment to flip through some self-published pages and learn and see some new things. On Nov. 29 during college hour, the library will be dedicating the zine collection to Ara Jo, a prominent member of the Berkeley art scene, and creative force who helped create the collection. She passed away last year in the tragic Ghost Ship fire. Her legacy, generosity and creativity will be remembered.
At the top – “CopWatch,” “San Francisco Public Libraries” and Leo Puppytime’s “Adult Contemporary” are all available in the Berkeley City College Library. Photo: Jakob Longcob