The Denver Zine Library is a gem awaiting your discovery on Curtis Street
In a shared artist space called The Temple, Kelly Shortandqueer and Jamesz Terry founded the Denver Zine* Library, a non-profit organization, in 2003. Its mission is to “preserve, protect, and promote the culture of zines and self-published, original work through archival collection, workshops, and events.”
The Library holds one of North America’s largest zine collections. Volunteers lend zines and conduct workshops encouraging artistic self-expression through zine-making.
“Since 2003, the Denver Zine Library (DZL) has cultivated a lending collection that has grown to over 10,000 zines,” Kelly Shortandqueer explains. “Our entire collection has been donated, sometimes as individual zines and sometimes in boxes from the publishers themselves or from someone who is moving and wants to find a good home for their personal collection.”
Kelly says volunteers have consistently staffed open hours on weekends and facilitated workshops to teach people how to make zines and have their voices heard. As a culmination of archiving and independent publishing, the DZL hosts the Denver Zine Fest.
This year, they had more than 75 zinesters from Colorado and around the country join the org in selling, trading, and sharing their works.
“As an all-volunteer run project, it’s been incredible that Denver has sustained the DZL for over a decade,” Kelly says. “Having seen so many other projects and organizations come and go over the years, it’s a testament to the support we’ve received. Having revived the Denver Zine Fest in 2015 after a several-year hiatus, the momentum and reputation of the DZL continues to grow.”
“There seem to be many specific reasons people are inspired to write and to seek out zines, [ranging] from being a big fan of something, making political statements, teaching others about or how to do something, telling personal stories, and more,” Kelly says of the motivation behind the project. “The common thread is that it’s a vehicle for taking control of the narrative, of being empowered to create our own media and finding the strength in our own voices.”
Says Kelly of the content, as it might relate to the LGBT community: “Because of the interests of the zine librarians over the years, the DZL houses a good number of queer and trans zines. I’ve found that this medium has been an amazing way for people to be able to tell their own stories, especially when they don’t see themselves represented in the media.”
Consider us piqued! Before the internet and social media, many members of the LGBT community relied on these struggling but creatively marvelous works to keep us in the loop. For those of you who remember that time, this might be a stellar way to #TBT on a nostalgic afternoon.
Kelly tells of an early experience which gave the DZL momentum: “In 2004, less than a year after the DZL had opened to the public, we [had] issues with the zoning department. The collection of about 2000 paper zines was housed in a detached backyard shed, which attracted a handful of people on weekends. In an interview with Westword, [Julius Zsako, formerly of the Denver Planning Department] was quoted, ‘When you purchase a home, you make the investment thinking that you have a good idea of how the adjacent property is being utilized. You don’t expect a gunpowder factory, recycling yard, or UPS terminal to be located there.’ The scope of our project was so tiny that the comparisons seemed ridiculous. Unfortunately, it led to us packing up the DZL for another location, which felt very stressful and frustrating at the time. Because of that article, lots of people rallied together in support of the DZL, resulting in an interview on NPR’s Summer Reading Series and donations from all over the world.”
Zine a non-commercial often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter