Arts and Culture

Kelly Shortandqueer reflects on ten years of the Denver Zine Library and its hunt for a new home

Ever since it opened in a shed off Archer Street in 2003, and in the five homes it's had since then, the Denver Zine Library has been a community space where people can see handmade publications donated from all over the world -- 15,000 zines in all today. On Friday, December 6, the Zine Library will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a party featuring music from Bearsnail and Boot and Rally, zine readings, and a sharing of memories. In advance of the bash, we caught up with Denver Zine Library co-founder Kelly Shortandqueer to talk about the importance of the space, ten years of zine memories, and how the library will soon be on the move again.

See also: An ode to the Denver Zine Library

Westword: How did the Denver Zine Library start ten years ago?

Kelly Shortandqueer: I had moved here with the co-founder, Jamez [Terry], and we had met in Washington, D.C. He had dreams of starting a zine library someday. He had been collecting zines over a number of years, and his personal collection was the bulk of the initial collection. When we moved to Denver, we started reaching out to see if a zine library already existed so that we were not coming in from out of town and stepping on toes. So we put out the word, we had some meetings at the Breakdown Book Collective and community space back in the day, and there definitely was energy for it. Paul Kane, who owned Double Entendre, had been talking about creating a music zine library at his store. So when the Denver Zine Library opened up, he ended up donating his music collection from the store to us, which is why our music section is one of the biggest ones we have at the library. We really just reached out to see what interest there was. There were a number of people who were involved who helped get everything off the ground. We've had a number of different locations over the years.

What are some of your favorite moments from your decade at the Zine Library?

Well, Jamez and I lived in this little house, and the Zine Library opened in the shed in our back yard. We ran into issues with the zoning department and they actually forced us to close, and that was not a terribly exciting time. However, I think that the publicity that we got around that actually put us on the map in some ways across the country. Jamez and I were even interviewed on NPR's Summer Reading Series, the national series. That was one highlight. Looking back, I think that part of the reason people knew we existed was an article that Jason Heller had written in Westword, actually. We had two articles, one in 2004, and then, when we we were dealing with all the zoning issues, there was a follow-up article, and that was the one that got us in the media. Another highlight, definitely, was we won the MasterMind Award in 2004, which was the very first year the MasterMind Awards had been created. That was really spectacular to be recognized so early on in the project.

Looking back now, I don't know that we would have assumed at that point that we'd still be around today. Some of my favorite Zine Library-related moments even happened outside of Denver, when I would go and travel to other zine fests around the country and then put out a crate for donations to the Denver Zine Library. Just the number of people who were willing to donate to a library and are excited about getting their zines on our shelves has been really exciting as well. Our fundraiser a couple years ago was a great success. Our goal was $2,500 and we made over $3,500. Just seeing the amount of love and energy there is for the Denver Zine Library, both in Denver and around the country, has been really incredible.

What do you have planned for the anniversary party?

I can't believe that ten years have passed. We just wanted an opportunity for people to get together and celebrate. We'll have some music, some zine readings, we'll have little half-sheets of paper so people can contribute to a ten-year anniversary zine. I'm hoping that people, if there are people who are comfortable and interested, will get up and tell Zine Library-related stories if there's something specific they remember about the Zine Library or some way that the Zine Library impacted them.

What do you think is important about the library's existence in Denver?

I think that having access to zines provides access to voices that aren't necessarily heard in the mainstream. Our zines have been used for entertainment purposes in Denver -- you know, people just coming by and enjoying reading them. They've been used by classes that would come in, workshops, and people using our zines for research. I think that in some ways, for me, being located in Denver really has been a great thing. I come from the East Coast, and growing up, all I knew was the East Coast, and that's all I really cared about. So I think it's a thing to think that really amazing projects are only happening on the coasts. After being in Denver myself for ten years and really having dynamic, amazing projects -- and not just the Denver Zine Library -- it's nice to let people know that there's really amazing work going on in Denver. I think there's something really powerful with that. One of the really interesting things was that when we ran our online fundraiser a few years ago, I would say that a large portion of supporters financially were actually people outside of Denver as well, just recognizing how dynamic a collection we are and the fact that we've had the community support to keep it running for ten years. A lot of these types of projects kind of come and go. We've seen projects come and go in Denver. We've seen zine projects around the country and around the world come and go, and we've definitely had our ebbs and flows in terms of the amount of programming, the amount of volunteers, things like that -- but it's kind of amazing to look back ten years later and say this is something we started in 2003.

27 Social Center, your current location, is being sold. Will the Zine Library have to move again?

Yes. The building's in the process of being sold. It's looking like we will need to be out in the spring, likely by April 1, so we are trying to keep our eyes open for potential spaces. At this point we're pretty flexible about what that looks like. If there's an art studio, if there's a community space, if there's some sort of entertainment venue, right now we're trying to cast a wide net to see who would be interested in helping the Zine Library on a permanent basis. We're in the process of looking for spaces. We now have over 15,000 zines in our collection. Given that we've moved a number of times already, it's not the most exciting process for us. But we've been excited that every time we've moved we've been able to create something that seems even better and better. We're excited for whatever opportunity comes and whatever the Zine Library will look like in its next generation.

For more information, visit the Denver Zine Library's Facebook page; if you have an idea for a new spot for the 15,000 zines in its collection, e-mail [email protected]

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Robin Edwards
Contact: Robin Edwards