The Cockeysville library offers zines in an unusual pilot collection

Self-publishing Types Are Making The Zine


It wasn't easy for Dan Taylor to part with his prized collection of vintage Atari games, but that's the life of a self-publisher. Auctioning them on eBay was a way to raise a couple hundred dollars - and put out another edition of his zine, The Hungover Gourmet.

Zines (pronounced "zeens") are small, self-published magazines popular among people in their 20s and 30s, and Taylor, like many zine authors, writes his more out of a passion to print than a quest for profit. Now, however, the Lutherville man and other zine authors are about to get a little more exposure.

The Baltimore County Public Library is launching a pilot program to circulate zines. Taylor is among the authors who will read from their publications tonight at the Cockeysville library.

By adding about 200 zines to the branch's collection, library officials said, they hope to introduce current customers to a new style of writing and publishing - while bringing in younger readers.

"My hope is that it will draw people of my own demographic into the Cockeysville library," said Miriam DesHarnais, a 27-year-old librarian at the branch, who said she has helped other authors write a few zines, and who owns about a couple hundred of them. "I think it shows the library is not afraid to try new things."

"I hope we draw people in to see what other things we have, other voices and other types of writing besides the writing that makes it through the publishing industry," she said.

The Cockeysville library will be the first in Maryland to offer zines, county library officials said.

The branch consulted with its counterpart in Salt Lake City before moving ahead with the program. In 1997, the Salt Lake City Public Library became one of the first in the country to carry zines, said Brooke Young, a 24-year-old library employee whose duties include selecting zines. She said the library's zine collection has grown to about 6,000.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," she said.

In Baltimore County, the pilot program will run for about 18 months so officials can assess its popularity, said Margaret Prescott, library manager for the Cockeysville branch. County library officials said that if the program is deemed a success, it might be expanded to other branches.

The public can view the Cockeysville library's zine collection beginning at 6:30 p.m. today. From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the library will feature short readings by local zine writers.

The Cockeysville library paid about $600 for the collection, much of it obtained from a handful of dealers, including Atomic Books in Hampden, which began selling the publications in 1992.

Atomic Books co-owner Rachel Whang said she believes having zines at the Cockeysville branch will help the library and potential zine authors. "It will be good, especially for teens," she said. "It's a reference point to see that other people have done it."

Taylor, who reviews restaurants in The Hungover Gourmet, said his interest in zines was sparked while he lived in Philadelphia in the late 1980s. Taylor said he and his friends tired of a local movie critic's unfavorable reviews of horror films. So, Taylor said, he had an idea: "Why don't we just write our own movie reviews?"

Taylor said he thought he and his friends had an original notion until he began receiving mail from fellow authors. But, he said, "I started getting these letters that said, `Hey, I publish zines about movies. Would you like to trade?'"

Taylor wrote that first zine, Exploitation Retrospect, for about 14 years before penning The Hungover Gourmet. Since then, the 38-year-old freelance writer and marketing consultant has published about 60 zine issues of his two zines and written for over 100 others.

The Hungover Gourmet is a 32-to-36-page pamphlet, mostly in black and white, with numerous pictures. Taylor publishes about twice a year and distributes approximately 500 copies of each issue. He said he sells it for $2 an issue at Atomic Books and $3 online.

"I think its great," Taylor said of the library program. "The more exposure people have to zines can only lead to more zines."

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