Häuserkämpfe: An Inside Look at Researching in DIY Archives

This interview/article, in In the library with a lead pipe, was written by Emily Ford and Jake Smith. I worked with Emily on her interview questions and gave feedback on the article, and am looking forward to reading more of Jake’s research.

In Brief: This article is an interview with Jake Smith, a PhD student at the University of Chicago who spent over a year in Germany conducting his dissertation research in archives. Many of the archives he visited in support of his project, “Häuserkämpfe: Squatting, Urban Renewal, and the Crisis of Dwelling in West Germany, 1970-1995,” were small, do-it-yourself (DIY) collections curated and cared for by motivated individuals within squats. This interview delves into his experiences conducting research in this environment.

Published January 29, 2014

publications, research

The Librarian-As-Insider-Ethnographer

Journal of Library Innovation, 4.1 (2013): 1-9.

This article considers preliminary findings from ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Australia and Canada in do-it-yourself (DIY) libraries and archives. These spaces are usually run on small or no budgets, often in squatted or donated spaces, with no paid staff. They are motivated by a DIY ethos, and often have a connection to so-called “underground” communities. In this article the author responds to Chris Atton’s model of librarian-as-ethnographer, which argues that information workers can draw on ethnographic methods to build cultural maps of grassroots and DIY communities. The author proposes that there are information professionals already in these communities, and their roles in both professional and DIY libraries enhances the librarian-as-ethnographer model by providing an insider perspective that may mediate tensions between the two collection spaces. The author draws on her fieldwork in zine libraries, infoshops, and social centers as example.


publications, research

The zine anthology as archive: archival genres and practices

Archives and Manuscripts, 2013

Building on Eichhorn’s concept of ‘archival genres’, this article considers the recent spate of zine anthologies published in Australia and the United States as examples of these genres. It proposes that the anthologies are archives of content, form and practice, given that they commonly reproduce entire zines as visual material, not just text, and are produced by members of zine communities. This article argues that the anthologies’ narratives, presentation and distribution preserve ideologies of zine culture and that archival genres create spaces for the preservation of practices.

DOI: 10.1080/01576895.2013.769861


Reproducing production: the photocopier, the original and the zine

Cultural Studies Association of Australia 2012 Conference, University of Sydney, December 4-6 2012 

Drawing on material from ‘the archive’ often requires some sort of reproduction – a photocopy, a photo or perhaps a scan – and, like access to the material itself, this reproduction is usually regulated by the caretaker of the material (the archivist). There are strict regulations around the copying; the researcher asks for the copies to be made on their behalf, the material needs to be classified as ‘reproducible’ by the donor, and there are restrictions around use, further reproduction and circulation. The reproduction process both acknowledges the ‘originality’ and authenticity of the material, and also grants the researcher a position of privilege through their access to archival material.

Reflective of a broader societal interest in DIY culture, zines are being collected and preserved by archival and other preservation institutions, and an emerging body of literature analyses the presence of these ‘objects’ in the archive. Building on this literature, I argue that broader zine practices (such as photocopying) disrupt archival reproduction regualtions and challenge notions of the original and authentic. I propose that the photocopier, with its reproduction-ability, enables a queer temporality in the archive (Halberstam 2005). Situating the photocopier at the centre of my argument enables questions to be asked about the role of reproduction in both the creation of and disruption of memory. I draw on examples from various zine collections in North America and Australia to suggest that the reproduction of these materials (both before and whilst in the archive) challenges contemporary understandings of archives and their use in cultural studies research.


Making personal learning and professional development meaningful

Research Application in Information and Library Studies, June 2012
University of South Australia
Co-written with Sarah Fearnley and Liz Stokes

View more presentations from jessie lymn

This paper reflects on the linear ‘career progression’ model of industry specific and organisational continuing professional development (CPD) programs. We propose to extend and innovate current developments in Personal Learning Network (PLN) models through the consideration of non-traditional, informal professional development activities.

Formal professional development programs are endorsed by both institutional employers and professional organisations in the Library and Information (LIS) sector. Drawing on previous research into LIS PD programs (Brooker 2010, Dalby 2008) we argue that these programs are delivered top-down and reflect a linear based career progression model. More recently PLNs have been suggested as alternatives or enhancements to these formal PD programs (Howlett 2011, Bennett 2010). However, these alternative models are still focused on career progression and measuring ‘success’ in a professional context.

This paper reports on an experimental case study undertaken to interrogate the efficacy of a formal LIS industry PD program in addressing the CPD needs of university based information professionals. A modified PLN model was used to critically reflect on a series of examples (activism, community engagement and personal practice) which trouble the traditional scope of these formal programs. We argue that these examples, whilst not part of a formal (or informal) professional development program, reflect the passion and pleasure that information professionals develop through their study and work practices. These examples take place outside of the formal programs, without recognition, and enable a space for critical reflection and innovative application.

projects, research

What is an archive? Zines as temporal and spatial disruptions to the archive.

Jessie Lymn (
PhD candidate, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney

This project is motivated by the desire to disrupt what, where and when archives are, questioning the temporal and spatial assumptions made when working with and in the archive.

Everyday cultural research regularly delves into archives without asking (many) questions of, or around it. Located within these broader questions of what, where and when, this project focuses on a (somewhat) containable set of (sub) cultural artifacts – zines – and presents a collection of tangible and intangible archival spaces as potential (leaky) containers of memory and history. Through the uncertainty of zines, and using a queer methodology, this project will demonstrate the vagaries of what ends up in the archive, and present variations on what an archive could be.

In September 2010 Teal Triggs, Professor of Graphic Design and Head of Research, School of Graphic Design, London College of Communication, published her latest book, Fanzines, lauded as a ‘high-impact visual presentation of the most interesting fanzines ever produced’ (Thames & Hudson 2010). The book presents over 500 images of fanzines (covers, pages, websites) sourced from Triggs’s own collection and other personal and archival collections. Within days of the book’s launch, public (online) discussions were taking place between zine makers about Trigg’s reproduction of (some of) their zines without permission. Much of the discussions focus on how academics and publishers ‘should treat’ zines and zinemakers, with surrounding discussions about subcultures, reproduction, copyright, communication and for- profit publication.

This anecdote highlights uncertainties in the relationship between contemporary cultural materials in the archive, the people who produce them, and their subsequent (post-archiving) use, and it is these uncertainties that motivate my doctoral research. Historians and cultural researchers regularly rely on preservation institutions such as archives to source these ephemeral materials – there are numerous collections of zines and other subcultural ephemera in collecting institutions around the world. The archive is active in constructing ways of knowing cultures and subcultures, but there is little consideration of this active role of the archival institution in preserving what is traditionally though of as non-mainstream culture. My doctoral project is significant because it highlights these uncertainties, and, like the subcultural material it is considering, presents various ways of thinking about the archive.

Research question
This thesis considers the meta-question ‘what is an archive?’ by asking how zines, as subcultural products, are temporal and spatial disruptions to the archive. In addition, the thesis asks ‘how do specific sites of non-normative research (ie zines) inform a research practice, and what form can this research take?’


Feeling at home in ‘little library spaces’

May 2011

Research Applications in Information and Library Studies 2011
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

This paper considers preliminary findings from ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Australia and Canada in do-it-yourself (DIY) libraries and archives. These spaces are usually run on small or no budgets, often in squatted or donated spaces (including people’s homes, social centres and community spaces), with no paid staff.  They are motivated by a DIY ethos, and often have a connection to so-called ‘underground’ communities or practices.
Of note in these spaces is the prevalence of professionally trained, or in-training, information professionals (librarians, library technicians and archivists) who identify with DIY communities. These professionals are often working ‘day jobs’ in public, university or corporate libraries, and spend time in these DIY collections spaces in addition to their paid work.

I argue that the motivation of LIS professionals in these DIY spaces is not simply explained through a traditional model of building experience for career advancement. Using Michael Warner’s notion of counterpublics I suggest that the importance of these spaces for creating and strengthening community and identity provides motivation for all those involved, including information professionals.