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Lost in Space

After reading about Papercut Zine Library's unfortunate loss of space due to the poor economy on both BoingBoing and Utne, I reached out to offer them the only space I can provide to assist them in their plight: the blogosphere. Collective member Clara explained their situation to me.

What is the Papercut Zine Library?

The Papercut Zine Library is a collection of nearly 13,000 zines that range from very DIY photocopied publications to glossy independent magazines (including Bitch). We have zines with a large subscription base and distribution list as well as completely unique zines of which we have the only copy. Our collection contains zines about food, parenting, travel, sports, music, politics, feminism, animals, and much more!

What does Papercut do exactly?

Up until August 15, 2009, the Papercut Zine Library was a fully-functioning lending library, which worked pretty much like any other library. Membership was free and patrons could check out zines for up to two weeks at a time, incurring late fees for zines brought back after the due date. The library maintained regular hours, during which a volunteer librarian would check the mail, catalog piles of donated zines, do check-in and check-out, and make note of zines that were due or overdue. People would come in to browse the library or find out how to get involved.

In addition to the day-to-day stuff, we held shows in the main function room—punk shows, folk shows, indie shows, pretty much everything—as our contribution to the space. Since we did not pay rent, we were responsible for maintaining the house and raised money through booking shows. We occasionally booked all-ages zine-related readings, workshops, or tours, and for the last several years, participated in organizing the Boston Zine Fair, a large event featuring zinesters from all over the country.

What has displaced the zine library?

In short, the economy. For five years were hosted at a house owned by a foundation, and during our time as residents, the house changed into a more formal organization itself with staff, interns, and events of its own: The Democracy Center. The foundation lost a lot of its money due to the economic downturn, and in order to attract new donors to the Center, it decided to revamp the physical space. Part of this plan involved Papercut vacating our longstanding spot in order to make room for new offices and change the "face of the Center." We occupied a room at the front of the building and were often the first thing people saw when entering.

The foundation and Center staff have been very helpful to us in our transition. They have provided us with free storage space and offered to write recommendations to potential landlords. However, we were given a very short period of time to find a new space that fit our needs, and has not been able to find an adequate place to move by the time we had to vacate.

What are you doing while you're between spaces?

Mostly we look for and discuss potential places to move into. We are trying to encourage people to help us with our quest for space by doing outreach at various events, fairs, and festivals and doing interviews with local media to get the word out about our situation. We continue to run shows at The Democracy Center to raise money for rent once we are able to move into a new space.

What would be an ideal situation for you to move into?

Ideally, we would be housed amongst other artists, activists, and organizers in a gallery, art space, or community center. We would love to continue to collaborate with other groups and be surrounded by people doing similar meaningful work. Less than ideally, we'd be in an office space with not much visibility or cross-collaboration. If we find one that has enough space and is affordable, we will probably take it. But it would be unfortunate to not be surrounded by other creative people.

What we are not willing to do is give up the collectively run nature and autonomy of the library. We have had several offers from public libraries to house the collection, but it is very important to us to maintain the library as it was founded.

Aside from donating space, how can people help?

Spread the word! If you know people in Boston, let them know we need help. We are counting on our connections to get us a great new location, and so far our patrons, friends, and supporters have been extremely helpful in supplying ideas and contacts for potential spaces. If you don't have contacts in Boston, you can always donate to the library to help us pay rent when we find a new space.

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