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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

About Special Collections: Collections

A guide to the items and collections in Special Collections

About the Collection

Welcome to the Fleet Library at RISD's Zine Library.

This guide is to help aid in exploring our collection, as well as providing some general info about zines. The circulating zine library (RISD Zines in the library catalog) is located in the main library, on the mezzanine level, in the far right corner. Non-circulating zines are located in Special Collections, on the 2nd floor, room 201 (RISD Special Zines in the library catalog).  

About Zines

The Fleet Library at RISD Zine Collection consists of nearly 1,000 unique titles, with over 750 in the circulating collection. Our collection development aim is to be very inclusive in terms of subject matter and creator. Some key collection development areas are:

• Zines by RISD students, faculty and RISD community.

• Zines by local Providence and Rhode Island artists.

• Zines by people of color, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups.

• Zines with strong art and design elements - illustration, design, printing, photography, etc.

• Minicomics - which are often not exactly "zines", but are a subculture which exists closely adjacent to and often intersects with zine culture.

• Art Books - some of our zines by designers, photographers, book artists and others might be more properly considered art books or artists' books. If the format is an inexpensively produced pamphlet, it may be considered a zine for the purposes of our collection.

• A few key subject areas for zine collecting are: art and design, creative writing, artist's writing, poetry, science and nature, cultural and racial identity, gender identity and LGBTQ issues, ableism and disability, activism, feminism, social equity and social justice, self care, and mental and physical health.

Zines are form of creative expression. Short for fanzine or magazine, zines of today are closely related to punk zines of the 1970s and 1980s, historically related to science fiction fanzines of the 1930s - 1970s, and commonly share aesthetic connections to the little magazines of the Dada movement. Zines also share a historical precedent with political and religious pamphleteering of Thomas Paine and Martin Luther. Just as the history of books has developed alongside advances in printing history, the history of pamphlets, chapbooks, little magazine, fanzines and zines has developed alongside advances in inexpensive, accessible printing methods. Due in part to both the explosion of print-on-demand services and the growing interest in traditional craft print methods, zine makers have a wide array of choices available - photocopy, digital printing, offset lithograph, Risograph and silkscreen are all commonly used to print zines. 

Zines are published by individuals or small collectives. They are generally inexpensive, and produced in small edition sizes, which vary widely although some zine publications are produced in large-ish print runs of a few thousand, and may be produced and distributed in the style of a traditional magazine. 

How can you tell if it’s a zine? In general, zines don’t usually have marks of traditional books or magazines, such as ISBN numbers or barcodes, and may not include basic publishing information, such as the date, location, or author. Zine makers often do include personal contact information, and mailing addresses. Zines tend to have a handmade feel. This might look like cut-and-pasted text, photocopied and stapled, Risograph prints of illustrations or comics, or they may be digitally designed and printed. There’s an enormous range in terms of look and feel of zines, but they are most typically some type of pamphlet, thin book or magazine made for self expression by an individual or by a small, grassroots collective. 

Zines can be found at zine fests, independent bookstores, comic shops or other small businesses, distributed by zine distros through shops or online, sold by zine makers online, or traded with friends through the mail. 

The aim of the Fleet Library at RISD Zine Collection is to become an alternative micro-library within a library. Zines inspire artists, as well as provide an alternative resource for research and inspiration.

People of Color and LGBTQ voices have been historically underrepresented in institutional collections. Other marginalized and disempowered groups may include but are not limited to immigrants, activists, people with disabilities, prisoners or formerly incarcerated people. The collection also seeks to include the voices of people who feel disempowered or alienated for any reason (for example, some popular zine themes are body image, family and relationships and veganism). People who feel underrepresented or misrepresented by traditional media sources often find zine making to be an accessible format to tell their stories.

The primary goal of the zine collection is to add to the diversification of the library collection as a whole. 

Zines are ephemeral. Because they are produced in small runs and not very widely distributed, once a zine is sold out it may be impossible to find again. 

Zines are democratic. While printing certainly can get expensive, basic zine making is accessible to anyone with a pencil and access to a photocopier. Zine makers sometimes choose to remain anonymous, and therefore have a great deal of freedom in what they’re able to express. Because they are a form of printed matter representing freedom of expression, zines are an important resource to collect. 

The Fleet Library at RISD collects zines in duplicate. Items that the library has two copies of will circulate, whereas items with only one copy will be housed in special collections.

The zine collection is curated by the Special Collections Associate and is being developed by librarians and library staff. We purchase zines from book & zine fairs, from online zine distros (distributors), and from individual zine makers. If you'd like us to consider your zine for the collection, contact

The Fleet Library at RISD sponsors the annual Unbound art book fair, which allows the library the opportunity to purchase zine work from our community, and encourages students, members of the RISD community and local artists to explore our resources and contribute work to our collection.

We love zine donations! For gifts of individual zines, such as your own self-published work, contact For larger gifts of zine collections, please see the Fleet Library at RISD Giving page for more detail.

Explore by subject/topic

This guide contains a few recommended zine titles relating to some popular zine subjects, but is not comprehensive. The easiest way to search for zines by subject is to try a keyword search with the word "zine" along with your keyword(s). 

This guide was created by Ariel Bordeaux.


Click here to go back to the Collections Overview.