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‘Overlooked art form’: Anaheim Central Library is host, hub of O.C. zine community

A collection of zines fill a shelf at the Anaheim Central Library. This year's O.C. Zine Fest will be held online.
(Gabriel San Román)

On the second floor of Anaheim Central Library rests a collection available for checkout unlike any other.

Beneath a colorful banner announcing “zines,” works of local history, poetry, literature, politics and comics populate the shelves. A sign defines the slim and stapled offerings as “self-published,” “made by hand,” and “part of California’s subculture.” A donation box invites zine makers to drop off their own creations in order to be added to the collection, the sole in Orange County circulating at a public library.

“It makes sense to give zines a home here,” says Chlöe Van Stralendorff, a communications specialist with the library. “We’re all about literacy, freedom of expression and just being creative.”

Along with boasting the unique shelf display, the library also hosts the annual O.C. Zine Fest every summer.

Before the pandemic, the event drew 2,000 people throughout the day and solidified Anaheim Central Library’s standing within the alternative publishing community. More than 120 vendors set up tables that coiled through three floors of the library, including the basement, and offered a variety of zines, stickers, pins and art for all to peruse at their leisure.

Festival goers check out the wares at the 2019 O.C. Zine Fest inside the Anaheim Central Library.
(Courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library)

With the ongoing vaccination campaign and declining case rates earlier this summer, organizers envisioned a more modest hybrid approach for the eighth annual event on Aug. 27 from 4 to 8 p.m. Panel discussions and workshops were scheduled virtually in the lead up while a select number of vendors planned to return in-person to the library on the day of.

But as O.C.’s coronavirus cases began to climb, fueled by the Delta variant, so too did a creeping sense of discomfort. With 10 days to spare before the O.C. Zine Fest, all involved decided it best to return to being a fully virtual affair, rather than opting to cancel.

“We want to be responsive to our community’s needs,” says Van Stralendorff, who helps organize the fest, “and specifically the zine community since we host such a great event here every year.”

Now through Sept. 12, the summertime exhibit surprises visitors by recreating indoor living spaces with a decidedly botanical (and highly Instagrammable) twist.

The pivot isn’t without precedent; last year’s fest also took place remotely amid the pandemic. Zine creators took over the event’s Instagram account for scheduled tutorials and talks. The library offered an online zine directory in lieu of having vendors set up in-person. The innovative approach proved successful.

“I’m so glad that they did something,” says Miquela Davis, a Fullerton-based zine maker and artist who hosted one of the online workshops last year. “There was a lot of care and effort that was put into the virtual version. I can tell that they are really dedicated.”

That sense of commitment stems from a shared enthusiasm, one that saw the library cross paths with O.C.’s zine community before too long.

In 2017, Van Stralendorff attended the Zine Librarian unConference at Long Beach Public Library along with her colleagues, a young, diverse crew of creatives, most of whom grew up in Anaheim. The gathering attracted zine enthusiasts from across the country and even around the world. By the time it wrapped, the local librarians left inspired to do more than just host an occasional zine workshop.

Self-published zines included in the collection at the Anaheim Central Library.
Self-published zines included in the collection at the Anaheim Central Library. O.C. Zine Fest, which the library hosts, will be held online this year.
(Courtesy of the Anaheim Central Library)

That same year, O.C. Zine Fest’s original organizers, who first put on the event in 2014, had trouble finding a venue. The previous host had been the first floor of a downtown Santa Ana parking garage.

Anaheim Central Library opened its doors to the fest — and cleared shelf space for some of its zines.

“Our library is the first in the county to offer circulating zines,” says Van Stralendorff. “Instead of paying a vending fee, we ask creators to donate one of their zines to the library. Now, we have an adult, teen and children section.”

It’s a practice that began with the first O.C. Zine Fest held at the library in 2017; now, the collection of zines has grown more than threefold to 615 titles catalogued.

Helping to stock the children‘s section, the library also formed a partnership with the Anaheim Elementary School District where fourth-graders create their own zines, which the library then prints and adds to its collection.

A handmade publication titled "Tia Northgate Zine"at the Anaheim Central Library.
A handmade publication titled “Tia Northgate Zine” that can be checked out from the Anaheim Central Library.
(Courtesy of the Anaheim Central Library)

The underground, “do-it-yourself” zine subculture also finds a sense of validation from the support offered by the library.

“Zines are an overlooked art form,” says Davis, who did the promotional art for this year’s fest. “To have that respect from the library has been awesome from a vendor standpoint.”

The O.C. Zine Fest hoped to be the first in-person community event at Anaheim Central Library since the pandemic, but the sudden shift to online-only isn’t leaving folks too sullen. Once the pandemic subsides, the O.C. Zine Fest will always have a steady home at the library to welcome the community in-person, after all.

“We will be back,” says Van Stralendorff. “It will be even more awesome!”

For more information on O.C. Zine Fest, visit oczinefest.com.

Participants create their own zines at the 2019 O.C. Zine Fest.
Participants create their own zines at the 2019 O.C. Zine Fest at the Anaheim Central Library.
(Courtesy of the Anaheim Central Library)

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