Okay; I've been back from Minneapolis (SHARP conference and Zine Fest) and Chicago (visiting a library school friend) for almost a week, but it's taken me a while to get around to writing it up. First I needed a day off, then I had to focus on catching up on work stuff, and then there was Harry Potter to devour.
SHARP is the most geekarific experience! You go to one session after another with people reading their 15-20 minute papers to you. Some use slides, but mostly (like I did) to highlight a point or to give people something to look at to distract them from the droning. People go crazy for programs that include such papers as "Biro, Bich, and the World Domination of the Ballpoint," while ignoring much more alluring sounding topics as "Sex Texts." Being utterly immature, I went to the latter. It wasn't exactly titillating, but the papers (one on the NYC antebellum porn industry, another--presented by a library school professor--on young adult sex ed manuals in the early 20th century, and the last...not sticking with me) were fairly engaging, even the one I don't remember.
The other panel I went to (other than my own) was generically called "Women and Print in North America," and the presentations were wildly disparate. As moderator, I challenged the audience to come up with a question that could be addressed by all three panelists, but no one even tried. I later learned that my moderation style was likened to that of a dominatrix (in a good way?!?) because I was insistent that the questions be distributed fairly equally between the presenters. I hate when the last person to speak gets all the questions. In this case the last person to speak was my conference roommate, Trysh Travis. We had never met before but were connected by a mutual friend. Fortunately Trysh was an excellent roommate, and her speaking style was that rare thing for an academic--where you know she's talking the talk with all the right scholarly words and incisive arguments and observations, but where she also manages to make the words come alive off the page. She was speaking about the women in print movement--essentially second wave feminism's publications and bookstores, and dang if it didn't sound almost exactly like all the third wave feminist and riot grrrl zines I read. Each generation thinks it's so original, and of course some things are special to their particular time, but we're a lot more similar than we think. I still think it's important for each generation to come to its conclusions on its own. You can't really get something by reading or being lectured about it. You have to come to understand it by experiencing, thinking, worrying, making mistakes, etc.
Boy am I getting off-topic. So onto my panel, called "Grrrls in the Library: the Collection and Preservation of Feminist Zines." My talk comparing zines and vanity press publications was first, which is good because I can't really concentrate on fellow panelists until my part is over. It went fine, though unlike Trysh, I was very much "on the page." This was my first time presenting a paper, rather than a mostly unscripted kind of talk. Kelly Wooten, from Duke's Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture opted for the latter approach. I was so insecure about presenting to an academic audience that I was afraid to do that, but I think Kelly made the right choice. She talked about how the zine collection got started with a donation from Sarah Dyer of Action Girl fame. She did a great job of showing how well zines fit in a collection of "published and unpublished materials that reflect the public and private lives of women" from the 1700s to the present. I know I'm firmly in the choir already, but sometimes it's really nice to hear how a different preacher puts it.
Kate Eichhorn, the person who organized the panel and the only classroom type professor was last, with her talk focusing on her experiences and fieldnotes from studying personal zines for the last twelve years. Her talk, like Trysh's was funny and smart, but also brilliantly echoed the perzine form by revealing pieces of herself and her own experiences while also communicating her more pedagogical message. Plus it was pretty. My academic insecurity was reinforced afterwards when everyone in the audience (except my two friends and Kelly's mom) wanted to talk to Kate and asked for copies of her paper. I felt like we librarians as practitioners rather than professors were sort of charity guests at the party.
Anyway I had a nice dinner after the talk with my "avuncle" Sandy and moving from Minnesota to Brooklyn in two days to work at Pratt (yay!) friend Alycia. I'm a sucker for mock duck and talk of librarianship, politics, and kids' movies. (Well, maybe not the last, but Sandy has grandchildren and Alycia young cousins, so they were into it.)
The next day I found my way from the University area to the zine fest using public transportation and was surprised in such a white city to be by far the ethnic minority on the bus, even more than at home on NYC subways. (I ride the bus in NYC, too, but the demographics are less stark aboveground.) When I walked into the zine fest--on the second floor of a building above a supermarket--around noon carrying my wheelie suitcase and giant back pack, I felt like a total freak. There were about 8 tables and very little traffic. It felt like everyone was watching me as I made my way around. When I got to a table that looked like it might be somewhat official I made the acquaintance of Gerald, the event's main organizer, and Lacey, who developed the Bat Annex Free Skool's zine library. Then I cruised around and bought some zines, but really I wanted to bolt because the event was small, and I felt super self-conscious. We had a zine librarian's caucus scheduled for 1pm, though, so it seemed like it would be really rude to leave.
And I'm SO GLAD I didn't. Rather than a librarians' caucus we hosted a free-style discussion about zine libraries and librarianship. By that time there were a lot more people there, and we had about 20 people sitting on the floor and all tablers really giving us their attention. Their questions were way better than the ones we got at SHARP. I came off the event feeling great, but maybe that's only because the tables were turned, and I was the one people were anxious to talk to and give zines to after we were done. Isn't that funny, that even in a roomful of punks the more academic person gets the most respect?
Oh man, this has been a long post. I think I'll leave any discussion of my Chicago visit for my zine. But if you're dying to know more, right now, you can look at my photos.