Category Archives: Library of Interest

Copenhagen’s DIY Libraries

Demoteket Public Library Project

Demoteket, an underground zine and arts library, has sprung up locations within public libraries around Copenhagen.

Demoteket may be the most freeform concept I’ve seen in public libraries. Public submissions to the collection range from artwork, films, music recordings, software, to knitted lobsters(?!), or just about anything else you’d like to reach an audience. Even the Demoteket library’s shelves are designed and built by local DIYers. Here’s why I love this idea. First, it provides a new place for artists to distribute their work. Second, the contributions and users come from the same geographic community. Last, the system cuts out big publishers. Read more about Demoteket and see examples of submissions here.


I heard about Demoteket at this year’s NY Art Book Fair when I asked the TTC Zine Gallery, an arts collective and indie publisher from Denmark, about the zine scene in Copenhagen. TTC has its eye on the international zine community. Their book, Zine Soup, compiles some of these publications into one hefty volume. Each is handmade with individually silk screened covers so each copy is slightly different.

TCC Gallery Zine Soup

P.S. Summer coverage of International Zine Month.

Images found on,  Bureau Detours and Graphic Dirt

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Herbals: Once Essential, Now a Rarity

Leonhart Fuchs

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance books known as “herbals” were popular for their classifications of plants and descriptions of their medicinal and culinary uses. Even as summer’s greenery fades, plants remain verdant year-round on the illustrated pages. I recently had the chance to see some up close in “The Renaissance Herbal,” an exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens’ Mertz Library, the largest botanical and horticultural library in the world. The exhibit is part of a larger program titled “Wild Medicine” about the many cultural uses of plants.


Before the advent of movable type in the 1400s, herbals were written as scrolls and manuscripts.

Page fro m al-Ghafiqi Herbal

Herbals were second in popularity only to the Bible, but as modern medicine developed and synthetic drugs grew more common, these books became tomes of a bygone era. Still, their amazing artwork and handcrafted beauty make them highly sought after today.

 Basilius Besler-Caltha palustris flore

“The Renaissance Herbal” is up at the New York Botanical Garden until September 8th. Here’s one stunning page (below) on view at the Mertz Library. Find more peeks  here.

New York Botanical Garden Wild Medicine page

Images, from top to bottom: Leonhart Fuchs, Basilius Besler, Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Basilius BeslerNew York Botanical Garden,

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Roundup: Books less borrowed

Secret Libraries in New York City

People often talk about the newest places in New York, the trendiest restaurants and blockbuster art exhibits, but I find my favorite things about the city, and often the most surprising, are the things right under our noses, the ones that have been around the longest. A recent feature about the little-known City Hall library in the New York Times Metropolitan section got me thinking about other libraries camouflaged into the streetscape. Here are three gems quietly leading their existences.


1. City Hall Library
What makes this library so secretive is a lack of signage outside its home in a landmark downtown court building. This advertising restriction hides the over 100 years old library from street traffic. The library is rich in city history, with documents dating back to the first mayor of New York City.

2. American Kennel Club Library
One of the world’s largest libraries devoted to canines, the American Kennel Club, opened in New York in 1934 is a unique resource for tracking the history of breeds. No materials are allowed out, but cat people will be happy to hear they’ve expanded the collection to have some books about our other favorite pets. The fact that the library no longer has a librarian may make the institution even more secret, but the 2,000 years of pooch history is still open by appointment.

3. Theosophical Society Library
Located discretely on the second floor of the Theosophical Society’s 53rd St building, the Theosophical Society Library collection includes books on a mix of topics in divinity, esoteric philosophy and the occult. The society was founded in 1897 by the fiery and controversial Helena Blavatsky, whose magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, delved into some big ideas about the the universe. Members of the society can borrow books for free, but anyone can join the library for a $20 annual fee.

Images: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times.

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In case you just woke up from a month long nap: International Zine Month

International Zine Library Day Barnard

July was International Zine Month (IZM.) The zine community cut and pasted their way through the month (including a heat wave for East Coasters) growing awareness for zines and camaraderie for zine makers. To me zines are fun, personal, and often have a sense of humor, and I appreciate the personal touch reflected through the hand assembled components of each booklet.

Jenna Freedman of the Barnard Zine Library (BZL) celebrated International Zine Library Day July 31st with crafts and commemorative buttons. Jenna defines a zine as publication having these five characteristics:

1. Self-published and the publisher doesn’t answer to anyone

2. Small, self-distributed print run

3. Motivated by desire to express oneself rather than to make money

4. Outside the mainstream

5. Low budget

I had always taken a supporter from afar approach to zines, so I used International Zine Month as an opportunity to read more about the history of the zine and even had the chance to contribute to Booklyn Artists Alliance’s (BAA) 24-hr Zine Spree. People dropped in to create a collaborative 24-page zine and the amazing staff at BAA provided the supplies, pizza, and cookies. What could be more conducive to creative zine making?

Zine Spree Library Manifesto

Natalie zine spree

If you missed some of July’s zine festivities, here are links to get you started on zine reading, collecting, and/or making. If you were really into zine month, you can pick up right where you left off.

How to make a one-page zine

Goings on at the Zine Librarian Unconference in Iowa City July 13 – 14 #iczluc

One minute Zine Reviews

July 31st was HallowZINE, pay tribute to self-publishers who’ve past

A list of select Zine Libraries around the country and world

A zine history

Photo of me and Maya by Matt. (I’m on the left.)

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New Vinyl Library Lends Sound Waves

Vinyl Library

Though the shop sign above the library says “Luxury Interior Design & Joinery Specialist” don’t be fooled. The Vinyl library in London’s East End is the area’s first vinyl library and cooperative for music sharing. The library wouldn’t be possible without their enthusiastic members, who get to borrow for free, after making a donation. I have always found that music aficionados are eager to share their favorite albums, so it comes as no surprise that the library is already being embraced by music lovers. I’m not based in London, but I’ll be browsing their Facebook page for word about their DJ events and talks.

The Vinyl Library opens today (July 1, 2013). So Londoners, enjoy listening to Pink Floyd backwards and finding rare Beach Boys cuts, just don’t leave your borrowed items in the backseat on a hot day. Here are images from some of my favorite recently found album art.

Beach BoysBillie Holiday

On a related note, The Wire recently published a list of fascinating sound archives selected by ethnomusicologist, author, and lecturer David Novak. The list includes the underground Noise Cassette Archive, Cornell Labs, and The Museum of Endangered Sound. (If that name doesn’t grab your attention, check your pulse!)

Rolling Stones

Images borrowed from discogs and birkajazz.

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