Rotem is a zine librarian and artist who grew up in the prairies. She strongly believes in equitable access to information and resources, as well as community spaces, like the Toronto Zine Library, that can bring people together to exchange knowledge and share stories. She likes to tell stories through zines, illustrations, and comics. Her most recent project is a non-profit community-driven comics library.
What’s an average day at your library?
Our library is a volunteer-run community space that holds thousands of zines, which are independently created publications (and labours of love). On an average day, we provide reference services, catalogue zine donations, update our social media, as well as share our personal experiences with zines and exchange DIY knowledge and tips! We also participate in zine fairs and host workshops at our physical library and abroad. Our goal is to promote zines as a method of open communication and free expression. Recently, we migrated to an open source Integrated Library System (ILS) in order to make our collection publicly accessible online and searchable. We are now busy scanning covers for all zines in the collection as well as adding comprehensive tags to showcase diversity and the scope of the collection. The Toronto Zine Library is located on the second floor of the Tranzac Club, a lovely community venue in downtown Toronto commonly used for music events and meetups, so often, later in the evening, we get to listen to the bands that play downstairs.
What was the first job you ever had?
My first official job was at a thrift store when I was sixteen. Although, when I was a kid, I used to make miniature card-stock houses, and a family friend purchased one – so, freelance paper house maker!
What was your first position in the library or information field?
I volunteered at a Cinema Studies-focused library at the University of Toronto, helping out with a serials storage project. That led to a position as interim librarian there for several months before completing my degree.
What is your favourite part of library, archive, or information services work?
Meeting people and hearing their stories, connecting people to helpful resources (and receiving recommendations), as well as being able to help people become less afraid of information and be more open to using technology as a positive tool. And, like many other librarians, being surrounded by books.
Why do you think library work is important?
There are so few places in the world that provide the vital services that libraries provide. Information is powerful, and there are so many barriers set up in the world to prevent people from accessing the right information. Through the power of accessible information, storytelling, and community, libraries enable people to do great things and grow into compassionate people. Libraries also function as safe spaces for a lot of folks to pass the time if they need a break from everyday struggles. That is really important. You never know how a visit to a library will change your life – but it could. Even the little things like discovering a new genre of literature or a new hobby are important.