Huge thanks to Jude Vachon, Librarian and Instructor at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, for the interview. Tried to reblog it properly, but that wouldn’t work, so copied and pasted below. Please find the original HERE!
1. Hi! Tell us who you are! What’s the Fly Away Zine Mobile?
Hi! I’m debbie rasmussen, driver and curator of the Fly Away Zine Mobile. The zine mobile is a free lending library, self-publishing skill-sharer, and mini reading room that travels around North America, organizing/supporting events around literacy and self-publishing and hosting open library/reading hours. There are currently about 1,500 zines in the collection; current sections include Do-It-Yourself/How-To; Healing and Wellness; Prisons/By Prisoners; Personal/Autobiographical; Comics/Drawings; Cooking/Food; Field Guides/Place-Related; Political; Parenting; Zines by Kids; Poetry; Librarian-Made Zines; and Animal-Related Zines. The lending policy is loose; I try to let people keep things if they want while also preserving a solid chunk of the collection (people are always excited to donate their zines, and/or sometimes their whole zine collection, so this has been easy). The zine mobile’s current form is a 1997 Chevy Astro Van, but I’ve been on the lookout for a larger vehicle that runs on diesel so it can be converted to run on waste veggie oil.
I started dreaming of a traveling self-publishing library/skill-sharer when I was on my way out at Bitch Magazine, where I was working as publisher/director. It was partly a way to realize a lifelong dream of living/working mobile and partly a way to encourage/inspire people to express themselves without waiting for acceptance or approval from, say a magazine or book publisher. Our acceptance rate of article proposals at Bitch was around 10% (so 90% of what people were submitting to us was rejected), which was common for magazines. I’d submitted an article proposal to Bitch myself when I was in grad school, and was rejected, so I knew firsthand how discouraging it could be!
What finally helped get the project out of my head and into the world were librarians Jenna Freedman, who invited me along on a librarian-zinester tour and Lacey Prpic Hedtke, who was starting a garage-based zine library in Minneapolis and who donated all the duplicates to the zine mobile project. The zine mobile was officially launched in Minneapolis in May 2011, and it had its first voyage the next month — three librarians and I met in New Orleans at the American Library Association Conference, and did a 9-city zinester librarian tour that ended in Milwaukee, at the Zine Librarians Unconference. I didn’t realize until that tour was over how fortunate I was that the zine mobile was really positioned as a legitimate library because of this original journey.
I love living on the road — it’s been a dream of mine since I was little, when I wanted to be a trucker. People have been encouraging, enthusiastic, and generous in their support for the project, which has helped keep me going. What’s been the most challenging — and I never would’ve expected this when I set out on the road — is the amount of aggression aimed at me while on the road. I drive fairly slow — for reasons of safety, to minimize gas consumption, and because it’s the pace of life I’m looking to live now — and people often express their frustration with me about this. And I’d say the other biggest challenge is that the zines world is, relatively speaking, pretty small, so I spend a lot of energy/time explaining what zines are, and sometimes that feels discouraging and tiring. Of the many highlights was the first youth-centered zine-making event I did. I was way more accustomed to doing zine workshops with adults, so when a public library in Oakland asked me to come, I was very nervous. I’d asked a friend who was much more accustomed to working with kids to join me, but at the last minute, she couldn’t make it. I almost canceled because I was so nervous. But about three minutes after the event started, I was totally at ease because I immediately realized that one amazing thing about working with young ones is that they don’t have the same perfectionistic expectations that many of us adults do — they were so happy to be making something, they didn’t care if they cut crooked or colored outside the lines. There was a table full of young kids with their moms, and I kept getting teary-eyed because I was just so moved and excited about their process and what they were creating.
Self-expression is important to me, no matter what form that expression takes. I’ve always been deeply moved by both reading and writing, so zines were an obvious focus for my attention, but to me the idea that everyone is an artist, a creator, a writer, whatever… is really important. As much as my own personal expression has gone largely digital (I think, because I move around so much now, it’s difficult for me to do print — every time I’ve started a zine in recent years, I’ve lost the pieces before I’ve finished!), my heart is still in print, and I don’t imagine that ever changing.
The zine mobile is intended to be part of an emerging traveling caravan that seeks to support and create free skill-sharing and community-building — by free I mean trying to challenge the way we’re so conditioned to commodify everything, to buy and sell… The idea is that there would be several mobiles traveling together — perhaps some focused on food, some focused on things like dance/movement and music, some focused on radical education and/or community organizing — everything free (donations accepted, but not expected — and really trying to emphasize donations of things that are not just money — just offers of food and/or a place to stay). My hope is that someone super passionate about zines as a form of personal expression will step forward and want to take over this piece so that I can move into doing something focused on music and sound.
I’d also like to offer a huge THANK YOU for your interest in spreading the word about this project!
Thank YOU, amazing Debbie!