Research Question

I want to revisit a project I worked on in my first semester in the MALS program. This is how I introduced the project back then (December 2016)


As the curator and cataloger of a zine library that has holdings going back to the early 1990s I am sometimes asked to comment on how zines have changed over time. I read and catalog zines out of time, as they rise to the top of the processing queue, which makes it hard to respond to that question with confidence, though I have my theories. My suspicion is that zine creators in the 1990s wrote more about sexual assault and critiqued capitalist systems of oppression more than their 2010s counterparts, who are more likely to write about mental health and friendship. My informed assumptions extend to the visual elements of the works, with 1990s creators working primarily, even exclusively, in black and white photocopies with photographs, reproduced zine ads, hand drawings, and riot grrrl fliers, as opposed to more sophisticated reprography, desktop publishing (InDesign, rather than Publisher or analog cut and paste).


My hope is to show the changes in zine content and presentation over time, perhaps in word clustering, counting, or clouds, exposed in an interactive timeline.

At the time, I had no experience visualizing data in any way, other than in tables, bar charts, and word clouds. I am looking forward to exploring the data anew with the skills I've gained in Visualization and Design: Fundamentals.  


I frequently get asked about how zines have changed over the years--by journalists, undergraduates, senior scholars, zine makers, librarians, and audience members at panels. How zines have changed over the years could be of interest to people doing work with girls and women's studies, gender studies, creative nonfiction, media studies, cultural studies, punk history, social justice, sociology, psychology, history of the book, English, library and information studies, and in other disciplines, as they imagine. Maybe it will be appealing to data scientists, too.


I have a fall 2016 export of catalog records from the Barnard Zine Library that contains metadata about more than 4,000 zines. Ideally, I would work with zine records from other libraries, but, since my long-term project, ZineCat, does not yet hold a sufficient amount of records from additional libraries, I have to work with what is a substantial dataset on its own.

For this project I will focus on the Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH) that describe the zines. LCSH is a flawed controlled vocabulary employed by academic and other research libraries to describe materials of all format types. I saw flawed because the vocabulary reflects a massive quantity of library holdings, and is rooted in colonialism, hegemony, Congress itself, and is known to be othering--reifying default identities: whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, cisgender, Christianity, etc. Still, it's the system we have, and I use in my zine cataloging practice.  


I hope to visualize the data in a few different ways:

A treemap for each lustrum and overall, to get a sense of the most represented LCSH.

A dispersion plot, also for each lustrum and overall to better illustrate the change over time.


The top n (5?) LCSH as they are represented in each lustra.

Work Notes


Notes from chatting with Erin 6/14/18

Like with UN: region--sub region--country

LCSH and genre terms

% of total

Area chart for looking at spikes in holdings



Data cleaning steps


Starting a new UL now that I HAVE MY DATA.