Advice for Your Younger Self Zine

Have you ever had thoughts like?

You as a college student, “Oh wow I acted like that when I was a kid! I was so emo when I was in high school” or

You as a young adult or in your 30s,  “I can’t believe I used to do that in college!”, or “Damn I don’t know what was I doing in my 20s!”

Then, this is a zine made for you, the youth and the adult! About two weeks ago, we asked zinesters on our Instagram Story if they have any advice for their younger selves, we received some great responses and we included their submissions in the zine.

You can download the printable zine pdf here. To print the zine, please make sure your page setup is two-sided and flip on long edge.

For the accessibility text, you can find it here.

We also included the AFYYS zine’s scans below:

Once again, shoutout to the zinesters who submitted their advice!

If you find the AFYYS zine helpful, feel free to share it with your friends, family or anyone that might need the advice. Leave a comment on our Instagram post if you would like to see more projects similar to this zine!

Previous Post: A post about the Toronto Zine Library OPAC and DIY library software by Rotem

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A post about the Toronto Zine Library OPAC and DIY library software

This was written by TZL volunteers Rotem and Brandon for the Toronto Zine Library’s Zine-O-File produced by the TZL Collective, but due to life we weren’t able to publish the winter 2019 issue, so we are sharing this here!

First, for those who are unfamiliar, zines are self-published booklets that can be about anything— from garlic recipe zines made of garlic paper to comic zines about socialism in Canada. The term “zine” comes from fanzine and fan magazine, rooted in sci-fi fanzines, and made popular with the rise of punk in the 1970s, queercore in the 1980s, and the feminist punk movement well into the 90s (Bikini Kill! and riot grrrl). Traditionally, zines were a way for niche communities to stay connected and share information that wasn’t picked up by mainstream media.

It may seem obvious, but zines are still being made! People still have things they are concerned about and excited about; marginalized communities are still left out of mainstream publication and censored online; communities of like-minded individuals still want to communicate with each other to share knowledge, ideas, and wisdom in a meaningful way; people still want to connect with each other, with people who have had similar experiences, and with people who have had different experiences —  you get the idea.

The beauty of zines is that anyone can make them— there are no rules. Zines do not have to be perfect, and they do not have to be pretty. Often, master copies are made by cutting and pasting images and texts by hand, mixing print media and handwriting, which are then folded in proper page order, photocopied, refolded, and hand bound or stapled. They are filled with uncensored personal experiences and perspectives and therefore differ from mainstream publication. They allow diverse communities to share their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom.

You may be wondering, how does an independent, volunteer-run zine library keep track of all these wonderful zines and share them with the public?

While we all highly valued the old paper and pencil method of record keeping, at well over 3600 zines (and growing rapidly with weekly donations!) and 200 members (also rapidly growing!) the method had become untenable. The Toronto Zine Library now has an online public access catalogue (OPAC), a searchable online catalogue which you can check out here:

Rotem managed and facilitated the library science side of this project, while Brandon supported the tech side of the project — and along the way we received support from the rest of the TZL’s lovely volunteers.

We decided that this beautiful collection would best serve the public if we could afford not only  public research and access to the catalogue but also a more streamlined user management and circulation system. In librarian lingo, this means using an integrated library system (ILS). An ILS is an umbrella term for library management systems that usually, at minimum, serve the desired functions of user management, circulation, and an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue). For our integrated library system (ILS), we used the open source software OpenBiblio. Open Source software enables small independent organizations like the TZL to function without the monetary constraints commercial software creates. The TZL runs on Open Source already, for example we use Linux at our circulation desk and office tools like LibreOffice to manage documents. However, adapting an existing library’s collections and operating history, managed partially on paper and partially in digital, is no simple task.

The first step to moving to an ILS was the server side setup. For this, we needed to setup a MySQL database and user for OpenBiblio to use and then install the software itself. Fortunately, OpenBiblio comes with good install instructions and the setup was straightforward. At this point, we wanted to begin converting our information from one system to another. However, each preexisting system had its own caveats.

First, the membership database was entirely paper based across binders that spanned all the years of the TZL’s operations (over a decade!). Additionally, OpenBiblio requires members to be associated with barcodes, since typically libraries scan cards as a means of user identification. Our member database had never kept track of its users this way, so the first feature we added to the OpenBiblio functionality — barcode generation! We chose a simple format and made an automatic generator that would populate the barcode field in the membership form with a unique barcode. Finally, because we’d be storing user information and moving circulation to a web based platform, we needed enhanced security. Since login information over an unsecure channel can be easily “sniffed”, we needed to ensure our admin logins were secure! So we used the Let’s Encrypt Free SSL/TLS certificate service and moved the entire TZL website to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This means all of our communications to the OpenBiblio system, and the server in general, were now encrypted and secure! At this point, we were able to move from heavy binders to a sustainable and secure digital database thanks to the hard work of volunteer zine librarians who transferred membership information manually. We can now better track individual copies of zines and run circulation services through our library computer and remotely.

Second, we had been cataloguing the zines using a small custom made app and database for years. It was mostly textual and in a straightforward format that captured the organization of the catalogue. However, OpenBiblio uses the MARC 21 format internally. MARC 21 is a format for machine-readable bibliographic information developed by the Library of Congress. On one hand, this system codifies the storage of bibliographic information and is used broadly in the library community. On the other hand, the system encodes certain assumptions about the medium being catalogued and these assumptions are not necessarily commensurate with zines and zine culture. The first step to this process was understanding the structure of the database in use and getting the preexisting information out in a usable format. To facilitate this we used the SQLite DB Explorer to dump the entire database out into a tab delimited text file. The next step was getting the information into a format for OpenBiblio, this means MARC data, since, fortunately, OpenBiblio has a MARC data importer. To do this we used MARCEdit, a MARC editing and authoring tool made by Terry Reese, a librarian at The Ohio State University. In MARCEdit we were able to map the fields in our custom database to MARC fields we thought would serve them well. For example, we mapped genre to 650$a (650 => Subject Added Entry-Topical Term, $a => Topical term or geographic name entry element), and zine format to 300$b (300 => Physical Description, $b => Other physical details). At this point we were able to export the database as MARC and import it into OpenBiblio. The one caveat here is that OpenBiblio requires call numbers, which the TZL does not use.  To handle this, we were able to simply remove the requirement by commenting out a few lines of code (a hack, yes, but it works!). The very last step is to create an actual copy entry for each item imported, since the bibliographic information and the copies are separate. This is a straightforward process outlined on the OpenBiblio website and requires a little bit of SQL (fortunately copy/paste will do here). Now we had 3400+ entries and a fully functioning OPAC and circulation system!

Third, we wanted to ensure that the medium of zines was captured as best as possible online so our members could do their research and see what they were getting in to. We decided early on that, since OpenBiblio did not already have the feature, that we needed pictures! This led to the second addition to the OpenBiblio feature set. The first task was to understand the inner working of OpenBiblio — we needed to go under the hood for this one! Fortunately, a past contributor had made a patch for an earlier version of this feature. Using this, decoding the inner workings became much more straightforward and made the transition from OpenBiblio user to OpenBiblio developer much more easy. Since it was for an earlier version and didn’t quite have all the features we wanted, we still had our work cut out! This involved several steps: using an experimental MARC field in the 900s to store the image location; adding support to render the image in the bibliographic searches and individual entries; and adding support to upload the image using some fancy jQuery ajax client-side and a dollop of php server-side; and finally building out a thumbnail system so the entire thing was efficient. This year, we held a fundraiser to raise money for a scanner for the library (and for other projects), and since then, we have started the process of scanning zine covers.

All these adjustments and the shift to the new library software in general has improved the way we are able to catalogue zines and the accessibility of the collection. Cataloguing zines is difficult because zine librarians have to choose one out of several categories to organize zines into— but we desperately want to choose multiple. For the TZL, these categories traditionally include: Perzine, Fanzine, Litzine, Humour, Culture, Miscellaneous, Gender/Queer, Politics, Comics, Art (and many subcategories to choose from). Since zines can often fit into multiple categories, we read each zine carefully and cautiously choose what we hope will be its best home. Now we can also add comprehensive keywords to make the catalogue more accessible and showcase how diverse the collection is.

The other great thing about DIY library software is we can avoid the outdated vocabulary, racism, sexism, and other problematic bias that is built into other standard  library taxonomies such as Library of Congress Classification and Dewey. As mentioned, we also have the ability to alter MARC fields in OpenBiblio to match the needs of zine library taxonomies, which are still a work in progress (for us) to be honest. The other great thing about DIY library software is that we can incorporate feedback from zinesters and library visitors to improve the catalogue. For example, we can update tags to reflect current cultural language, from self-determination within marginalized communities to vocabulary within niche communities that we just do not have expertise on.

Limiting zines to one category might prevent someone from stumbling across a zine that they might be searching for (or not know they needed), maybe for research, interest, or other personal reasons. For example, a zine maker’s personal story of surviving a traumatic experience that deals with mental health struggles might be narrated in comic medium and catalogued in the Comics section— but it could just as easily have been shelved in Perzines (personal zines), or maybe Gender/Sexuality. As a result, someone going through a difficult experience and searching for zines relating to trauma and depression, might miss out on this narrative if they only search the Perzine section. Our hope is that by adding keywords to all zines, we can provide library visitors and staff with better information to locate and discover the right zines. The example scenario above (Comics vs. Perzines etc.) can be avoided because zines from any section can now be linked to terms such as: mental health, trauma, survival, grief, self care, personal stories, body positivity, feminism, diary, and so on — which makes us zine librarians very happy.

Also, anyone can now search the collection from their homes or anywhere else with wifi. Since, regrettably, the TZL’s physical library space is not as accessible as we would like (second floor, no elevator), the ability to search the catalogue remotely enables more people to see the scope of the collection and engage with zine resources. For example, a wheelchair user can now email us, ask us to pull zines from our collection that they have found in our online catalogue, and we can then deliver these zines to them on the more accessible main floor of the building.

Please contact the TZL if you have suggestions for improving community-specific or intersectional keywords, or other ways to improve the language in the catalogue:

Below is a list of zines Rotem prepared for the TZL fundraiser in 2018 to showcase catalogue records with zine covers and keywords added, to show the potential of what the catalogue can grow to look like in the future.

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Zines in unconventional/unique format

Hi zinesters! I can’t believe it’s winter already, time passes so weirdly during the pandemic. In this new blog post, we are featuring zines in unconventional or unique format. Some time ago, I discovered there’s a mystery snack vending machine in Akihabara, Tokyo. The snacks are concealed with paper, the potential customer can read stories on the paper box and decide which box should they purchase. Those stories are most likely urban legends or confessions written by anonymous authors, some are wholesome, and some can send chills down your spine. So to me, this is like a mystery zine vending machine with snacks, which inspires me to look for more zines in unique format.

Here are the featured zines:

Crime Zine by Trevor Yardley-Jones

Trevor’s zine tells a story of a crime scene at an apartment, the reader can “unfold” the crime scene by opening the pop-up zine to study each room in the apartment and the floorplan layout. He also created different colour versions of this zine, which you can check out at his Behance portfolio.

Trevor is a illustrator from Montreal, Canada.

To see more works from Trevor, head over to his website:

& Instagram:

Sabrini the Teenage Witch by Jordan Reg. Aelick

Jordan is a huge fan of the original 90s show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and so he created a Sabrina inspired zine. The zine is a scroll, which definitely gives us a magical witchy vibe! In this video, it shows how long the scroll is. It came with a red pouch/sleeve for the copy at The Beguiling bookstore. Sabrini the Teenage Witch tells the story of Sabrini in a modern and also relatable way, which includes her cellphone addiction, peer pressure at a party and encounter with a catcaller.

Jordan is a comix artist in Toronto, Canada. He is also a volunteer at Toronto Zine Library, and he is part of the Canada Comics Open Library‘s team.

To see more works from Jordan, head over to his website:

& Instagram:

Bottle Zines by Remi Germaine

One day, Remi found some tiny bottles at her old garage, she decided to use them for making zines. Each bottle contain a message with little charms. These Bottle Zines are cute and also mysterious! You can get a sneak peek on her IG Stories .

Remi is a letter writer, zine maker and illustrator from Utah, US.

To see more works from Remi, head over to her website:

& Instagram:

Unfolding the Saree by Mira Malhotra

Mira’s zine explores the concept of how Indian women in Saree are associated with modesty and tradition, and yet they also have been sexualized very often in pop culture. The zine is a scaled mini Saree in Pallu pattern hung on a mini wire hanger. It is printed on the Belapur colour paper with the one colour silk screen printing technique, which is a common printing technique in promotional flyers in India.

Mira is a visual artist, illustrator and graphic designer from Mumbai, India. She is the founder of Studio Kohl.

To see more works from Mira, head over to her website:

& Instagram:

I hope you all enjoyed these featured zines! I also would like to thank all the artists who allow me to share their work on the TZL blog.

If you’re curious about the Akihabara mysterious vending machine, you can watch Safiya Nygaard’s video about it, starting at 15:29.

Please let us know if you want a Part Two of unique/unconventional zines, you can leave a comment on our Instagram post.

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Throwback post to Maker Fest summer 2018

Hey zinesters! We hope you enjoyed Rotem’s previous blog post for the free zine tutorials. During the closure, we have been discussing through online meeting about hosting virtual events and collaborative zine making.

Due to the pause of in-person events and festivals, I decided to share a throwback post about our experience at the Maker Festival Toronto 2 years ago!

Maker Fest 2018 happened on July 7th and 8th at the Toronto Reference Library. It was a great event for makers to showcase their art, design, craft and technology to the public. TZL was tabling at the second floor, we set up a table for our zine collections and promotional materials and also a zine making station where the visitors could come and learn how to make a simple folded zine. 

 Maker Fest is a family friendly event, so we got various visitors, range from children, teenagers, young adults to parents and seniors. Some visitors were completely new to zine culture, we took this opportunity to introduce them about TZL and answered questions such as “What is a zine?” and “How to make a zine?”. Our staffs Jordan and Rotem have made and brought their zine making guides featuring methods of bindings (hand stitch/folding/stapling) and formatting zine layouts on photoshop at our table, which were very helpful for zine beginners. We have also shown our zine collections from TZL to the visitors, including comic zines, art zines, DIY theme zines. The garlic recipes zine by Tara Bursey and cut-out moon zine were extremely popular among the visitors, they were amazed by how the garlic recipes zine was made out of actual garlic paper (some people actually sniffed the zine because they were wondering if it still has the lingering garlic smell!), and how the tiny cut-out moon zine was delicately made. 

We had a lot of visitors at the zine making station, everyone was eager to learn and follow our zine folding demonstration carefully. They created contents with markers and magazine cut outs, they could also decorate the spines of their zines with colourful washi tapes. I remember some visitors created their first zines about fashion, Pokemon, traffic lights, which are so adorable and rad! 

There was a zinester who was extremely excited to stumble upon us, she has never heard of the TZL until she visited our table at Maker Fest, and she was just overwhelmed with joy when she found out about our space and appreciate we are working hard to preserve and promote zine culture in Toronto. We just want to say thank you to everyone who dropped by at our table, we are so grateful for your supports, and we hope you all have fun making and reading zines!

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Free online zines about making zines and webcomics!

Hello out there,

As you can imagine, things have slowed down at the TZL since we’ve been closed due to the pandemic and are adjusting to our lives now. We’re still catching up on zine library planning and emails, and in the meantime, we are hoping to post a bit more on here.

In this post, I’m sharing a few digital “how-to” zines for anyone interested in making zines or webcomics, looking for some templates and tips, or just some background info.

Intro to Zines, Maker Festival 2018

Intro to Zines is a zine we made for Maker Festival at the Toronto Reference Library in 2018. It includes a few zine templates and tips, a simple hand-sewn binding guide, and an intro to the history of zines. You can read it and download a copy over here.

How to Zine by Jordan Reg. Aelick

How to Zine is another zine the TZL brought to distribute at Maker Festival, with words and drawings by Jordan Reg. Aelick. It includes information on zine making such as useful items, inspiration, and other tips and tricks. You can read it over here. We also have another post coming up with a more detailed throwback to Maker Festival!

We Make Zines online resources from the Zines 101 guide:

How to Make This Very Zine is a zine you can assemble about making zines by Anne Elizabeth Moore :

An 8 page blank mini zine template you can fill in:

Template for smaller single sheet zine with 16 pages:’s An Introduction to Zines: A zine on how to make a zine, including zine styles, genres, formats, design, typography, making a zine, and inspiration:

The Ins and Outs of Webcomics by Jey Pawlik

“The Ins and Outs of Webcomics” by Jey Pawlik is a comic zine which guides readers through the ins and outs of creating webcomics, including tips on tools, panels, dialogue, posting and promotion, printing, as well as other resources! The full pdf is available as a free download here:

Other resources:

QZAP (Queer Zine Archive Project) zine-making resources:

Get in touch with the TZL on social media or by email if you have suggestions for other resources we could share on here.

Hope you are all able to stay safe.

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Online Catalogue Under Maintenance

We are currently updating our Integrated Library System with a few improvements and it is temporarily unavailable. Please check back soon, and apologies for any inconvenience.
Stay safe and take care,
-The TZL

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Hey zine and zine library lovers,

Wanna show your local zine library some love? We’d love to see at our fundraiser taking place at Glad Day Bookstore on Saturday 4 August from 6-9PM. We’ll have a zine making station, artists, music, a raffle, good vibes, and good times. We’ll also be unveiling a ~secret~ project we’ve been hard at work on to improve the library – and we can’t wait to share it with you! More details to be revealed soon. In the meantime, put this in your calendar. Help the TZL keep zine culture alive!

Check out the facebook event page here:

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Maker Festival 2018

We’re continuing to branch out a little bit from our usual zine fair circuit. This weekend – July 7-8 – we’re excited to be a part of Maker Festival Toronto! We’ll have a host of things for you to check out: a sampling of zines from our collection to inspire you about the possibilities of what you can make, resources on how to get started making zines, and a whole table for folks to get started making zines of their own.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and maybe a little jarring, being such a low-tech exhibit among all the robots. We’re looking forward to share our passion of making zines with other makers.

Come visit us at Maker Festival this weekend! Check out their website for more information and to see all the cool exhibits:

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Punk Rock Flea Market!!!

Hey y’all,

The TZL is trying something a little different and tabling at the PUNK ROCK FLEA MARKET at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. We’ll be there spreading the news about the library and all we do among a variety of wicked DIY crafts. Come by and say hi!

The Punk Rock Flea Market is free(!) and open from 11AM-5PM.

We’ll still have staffed hours today, and Lee’s Palace is just around the corner from the library – why not make Sunday a TZL double feature and check out both?

Check out the event and vendors list here:

Support yr local DIY punk artisans!

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TZL at TCAF Zineland Terrace!

TCAF Zineland Terrace 2018

Hey zine pals,

Exciting news! Not only will the Toronto Comic Arts Fair be having a section just for zines and DIY publishing this year, but we’ll also be there tabling! Come check out all the great zines that will be on offer and support your local creators. We hope to see you there!

TCAF will be taking place Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13th from 11AM-5PM at the Toronto Reference Library.

  1. Check out the facebook event page for Zineland Terrace here.

Check out TCAF’s website here.

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