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Open Doors Celebration Panel Transcript

If you missed any of our posts spotlighting our Open Doors project, check out our Five Things post with Open Doors volunteer Alison Watson, and our Guest Post with archivist Versaphile.

Below is the transcript of the panel chat held on September 18th which concludes our celebration. A special thanks to all Open Doors volunteers, past and present, who have worked to preserve fanworks and have contributed so much to the OTW’s mission. They have already announced two new archive imports this month and there will be more on the way!

If you are interested in donating your physical format fanwork collections or other fan-related materials (whether right now or in the future), contact Open Doors. And if you have an account at AO3, consider creating a Fannish Next of Kin.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and to omit recurring announcements, and arrivals and departures in the room.


Welcome to our panel chat celebrating the OTW’s 9th anniversary with a spotlight on its Open Doors project! We’ll be talking about the importance of preserving fanworks and fannish history today with three librarians who work with popular culture, science fiction, and fantasy collections, all of which include fanworks.

Our panelists today are:

Peter Balestrieri, Curator of the University of Iowa’s Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections

Jeremy Brett, Curator of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection at Texas A&M University

Nancy Down Head of the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University.

I’m Claudia Rebaza, an OTW staffer with its Communications Committee and will be moderating our discussion today.

We’ll begin with some introductions and questions to all the panelists, after which we will have a period for questions from the audience. To our panelists, please jump in with your replies whenever they’re ready.

Could you each please tell us a bit about the collection you work with?

Pete B

I work with dozens of fan media collections, most of which have come to us through OTW referrals. They consist of fan fic, zines, books, vids, con materials, oral history, collectibles, clothing, just about anything relating to media fandom, and fandoms in general. These are gigantic and tiny collections, put together by old and newer fans, covering every fandom I can think of and lots that I never imagined. I also work with some great pop culture and science fiction collections.

Nancy D.

I work in the Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies which is part of the University Library at Bowling Green State University. Our library was established in 1969 and our mission is to acquire and preserve primary research materials in American Popular Culture from the 1870s to the present.

Our major collecting areas are popular genre fiction, popular entertainment, advertising/consumer culture, and fandom. Other minor collecting areas include foodways and cooking, teenage culture, and alternative cultures. Since Ray and Pat Browne were influential in the establishment of popular culture as an academic discipline, we also try to document the history of the popular culture movement in academia as it relates to the Midwest and Bowling Green State University.

Jeremy B.

Our Collection began in 1970 with a small acquisition of inexpensive SF magazines, and has grown over the last 46 years to be one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. We have over 40,000 individual books and other monographs, many artifacts, and 100-plus archival collections. In addition, we’ve been working to collect large numbers of fanworks, including print and digitized fanzines, fanvids, and filksong.

Claudia R.

Do you all have staff that work with you? And if so, how many? These sound like very sizable collections.

Pete B

Just me, but I sometimes get help from student workers.

Nancy D.

I have 3 other fulltime staff, 2 grad students, and 8 undergraduates.

Jeremy B.

I’m the sole Curator for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection, but being a small staff, we all lend each other support. I particularly rely on our Digital Archivist for help with the born digital stuff. I do get the occasional student worker, as well. 🙂

Claudia R.

Yay for student workers!

Jeremy B.

Indeed.

Pete B

Couldn’t operate the department without them.

Nancy D.

Yes student workers are the best

Claudia R.

Speaking of student help, Is working with these kinds of materials something you always wanted to do?

Pete B

I’ve always loved history, science fiction, fantasy, film, television, radio, music, theatre, etc. so pop culture has always called to me. I spent most of my life as a poet, artist, and musician. It’s a good fit.

Jeremy B.

When I started out, I never imagined I’d be working with SF&F materials; it never really occurred to me early on that such collections existed, as such. But I’ve always been interested in primary historical materials – I went to college and library school in DC, and so it was always a thrill to engage with and work with the actual documents that make up our history. As an SF&F fan, of course, working with these materials is a real joy.

Nancy D.

We are lucky to have programs in popular culture and American culture studies and get really interested students. I have learned a lot from them over the years. My interests have always been more print oriented.

Claudia R.

Jeremy, you mentioned that it never occurred to you that such collections existed. Sadly, I think a lot of fans also don’t know that. Do you have trouble publicizing the collection on campus or to students? (That’s a question to all of you, not just Jeremy)

krati

To add to this question, how do you find the fan works? Especially the old printed materials?

Nancy D.

We have trouble letting students know we exist. We just hired a new position who is responsible for Outreach

Paula G.

Some of these collections sound so fragile. Can you preserve most of it in its original state?

Jeremy B.

Word of mouth is always a good thing, and once one person knows, word gets around on campus pretty fast. In our case, we have the papers of George R.R. Martin in our collection, and that has been a big draw and a good, easy way to publicize the collections. In a broader sense, I’m struck by how often I go to cons and conferences and find how many people don’t know about SF Collections in general. Although, they’re always excited and awed to find out those do actually exist!

Pete B

This is one of the challenges to actually doing something with the collections in my care; getting the word out about what’s here is a major priority for me. Forging connections with students and faculty is essential.

Nancy D.

Mostly word of mouth for us too

Jeremy B.

Outreach is a concern not just for SF collections, but for archives in general, I find.

Claudia R.

To follow up on that and some other questions asked, What sorts of challenges do you have in maintaining or developing your collections?

Pete B

Our Outreach Librarian, Colleen Theisen, is excellent but she has the whole dept. to worry about. We all use social media to help us.

Space, money, people! This is the trio that all librarian/archivists deal with. If I had more of any of these, I’d get more done, build on what we have, process collections faster, etc. We have great Preservation people at Iowa so I don’t worry very much about that. And I suppose the biggest hurdle is teaching or reminding a wide variety of people I work with/for that pop culture is culture, period, and needs to be taken seriously.

Jeremy B.

Well, of course, trying to maintain the appropriate level of funding is always a issue – we all need space, resources, supplies, physical resources, money for purchasing collections, and so on. Technical challenges are also huge – as more and more materials are born digital or come to us in electronic formats, we need to have the appropriate hardware and software to preserve these materials and make them available, constantly migrating as platforms and media become obsolete.

Re: outreach – Pete did mention Colleen, who’s brilliant. I wish we could all have a Colleen on our staff!

Nancy D.

Definitely space, shrinking budgets, more money spent on electronic resources, the born digital challenge too

Pete B

Colleen’s use of social media is so impressive. She convinced me years ago to start a Tumblr account for the Hevelin Collection and that has been a huge success, in so many ways.

Kathryn S.

I suspect a lot of the reason people don’t know the collections exist is that it doesn’t occur to them that they would exist–like, why would academics care about the artifacts of our nerdy subculture?

Jeremy B.

There’s also the more fun challenge of trying to seek out and identify materials for our collections. How do we determine what’s valuable and what are important parts of the documentary record.

Claudia R.

The OTW doesn’t have to worry too much about space (until we need more servers) but the people and money issues are a familiar problem.

Jeremy B.

Definitely space, I agree. We need an entire new building! 🙂

Wells

Do you find people studying the collections?

Claudia R.

Jeremy, are there particular policy documents that any of you use to guide acquisitions? (Also open to Nancy and Pete)

Pete B

The more I talk with scholars, the more I have to say to fans with collections about the importance of what they’ve done. The material history of fandom is the missing resource in the attempt to understand the genres and cultures we’re talking about.

Nancy D.

We have classes in popular culture so more students are exposed to our collections. The pop cult faculty are supportive and try to promote then and also other professors

Kathryn S.

Is safety of the space you have also an issue? I know there have been a few cases where warehouse fires took out huge amounts of material.

Jeremy B.

We have a pretty broad collecting strategy, so in the end, I tend to rely on my own judgement, measured against what resources we have available to give to collections.

Safety is always a concern with archives. But we do have a solid fire control system, climate-controlled and secure stacks, and so in the end we do the best we can and hope to avoid an apocalypse.

Nancy D.

Our building can be a little leaky but otherwise secure

Pete B

I build on existing collections, always, look for unique, non-commercial materials, always, and try to remember that I have no budget.

I want a new building!

Jeremy B.

To answer a previous question, yes, we do get people studying the collections, both scholars and students.

Claudia R.

What do you all enjoy the most about your work?

Wells

Why? I’m just curious as to why people would go back. Do they go to the print or is it mostly online they study?

Nancy D.

We have such broad collections that collection development can be tricky. Our library was started 50 years ago with the idea to collect some of everything.

Jeremy B.

Getting to engage with donors about their materials is always a joy – I’ve met so many wonderful authors and fans in this job. I also love showing the flag – spreading the word not just about my own collection at TAMU but about the family of institutions out there who collect these materials, and demonstrating to people that, yes, what they create/collect IS important, IS, significant, and deserves our time, respect, and our best efforts to preserve it for the future.

Pete B

Study: This year has been wonderful with a constant flow of undergrads and grad students coming to see “OTW” collections. Fanzines and fan fic are HOT! I’ve had 3 classes this year structured completely around fan collections, with more to come.

Kathryn S.

:DDD

Nancy D.

I enjoy my job because I like the materials, I like working with students and researchers, and I like learning something new every day

Michelle D.

<3

Pete B

Enjoy: The Xmas moments, opening a box for the first time and seeing what’s inside, and the “dead mouse” moment when, like a cat, you lay your latest find at somebody’s feet to show what a good hunter you are. The most profound moments are with donors when you realize and acknowledge the gift they’re bestowing on you is a part of their lives. Helping them to save what might have been lost is precious.

Jeremy B.

What Pete said.

Claudia R.

Wow, Pete, that’s fantastic!

Pete B

Awww….

Nancy D.

I agree!

Wells

“OTW”?

Claudia R.

That’s our organization, Wells, the Organization for Transformative Works (your host)

Paula G.

Great quote Pete!

krati

haha

Wells

Thanks. I just didn’t understand the acronym

Nancy D.

We would not have such great collections without donors

Jeremy B.

Indeed not. Not with the budgets WE have!

Pete B

Iowa is blessed to be able to work with OTW. It is our most important connection to fandom and collectors.

Claudia R.

It’s ok, there’s a lot of acronyms and jargon around these parts. Speaking of which — to our librarians — did all of you find you needed to learn new terms as you worked with your collections?

Wells

How do you spread the word? I know I heard through MagN, Jeremy, but I also know the early writers in Star Wars and others are now in their 60s and may not know about collections. Also their families may end up throwing out the materials.

Nancy D.

Yes organizations like RWA. Libraries are great on jargon

Jeremy B.

Certainly I picked up new fannish terms and acronyms, like A/U and PWP.

Pete B

Absolutely! Fandoms have their own languages that change over time. “Slash” and the newer, “shipping” is a good example. If you read enough fanzines, you catch on. Reading the old SF zines, it took me a while to realize that what appeared to be typos were actually jargon. Like, “bheer.”

Jeremy B.

Yeah, ‘bheer’ threw me, too. Pete, do you guys still have that can of con bheer from the 1960s?

Wells

Lol. Talk to old fen before they die.

Claudia R.

Ooh, can you tell us about bheer? I can say it’s a new term for me.

Nancy D.

I had a patron tell me once we spelt “folk songs” wrong on our website–not knowing what filk was.

krati

same

Wells

🙂

Claudia R.

Haha, Nancy! Now that’s one I know.

Jeremy B.

As for spreading the word, I attend cons and tell people about the necessity to preserve fannish history. Also, as I said before, word of mouth is a key strategy – I’ve had some great fans (some of whom are in on this call….:) ) who hear about us and tell other fen about what we’re doing.

Pete B

OTW helps Iowa to spread the word and word of mouth, too. One of the most common things I hear is, “my family doesn’t want my collection and I’m afraid they’ll throw everything away.” Some fans are moving to assisted living and can’t keep what they have.

Nancy D.

Our outreach is selective since we really are running out of space

Pete B

Yes! We have a can of Bheer.

Jeremy B.

Bheer is homemade beer that fans would brew and bring to cons and other fan gatherings. I used to work at Iowa, and I remember that there’s a can of it in one of the collections. I have a feeling after 50 years it’s probably not that drinkable.

Selena

As a younger fan, I desperately wish there was some sort of centralized fandom dictionary/glossary for fandom slang – there’s so much I don’t know and the language surrounding these communities changes constantly.

Wells

You just answered the question I was going to ask. You collect things as well as paper.

Jeremy B.

Yes, OTW has been great overall in making fannish archives a priority.

Claudia R.

Try Fanlore, Selena — it’s great for searching terms

Selena

Fanlore is really helpful, yes!

Nancy D.

We get donations because the donor has run out of space or is moving or has moved on in interests

Pete B

Cons are definitely the best way to meet fans and tell them what we’re doing. Iowa now regularly attends local and national cons, setting up a fan table and meeting fans on their own ground.

Jeremy B.

Oh, lots of non-paper things, yes! Cans of bheer are pretty rare, but we all collect artifacts, sound recordings, video materials, etc, etc. Without Fanlore, I’d be lost sometimes, certainly! It’s a great resource for things like the publication history of fanzines.

Nancy D.

Yes we collect lots of 3 dimensional items

Wells

Have you created your own cataloguing system then? I know you can built off pre-existing, but you must have some more specialized topics.

Mrs. P.

I love hearing how Fanlore assists.

Pete B

Selena, check out Fancyclopedia 3 online and Fanlore to find out more about terms and such. You can always reach out to me if you think I can help with research or questions.

Jeremy B.

There’s actually a big project underway in the zine library community to create a uniform catalog for zines (not just fanzines), but that’s still in the early planning stages. Til then, a lot of us rely on our own systems of subject headings and other metadata.

Selena

Ooh, I’d heard of fanlore, but not fancyclopedia, thank you!

Nancy D.

We tend to use Library of Congress (enhanced for our needs) but to be compatible with the library catalog

Claudia R.

So your collection is completely integrated with other collections in the main catalog, Nancy?

Wells

Can I give a word of warning on publication dates in indexes? I once saw a huge print index pertaining to print Star Wars fandom — and the wrong author was named to a specific series. I can even understand how it happened, but you have to double check at times. I hope that it was the only error in that booklet.

Great idea, Jeremy!

Pete B

We use LC call numbers and finding aids to organize what we have. Most fan collections are manuscript collections with everything foldered, that can be, and boxed. It’s all online for seraching.

Nancy D.

Yes you can search for most of our materials in the library catalog

Paula G.

Do you have a “holy Grail” that you want for your collection?…like the ruby slippers for film fans

Jeremy B.

For cataloged fanworks (that is, stuff you can find in our regular library catalog) we do use LOC. But for the materials that are in our archives (and can be found in our Archon archives management system) and therefore not cataloged in the same way, we use, as I said, individualized subject headings and so forth. Finding aids give patrons access to collection contents in that way.

Claudia R.

That must really help in terms of making people aware of the collection.

krati

Digitisation of materials can solve a lot of problems. It will also reach a wider audience. Is it an option?

Claudia R.

Yes, following up on what Paula said, we’ve mentioned the bheer as an unexpected item in fan collections. Are there any particular items in your collection that are your favorites?

Jeremy B. And, like my colleagues, all our materials that have been either cataloged (library materials) or processed (archival) can be searched online.

Pete B

We also have web pages that organize the fan collections into one virtual location. I think Jeremy worked on this when he was here.

Jeremy B.

Well, there are a lot of things I like, of course. I’m very fond of our various collections of fanzines (fanzine collection is something I started in earnest when I worked at Iowa and continue at TAMU, so naturally I feel a little proprietary about those works in particular!), and am always proud to say that, to my knowledge, TAMU has the largest collection of print slash in the world – which I find deliciously ironic considering TAMU’s reputation as a somewhat conservative school.

I like very much the various replica weapons from Game of Thrones that George R.R. Martin has given us – they’re actually some of the most requested items in the building by patrons. I love our works of early science fiction we have (Wells, Verne, Shelley), and especially our books of proto-science fiction (that is, pre-Frankenstein materials that are forerunners of modern SF), and I think I like most of all the archives of authors we have who’ve I’ve met and of whom I’m a great fan. I always get a charge out of handling those materials and knowing that I’m responsible for them.

Ah, yes, I did. Good times. 🙂

Pete B

What I like: Too many. I love the letter that Lucas sent to zine editors threatening them with legal action if they published slash and Roddenberry’s note on Bjo Trimble’s Concordance flyer that tells Trek fans to do whatever pleases them with fan fic, fan movies, vids, whatever. I love the hybrids too, like the Holmesian Federation.

Wells

Do people donate from their wills?

Claudia R.

Pete, I think we may have resolved the Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument about which is better 😉

Jeremy B.

I also love the vids. They’re so remarkable in their creativity and range, and the time people put into those is just insane.

MeeDee

Jumping in about outreach – I have a flyer I created for the 3 main fanzine archives. Please feel free to grab a copy and hand it out. Also, please let me know if any corrections need to be made.

Claudia R.

Jeremy, the popularity of Game of Thrones must have really increased traffic to you!

Jeremy B.

Oh, Lord, yes. GRRM has been a godsend for us.

Nancy D.

In our Star Trek Collection we have a piece of rice with the Enterprise painted on it. I can’t imagine doing that, but it’s great. Also we just received a collection of slash zines–Star Trek mostly–all written by one woman. Her daughter never realized she had written them until after she had died. And they are annotated with her comments on other stories

Pete B

Yes, people donate from their wills and donate with the provision that nothing comes to us until they die.

Claudia R.

OMG, I would love to see that piece of rice, how amazing! And that’s also great about the annotations — unlike today, it’s a lot tougher to get examples of reader reactions to works from the days of print

Jeremy B.

We’ve had donors who have said they’ll put us in their wills, but since I’ve been here at TAMU we haven’t gotten any fanworks in that way just yet.

Nancy D.

I also love the old SF pulp magazines with their covers and earlier stories.

Jeremy B.

Those pulps are just the best.

Wells

Fans comment more on AO3 than they did in the old print zines.

Claudia R.

Haha, yes Wells

MeeDee

LOC and reader feedback: “Uphill in the snow, both ways”

Claudia R.

Speaking of wills and donations, What would you like fans, in particular, to know about the importance of preserving their history and works?

Wells

I remember being hugged by an editor who exclaimed, “She writes Locs!

Pete B

It’s easier, Wells, and doesn’t reflect fan interest back then.

krati

Do you get fanworks from celebrities?

Jeremy B.

To answer your question, Claudia: Fans, some of you may not think so, but what you create, it’s part of our shared cultural history. It has value, it has merit, it has future significance. The fanworks you create – be it fanfic, fanart, vids, filk, whatever – are important, because to understand SF&F as a whole, we need to understand not just the creations themselves, but how those creations are received. How do you respond to them as fans? How do they inspire you? What makes you passionate about them and how do you express that passion? Without knowing that, we’ll never have the whole story. YOU are part of that story.

Also, the things you create and the things you do? We keep those because we want future generations to hear the creative voices of individuals and communities who aren’t just the mainstream, the famous, the people who usually have their records and their lives preserved in documents. If we restricted ourselves just to that, we’d lose a large and important part of the overall cultural record.

I also believe there is real value in documenting how people express themselves creatively outside corporate and mainstream organizational influence. How are people telling their own stories? How are they interpreting stories and characters and universes beyond what movie studios and publishers and, yes, even the original creators have dictated to them? In an age of increased cultural homogenization, fans and their fanworks allow for an escape hatch through which we as consumers are not passive but can take control of the story. That kind of proactive creativity is also a phenomenon worthy of preservation.

Jeremy B.

You mean Big Name Fans, or celebrities?

krati

I mean some fanworks that are sent to celebrities from their fans.

Jeremy B.

Ah. Hmmmm…..none come to mind immediately for me, anyway.

Nancy D.

I agree with Jeremy. We have talked here about preserving what the collections mean to the fan/donor. We are going to try and do some “oral histories” Our donations often come from a fan, not particularly the creator and we would like some way to capture why they became a fan

Pete B

Fans to know: As scholarly and popular attention focuses more and more on fandom, it becomes increasingly important to preserve the activity of fan creators and collectors. If institutions can preserve the activity of fandom, which I consider to be a popular engagement with commercial culture that is a growing phenomena, then fans should consider long-term preservation AND access to be the way that they can best communicate with the future about something they were passionate about.

Claudia R.

That sounds like a wonderful idea, Nancy.

Wells

Then it’s like collecting for the Military History collection at LC. Get the oral histories. By the way, did you know that Lucasfilm did an entire conventions’ worth of histories at one Celebration?

Jeremy B.

I agree, Nancy, that sounds like a great project. We really need to start doing more of that, too. I know the SF Oral History Association is working these kinds of projects, but it’d be nice if institutions like ours could collaborate.

Claudia R.

Do you know what they intended to do with them, Wells?

MeeDee

I and a few other fans have been working on a media fandom oral history project. We need more fans willing to interview other fans over the phone.

Wells

Despite what it may sound like, I’ve worked in many fandoms — but SW most extensively. I think that they are archived somewhere out there. Josh Kushins who is now at the AFI in LA did the interviewing.

Nancy D.

Sounds great thanks for the links

Jeremy B.

MeeDee is the best in the world, by the way. She has been such a champion for the preservation of fanworks.

Claudia R.

At this time we’d like to get questions from the audience for our panelists, either about any of their answers or anything we haven’t covered yet. (Or if you’ve asked the questions earlier but it got lost in the discussion).

But let’s try asking questions two at a time so that we can ensure they’re addressed before we move on to more. Did anyone not get their question answered earlier?

Mrs. P.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about fandom since you started these collections?

Pete B

krati: we do get things, often, from celebrities. We have and continue to receive additions to Nicholas Meyer’s papers, an alumni, the writer, director of Star Trek movies and Sherlock novels. We have many actors’, artists’, directors’, etc. papers in our collections. Then there’s the stuff that comes in from celebs I meet at cons.

MeeDee

Pete you mentioned there were three classes this year at Iowa that centered on fandom. Can you elaborate?

Claudia R.

Ok, that’s Mrs. P and MeeDee. Let’s wait for replies and then we’ll get two more people asking.

Pete B

Oral Histories: Through Morgan Dawn, MPH, and OTW, we have the Media Fan Oral History Project online through our Digital Library (link to follow). We also have a Fan Fiction Oral History site in the works, again, available through our DL in about two weeks. Over fifty interviews with fans as to their histories.

Nancy D.

I am sometimes surprised by what fans collect. Last year we got a donation of Mr Potato Heads. I had not kept up with the Star Wars ones and did not know they existed

Wells

🙂

Jeremy B.

To answer MPH, I have been surprised, pleasantly so, by the sheer commitment fans give to the things that they love. The imagination, the sheer work of assembling fanzines, of editing fanvids, of recording filk, of doing cosplay, of putting on cons – it’s all such a beautiful testament to the love fans have. I was never really aware of the depth and breadth involved until I started working with fanworks.

Wells

Have you followed the new documentary Squee!

Claudia R.

Ok, while Pete works on MeeDee’s question, do we have two more people with questions?

MeeDee

Here is an earlier question from krati: Digitisation of materials can solve a lot of problems. It will also reach a wider audience. Is it an option?

Nancy D.

I also enjoy all the great scholarly articles and books about fandom and that it is a serious academic study

Pete B

Classes: Last semester, I had four classes devoted to media fandom, fanfic and zines, and the papers of Nicholas Meyer. It was amazing and the insights of the students were eye-openers. Then, this semester, I’m working with a class focused on pulp fiction (we have over 5,000 pulps, over 350 titles, every genre) and fanzines, 1936-2000. Also, a class on Star Trek fanzines and current fan practices was a lot of fun with fans getting me up to date on recent activities and new forms of devotion.

Wells

Have you had any legal issues with any of the collections and the digitalization?

That sounds great, Pete!

Nancy D.

Our music library is working with a company to see if they can get their music zines digitized. The company would research the copyright issues

Claudia R.

1936 to 2000 is quite a range! Is there a favorite period or does that just vary by each class group Pete?

Nancy D.

Not as good as having them available for free, but the reality of academia

Claudia R.

What size is that collection, Nancy?

Nancy D.

I think it might be between 5-7,000 issues

Jeremy B.

On digitization – yes, it can be an option, and it needs to be in many cases. but I think it needs to be approached carefully and older materials can’t just simply be scanned and thrown up on the Internet willy-nilly. When digitizing fanworks, we need to remember that many are copyrighted, and many fans who created those might have privacy concerns that need to be considered.

We have a digitization project going on now (thanks to MeeDee for making this possible!) – the Sandy Hereld Media Fanzine Collection – in which we’ve created a repository of digitized media fanzines dating back to the Spockanalia days. In doing this, we’ve been careful to act only with permissions of creators, and in most cases thus far, to provide only limited access. But the collection is growing, and we hope to allow wider and wider access as time goes on.

Pete B

At Iowa, we’re in the process of digitizing 10,000 fanzines from the Rusty Hevelin Collection, the first mass-digitization of its kind. We’re going around the copyright issues, for now, by using a DIY approach that allows fans to be transcribers. This will lead to the first searchable database for fanzines. It means that researchers will be able to search across thousands of zines for info they need/want. It’s a huge project and one we’re very proud of.

Claudia R.

Whew, quite a project Nancy!

MeeDee

Many universities are now digitizing music and other material. They manage copyright by keeping the collections “closed” to faculty and students. Ex: UCLA collection of early Mexican music

Claudia R.

Pete, you mentioned the use of fans as transcribers. We know that you have an ongoing relationship with the OTW as a channel for fan donations. Are there other things fans can do to help all of you in your work?

krati

Wow! That’s a lot of work.

Pete B

Pulps: The favorite period is 30’s and 40’s but new faculty are getting interested in the earliest we have, 19th C., and there is also interest in the detective pulps of the 40’s and 50’s.

Nancy D.

Copyright is always a big concern when making something available to a larger audience. The question is sometimes make it available on campus or to a wider audience

Mrs. P.

We really, really need to be moving towards as much digitalization of these materials as possible, both for accessibility and conservation. More fan support regarding visibility and access is needed. Great strides have been made, but we’ve got a long ways to go.

Bobdog54

Do you do anything special when a fanzine includes comments that border on problematic re: slander or libel?

MeeDee

Pete, the Rusty Hevelin Collection project sounds very similar to the Haithi Trust project which was recently held to be fair use (creating a searchable database).

Nancy D.

We also have a smaller project to use Text Encoding to search the language and structure of some of the pulps from the 1930s

Jeremy B.

Oh, that sounds really interesting!

Nancy D.

I think conservation is a big concern–not just the pulps, but not as old mimeographed zines are fading

Wells

I sure know that!

Pete B

Fan help: I think that the transcription project is more of interest to SF fans interested in the earliest days of fandom. Many of the transcribers, however, are also media fans and have expressed interest because of an interest in fan origins. It would be great if media fans got more involved. I also think word of mouth, as we’ve all mentioned, is a great help.

Let other fans know that we’re working hard to preserve their history. And I don’t need to see everything come to Iowa (honest). Every fan collection that’s preserved helps everybody and avoids the dumpster. That’s what’s most important, not the size of our collections or the great things we have.

Jeremy B.

Yes, most of those older zines having been made on cheap acidic paper, there’s a concern with stability of the items.

Claudia R.

Yes, I’d think it’s amazing they’re still readable at this point. It wasn’t a technology designed for long-term documents.

krati

Nancy materials from bowling library are also only available to the students and staff, I was denied access. Is there a way to access materials? (this question is to all: how do you access the materials online?)

MeeDee

There are a few fans who are scanning their collections for many reasons: space, preservation, fading eyesight (easier to read fanzines online when you can enlarge text). In fact disability accessibility is another reason to digitize older fanworks

Jeremy B.

Which is why so many fans I meet are astonished that we want to keep their stuff! They’re often just amazed that something they thought was so ephemeral is actually historic.

Nancy D.

Most of popular culture seems designed to be disposable culture and a challenge to preservation over time

Bobdog54

I have a logistical question about proofreading the scanned material

Claudia R.

A good point about accessibility, MeeDee

Pete B

MeeDee: Yes, the Hathi decision is key! If transcription is fair use, we have a whole new direction to move in. And the ground-up, grassroots aspects of transcription and DIY of all kinds is appealing to me.

Claudia R.

Go ahead Bobdog

Bobdog54

Are the people who proof able to see the original materials?

MeeDee

Bobdog54 – the types of scanning many are doing is merely creating PDFs of the fanwork “as is”. No conversion to Word or Text which requires proof reading.

Wells

Do you get personal letter archives?

Pete B

Yes, the originals are online with access limited to transcribers and those who will vet the transcription.

Bobdog54

I find myself having to bother Mrs. P with random questions because the scanner didnot like the mimeos

MeeDee

There is a project led by a Star Trek fanzine editor to take Star Trek zine fic and scan/convert it to upload to fanfiction archives (with author permission). For that they need both scanners and proofreaders because they are converting it to text.

Jeremy B.

Yes, I think we all have collections containing personal correspondence.

Bobdog54

The PDF’s are searchable?

Pete B

Wells: We do get personal letters, whole collections and correspondence in general collections. The letters are some of my favorite things and I’m worried about the loss of correspondence in the digital age.

Mrs. P.

May I ask a question?

Nancy D.

Yes we have some personal correspondence in some authors’ collections

Claudia R.

Go ahead Mrs. P

Pete B

Bobdog54: The PDF’s are not searchable but the transcriptions will be.

Mrs. P.

Are there any statistics about how many people have access to the collections for either personal or research purposes? When researchers utilize your collections, what fields of study/disciplines tend to be their focus? Media studies? Gender studies? Others?

Wells

There should be some interesting books coming out of these considering the lively newsletter and personal correspondence of the past 30 years…

Jeremy B.

Yes, we keep stats on researchers and their motives. (Sorry, I don’t have them to hand myself.) We get researchers from English in many cases, but also Women and Gender Studies, Communications, and other fields.

Nancy D.

We keep stats on who uses our collections. I would say cultural studies, gender studies, English, and media mostly

Pete B

MPH: I am not keeping use statistics for fan collections, nor is the dept. I can tell you that it’s a dozen or more patrons every week, sometimes many more connected to classes. A rhetoric class came in last week with an assignment to find and identify fanzines. American Studies, Queer studies, English, Women’s Studies, Gender, you name it. These collections have never been more used or popular.

Mrs. P.

*big grin*

Claudia R.

Pete, you mentioned something interesting, which we touched on earlier discussing the increase in visitors to Jeremy’s collection due to the Martin collection. This is to all of you, have you noticed an increase in use of the collections, and do you have any thoughts about why?

Mrs. P.

Yes, I’d like to know that, too.

Pete B.

Link to Media Fan Oral History Project [at the University of Iowa]

Mrs. P.

Piggy-backing on Claudia’s question: How have perception and attitudes changed regarding your collections since your media/fandom special collections began, both internally (support from your institutions) and externally (interest and participation from donors)?

Nancy D.

We have increased use in our collections not just from classes, but more students are interested in popular culture in general. Since Bowling Green considers itself the birthplace of popular culture in the Midwest, our administration has come to see our special collections as important

Jeremy B.

We’ve had a fairly steady increase in the use of the collections (SF across the board, not just fanworks); I think a lot of this can be traced to the increasing legitimacy of SF&F, and fan studies, as areas of study. As fan culture has become more and more recognized in the mainstream as a ‘thing’, and as examples of SF&F find new audiences (i.e. the popularity of “Game of Thrones”), I think more people see these things are important in and of themselves and recognize the scholarly merit of them.

Wells

Or has “Game of Thrones” raised people’s awareness of fandom and fanfic

Jeremy B.

It probably has, to some degree. If anything has raised people’s awareness of fandom and fanfic lately, it’s probably things like Harry Potter.

Bobdog54

I have seen a marked increase in mentions of fanfic in the mainstream press

Claudia R.

So it’s more a matter of growing popular awareness of fandom and fan practices leading to greater use of the collections. To vary this just a bit, did you tend to see more faculty or researcher use of collections before and now more student use?

Jeremy B.

Certainly we’ve had huge increases in donor interest in fanworks, as more fans become aware that places like TAMU, Iowa, BGSU, etc., exist and are collecting these things.

Pete B

There has been a huge increase in the last two years. More classes coming to see zines, fanfic, convention materials. This corresponds to the increase in science fiction, fantasy, and horror films, tv series, books, comics, conventions, etc. “Nerd” culture has achieved dominance and is now a subject for creators as well as fans. The overall shift to these genres by a majority of people, worldwide, is growing and generating thousands of new fans.

What remains to be seen is whether new fans will engage in as much fan activity as in the past. And how will they document/collect the history of that activity. I’m thinking of the growth of cosplay and the need to preserve millions of photos, digitally.

Wells

I’ve noticed that as well, Bobdog but generally written by people who haven’t any real knowledge of it.

Jeremy B.

I’d say a definite increase from both researchers and students, although – anecdotally – in my shop it’s probably more on the researcher side.

Nancy D.

More classes are using our collections and more external researchers

Claudia R.

Bobdog’s right, I think just about every publication out there has had an article now, but you’re right about the struggle to get good information in them, Wells

Nancy D.

Plus there are so many more student groups springing up on Fan related topics

Bobdog54

So true, usually as a kind of “click-bait” or an attempt to sound “in the know”

Pete B

Nancy raised a good point. I’m enjoying unprecedented support from my Department Head, Greg Prickman, and the University Librarian, Lohn Culshaw, for everything I do. That has been a big change and makes my job much easier.

Jeremy B.

San Diego Comic-Con, for good or ill, I think, has really brought the idea of fan activity to a wider audience. Every year there’s about a million news stories about SFCC, all of which seem to talk about cosplay like it’s some new and strange practice. 🙂

My Director is very committed to the idea of collecting these kinds of materials, and we’ve also had positive word from our Dean. (We introduced him to the concept of slash, which was fun.)

Claudia R.

Or let’s not forget Jeremy, that every year is the year that the media discovers that women are also fans!

Pete B

Right, Jeremy. Cosplay invented by Myrtle Douglas in 1939 at the first WorldCon in New York.

Kathryn S.

Jezebel had a great article on that recently.

Claudia R.

(Very cool, Kathryn!)

Speaking of media coverage, do all of you tend to get contacts from the press about either the content of your collections or as spokespeople for fans?

Jeremy B.

Exactly. But even though they don’t always know how to report on it (or things happen like Buzzfeed will run a listicle on “The 10 Weirdest Pieces of Fanfic!”, or some such), it’s still getting the concepts out there.

Claudia: I know, right?

Wells

May I introduce myself? I’ve been a journalist for decades, and engaged in fandom/fic for even longer. So I wince when I’m seeing articles that don’t understand the fanfic background or obviously haven’t bothered to find good sources. My SF fan-roots start long predating the Internet.

Nancy D.

Yes I get the press asking for information or comments on a story.

Claudia R.

Any that you can recall recently, Nancy?

Jeremy B.

Some. (Not as much as Pete, I imagine, what with the Havelin Collection!) But I am sometimes contacted by the media – certainly when George R.R. Martin is involved, anyway.

Pete B

I do interviews all the time but it’s risky and they always get things wrong. This follows what I learned as a musician. But any publicity is good if it leads somebody to the collections.

Wells

Ugh on Buzzfield’s listicle.

Claudia R.

Wells, I think that getting more fans into the media has usually been the biggest reason that better information is starting to be found.

Nancy D.

Yes some journalists I think just want a good quote, but others will dig deeper

Wells

🙂

Pete B

It helps when the interviewer is a fan.

Jeremy B.

I’m hopeful that more journalists might start looking past the superficial when it comes to fans.

Claudia R.

Does anyone have additional questions for our guests? Please don’t be shy!

Nancy D.

Maybe it depends on their deadlines too

Mrs. P.

“But any publicity is good if it leads somebody to the collections.” Yes. Even David Gerrold’s long-ago derogatory statements on fanworks are what led many fans to find fanfic in the first place.

Pete B

I’d love to hear what fans think we should be doing.

Jeremy B.

I agree with Pete. How can we help you?

Claudia R.

(It’s a bit like banned books that libraries have been celebrating this week, Mrs. P. If it’s smut, it must be good!)

Selena

I know you’re all limited in what you can do by your resources, time, and copyrights, but we really, really appreciate anything you do to get this material available to a wider audience online.

Mrs. P.

One thing to think about: I particularly enjoy the University of Iowa tumblr account. It would be great to see more fandom items in a visual format highlighted on a regular basis.

Pete B

I was on a panel with Gerrold at ICON and asked him about his complicity in the Blake 7 Wars and he refused to talk about it. I’m still surprised I had the guts to bring it up. You’re right MPH, it all helps a little.

Wells

Reassure people that their work isn’t just weird but have a reason to be kept. 🙂

MeeDee

Me too! The visuals are very effective in getting people engaged.

Jeremy B.

Yes, it would. I’m hoping that when the TAMU Libraries revamp their website and free up our social media presence a bit, we can do things like that.

krati

What Selena said. I am from India and it is so hard to get materials

Bobdog54

I wish we could see more ‘publicity’ for the people who are putting their hearts on the line and putting their writing out there.

MeeDee

Instagram is also popular.

Mrs. P.

Pete, you are very brave. Those two things are like a couple of head-on collisions.

Pete B

Selena, it’s fun every day and then they pay me. It is my pleasure to play a small role in preserving fan culture.

Selena

Sounds like a dream job, Pete 🙂

Nancy D.

Sometimes it is the resources to do everything you would like

Bobdog54

It is exhilarating to watch an author improve sometimes through horrible flamers

Wells

It takes courage to put the stuff out there since feedback can be unpleasant – even if unwarranted. In print days, you didn’t have that problem (as much)

Pete B

It is and the connections I’ve made keep me going through the challenges. MPH can tell you that I take all of this personally and never want to let down anyone that’s put their faith in us.

Claudia R.

Actually Pete, that brings up a good point for all of you. Have you seen an increase in popular culture collections in libraries and/or library science students who want to specialize in what you do?

Wells

Great question!

Claudia R.

Basically, what do you see as the next generation of special librarians working with these collections?

MeeDee

When you folks do outreach, can you also stress if your collections are open to the public (in person). Fandom Tourism would be fun. Iowa, Ohio and Texas here we come.

Wells

I wonder if there should be courses amid the Special Collection offerings for this kind of work?

Claudia R.

(Very true, MeeDee! I plan to make it some day)

Jeremy B.

I have had several students who are astounded by the SF Collection and want to work in that particularly specialized field. They’re fans themselves, and I think the ones rising up to take our places and to be our colleagues are likely to be popular culture-immersed young people, who have their own particular fandoms they love, and recognize the importance of archives.

aethel

What qualifications do you need to get such an awesome job?

Nancy D.

I often have students tell me they would like to have my job and have seen more library students interested in popular culture. I think that is great and I see more academic libraries having some sort of popular culture related collections

Jeremy B.

Oh, yes, MeeDee, I’m always stressing to people that as a public university, our materials are open to anyone and everyone.

Jeremy B.

For this job, you’ll need an M.L.S., and a passion for the work!

Wells

I know someone who qualifies… 🙂

aethel

Thanks, Jeremy! Did you have previous experience that helped?

Nancy D.

I have an MLS, but our newer employees in special collections come more from an archivist’s background. So they are different paths

Pete B

Claudia: I have. More all the time. There is now the designation, acafan, to describe fans who become academics and pursue their fan passions as their field. More PhD candidates write dissertations involving fandom and SF at Iowa and dream of careers that combine their interests. And so many grad students in the Library School want to be me! They all want my secret and I don’t have one. But I work with all of them and try to help as I can.

Jeremy, I think you met one of my best students, Katie Heffner, at SFRA in Liverpool. She is an undergrad, working like a grad student, delivering papers at conferences, and off to a great academic/fan career. Very impressed by her devotion.

MeeDee

Quick question: are there any special collections outside the US focusing on fandom?

Jeremy B.

Yes, I did meet Katie; she was great!

Jeremy B.

As for previous experience, I’d been an archivist for about 12 years before coming on board at TAMU. But really, what got me the SF Curator job was the fact that I loved SF&F, and had worked with fanworks before at Iowa.

Nancy D.

Good question, but I don’t really know

MeeDee

I know Australia has a collection donated by a BNF. One Scottish Star Trek publisher deposited every zine she published (as required by law) with the British library.

Wells

Where? And what kind of fan works?

Pete B

Foreign collections: I believe there are, especially in those countries with active fandoms. The two things are connected.

Olivia R.

If I may ask, what departments (at Iowa especially) tend to make use of the collections? Cultural Studies, American Studies, Media Studies, Gender Studies, etc?

MeeDee

Pete, I’d love to see a list of overseas locations. I get occasional queries from fans overseas looking for homes for their collection.

Pete B

Print collections in Latin America are common and, naturally, all the English-speaking countries. Europe has some good collections, especially Germany.

Nancy D.

Popular Culture and American Studies, sometimes Gender Studies for the most part

Wells

Really! Fascinating.

Pete B

MeeDee: I can work on that for you.

Mrs. P.

I want to personally thank Nancy, Pete, and Jeremy for the work they do with these collections. It’s a labor of love for everyone involved, and we all know it takes a village to raise a special collection! There’s a lot of unsung heroes and heroines out there — in fact, everyone has the opportunity to be one, from donating what they have, to outreach at cons, to word-of-mouth to fellow fans, to encouragement on many different levels. It’s tireless work, but preserving and documenting fan history is paramount.

Claudia R.

Yes, our Open Doors project works with non-English archives as well. I believe the first non-English collection imported to the AO3 was a German one. There are more in the pipeline.

Bobdog54

Here, here!

Wells

Can I make a recommendation?

Jeremy B.

Hmmm, good question, MeeDee. I know of several overseas SF collections, but I’m not sure how solid they are on fanworks. University of Liverpool is likely to have a number (it’s the biggest SF library in Europe), and, yes, the University of Sydney has a lot of fanzines.

Pete B

Wells: go ahead, please

Nancy D.

Thanks, I enjoy my job and forget sometimes it is work

Jeremy B.

What Nancy said. 🙂

Wells

I discovered Jeremy through a friend. It wasn’t that easy a search. if there is a way to simplify that – a joint email or Facebook (there maybe, I don’t know), it would be helpful. Just one touchstone — the world is too complicated out there.

MeeDee

I’d like to stress that fans need to preserve the little things, not just fanzines. They need to preserve the newsletters, the convention program guides, the photos, the letters to and from. These show the human side of fandom and the deep personal connections we form.

Mrs. P.

Yes, MeeDee. The letterzines!

Wells

How about the chat logs from the 1990s? Digitally?

Claudia R.

That’s a good point, Wells. Librarians, is there an association you all belong to just for your specialization?

MeeDee

Wells, I love the idea – Fandom History Facebook? Fandom History Preservation Facebook

Pete B.

MeeDee: Absolutely! Save it all, donate it all. Fans always say, “but you wouldn’t want that”…yes I do! Nothing is trivial.

Nancy D.

I agree with Pete–nothing is trivial

Jeremy B.

We have an official/unofficial Science Fiction Collections Consortium, but that’s really more of an internal thing just for us. We really do need a more general web presence, though, I agree.

Mrs. P.

Like the grain of rice at Nancy’s shop… preserved in a tiny, tiny folder…

Wells

And a user friendly name…

Jeremy B.

Yes, MeeDee is exactly right. The story of fandom is incredibly rich, and there are so many bricks making up the wall.

Pete B

Claudia: I’m not aware of any group that represents librarians/archivists like us. There’s SFRA but that’s not speciffically for librarians.

MeeDee

And Wells, while there are many issues that surround digitally preserving mailing lists and chat logs, if you have them, share them with trusted people. I know one fan who has printed out her chat logs and kept them in a binder. She says they will last longer

Wells

And because it’s “fun” people don’t take it as seriously. It’s not their life’s work.

Jeremy B.

Pete, there’s SFCC!

Bobdog54

How do we document the wonderful friendships that are formed from a common interest in a fandom. I was lucky enough to meet a friend of my heart through fanfic

Wells

I agree on the logs problem.

My friends from high school were all through a common interest in SF. We still keep in touch.

Claudia R.

I was curious because I know there are sometimes subgroups of library associations (especially for academic libraries). Just wondering if SLA or ACRL had one for example

Jeremy B.

That’s sweet. Well, preserving correspondence that is exchanged (whether print or email) is a good way to have the history of that relationship preserved.

Jeremy B.

ALA has a group concerned with SF – I think they’re called the Imagineers, or something like that. It’s a pretty low-activity group, to be honest.

Claudia R.

Ah, the non-participatory community, I know it well…

Pete B

Jeremy: Maybe something could be done in the future, through SFCC. I’d like to see them more agreeable to direct contact with fans, however, and less reliance on the traditional academic strategies.

MeeDee

Bobdog54 – write up your story and then donate it to the archives. Or perhaps try one of the oral history projects. It would be great if one or more of the universities could start a “Story Corps” like project where people use an app to record themselves or their friends on the phone and then upload.

Jeremy B.

I agree, Pete. I do want us to be more publicly visible.

Nancy D.

We have a Consortium of Popular Culture Collections in the Midwest. It has not met for a while, but was helpful to talk with others in more popular culture type collections

Bobdog54

I will talk to my friend – that would be wonderfully cool

Claudia R.

Yes, especially since librarians tend to be a pretty cooperative bunch, Nancy

Nancy D.

Story Corps idea sounds great

Claudia R.

Ok, we’re coming up on the final five minutes of our chat. Any last questions for our panelists?

Pete B

Nancy: Yes, maybe the bigger Popular Culture umbrella would help. It bears some thought and work. We should definitely broach this somehow through ALA, ACRL.

Wells

A user-friendly name… I like MeeDee’s idea. Seriously (as a holder of a MLS) a name that sounds kind of stuffy isn’t as attractive.

Pete B

Story Corps sounds great!

Jeremy B.

Nancy: I agree.

Wells

Is there any way people here who want to reach you can? I know one person who is on her mobile reading but can’t comment.

Pete B

peter-balestrieri [at] uiowa [dot] edu and The Hevelin Collection tumblr account.

Jeremy B.

jwbrett [at] library [dot] tamu [dot] edu

Wells

Thank you all. Great discussion.

Nancy D.

Also maybe other alliances like the local historical associations. Ours has a comic collection display coming up and a way to network with local community

ndown [at] bgsu [dot] edu

Bobdog54

Thank you for joining us. I learned so much today.

Pete B

Many thanks! Lots of fun and hopefully, helpful, too.

Paula G.

Thank you!

Jeremy B.

It was fun. I hope we helped!

Nancy D.

Thanks for the great questions

krati

Thanks, Pete, Jeremy and Nancy for the contact I really would like to get some guidance 🙂

Jeremy B.

That’s what we’re here for.

Pete B

krati: my pleasure

Michelle D.

Thank you so much Jeremy, Pete, and Nancy! For your time and of course your work!

Claudia R.

We’re now at the 2 hour mark so on behalf of the OTW, I’d like to give enormous thanks to our panelists, Peter, Jeremy, and Nancy for agreeing to take part and for everything they’ve shared today. If you have missed any part of the chat, we’ll be posting a transcript by tomorrow.

For anyone who wants to stay and continue chatting, this room will remain open to guests for the next hour. And for anyone who wants to find out more about the Open Doors project, please visit their website or catch up on news about their activities.

Thank you to everyone for coming!

2 thoughts to “Open Doors Celebration Panel Transcript”

  1. This makes me so happy. Thanks Open Doors and thanks to all the libraries for continuing this work!

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