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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ABZ: Artists' Books & Zines: Zines

A guide to the artist's books and zines in Ricker's collections, materials across the university library system, notable makers of interest, and further related resources.

Related Guides

What are Zines?

How to make a zine: A guide to ideating, publishing, and distributing a DIY zine, written by Rona Akbari and illustrated by Somnath Bhatt. 

published November 19, 2018

If you’ve never heard of a zine, fret not, you’re in the right place. I’ve made a bunch of zines and contributed to friends’ zines and, chances are, you may have made one too even if you didn’t know that’s what they were called. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned creator, zines are a great way to publish your own art, poems, writing, musings, and anything else you want to express—without needing anyone else’s permission to do so.

I hope this guide will empower and inspire you to share your ideas with the world in the form of a zine.

Love, Rona

Akbari, Rona, and Somnath Bhatt. “How to Make a Zine.” The Creative Independent. Accessed February 12, 2021.


Barnard College's definition

A zine, short for fanzine or magazine, is a DIY* subculture self-publication, usually made on paper and reproduced with a photocopier or printer. Zine creators are often motivated by a desire to share knowledge or experience with people in marginalized or otherwise less-empowered communities.

Barnard College, Columbia University. “Zine Basics | Barnard Zine Library.” Accessed February 12, 2021.

Tips for Searching for AB&Z in the Catalog

screenshot of the results of an Easy Search with "artists' books" as the keyword search term


Since they present many cataloging challenges, it's not the most effective search strategy if you do a simple keyword Easy Search for artists' books or a keyword search for zines. As pictured above, that'll get you around 50,000 results in the library catalog for artists' books and about 350 for zines. That can be overwhelming and most of those also won't be especially helpful. A more useful way to find what you want is by searching through Subject Tags and then, filtering your results by using the tools on the left hand column that include:

  • Availability
  • Library 
  • Subject 
  • Author/Creator 
  • Creation Date
  • Language
  • New Records


Some Subject Tags you can directly search through are:


Some other Keyword Search Terms you can also try besides "zines" and "artists' books" in your searches in and out of the library catalog are:

  • DIY Publishing
  • Independent Publishing
  • Alternative Media 
  • Comics/ Comix
  • Experimental Books
  • Altered Books 


Particularly helpful, is trying Boolean Searching. These techniques help you expand and narrow your search results beyond what the available filters offer. Then, when you do find something that suits your needs, noting the language being used to describe the item can help open up new more productive avenues in your search strategy. The Subject tags are also live links that you can follow through to see what else is catalogued as directly related.


Also, it's useful to note that some collections of materials may come up as individual records rather than individual works. For example, there are multiple records at Ricker that are not singular items, but actually collections of zines that were added to the library together at the same time because they're copies of an exchange between a class or group. Zines, especially, are commonly exchanged and made in groups of people around a common topic, so to understand the work fully you also need to know about the others they were made in relationship with. 


Additionally, it's good to know that there's a lot of variations on spelling "artists' books!" Some people write it "artist's books," others "artists book" and so on. 


Of course, you can also always ask for support! We're here if any questions come up for you. The Ask A Librarian chat box will get you in direct contact with a librarian at UIUC, and if instant messaging isn't for you, you can email us at or look through the answered Frequently Asked Questions down below!



Catalog FAQ