The zine life of Matt

My name’s Matt, and I’m the zine intern. I work for & with Heidy Berthoud, Head of Technical Services. Since I’m the first zine intern my responsibilities vary day-to-day, but I mostly just help Heidy do whatever she needs done with our zines. As a student employee, I don’t do a lot of the metadata stuff, but I do read & research the zines so that I can summarize them for the online catalogs (yeah I wrote a lot of those awkward and incomplete zine descriptions). That part of the job is a lot of fun, and has helped me learn loads about zines that I never would’ve otherwise, which has been really helpful to me because I’m also writing about the archived zine for my thesis.

I also help with zine outreach stuff. Most of the library outreach takes place on campus, but I sometimes get to off campus events too, like the Poughkeepsie Mini Makers Faire, where the zine library hosted a table visited (to my surprise) by an hourly llama parade. I liked that. Most of the outreach work, however, is preparation and desk work – putting together Vassar Zine Library zines and zinemaking resource packets, meeting with other students making zines for their orgs, critiquing the Libguide, writing bits like this for the zine library…


I’m lucky to have been given a lot of freedom directing my work, which I’ve really valued – especially since Vassar’s zine collection is so new. Heidy has been extremely considerate of my input on everything from shelving & display to database search terms & subject headings. I’ve also learned a lot about library operations while here (thanks Tracy for teaching me how to sew bindings!).

By the end of the semester I hope to create something (a zine?) to reflect my thoughts on the zine library, what I’ve gotten from working there, how I might change it in the future, that kind of stuff. Working in the zine library has shifted my understanding of library resources and their use, especially by allowing me to read some of the librarian-made zines in our collections, like Lower East Side Librarian, The Borough Is My Library, Librarians and Archivists to Palestine and others (see picture of some librarian-made zines below).


Overall, I think I have the best student job on campus and I’m really thankful to be doing what I am. Also, I hope they renew this position for next year!

Note from Heidy:

Matt Higgins is our wonderful and gracious “zintern.” If you would like to know more about Matt or zines or the Vassar Zine Library, please join us on Wednesday, April 27th, for a Zines 101 workshop in the Class of ’51 Reading Room of the Main Library from 3:00-4:30.

Notes for a Captive Audience: Wendy Graham

If you have gone to the washroom in Main Library lately, you will have noticed the Library Research Services’ monthly newsletter. For poetry month, our research intern, Molly James, interviewed Professor of English Wendy Graham about her research on author Henry James.

What is your current research focusing on? How did you decide on it?

When I finished Henry James’s Thwarted Love, I realized I did not want to become a cottage industry in Gay studies approaches to James, in other words, typecast. I’ve spent the last 14 years working on a manuscript about the British Pre-Raphaelites. This work focuses on artist collectives, homoeroticism, and fame. The Pre-Raphaelites relied on their friends, and paradoxically their enemies, to drum up interest in their poetry and painting in the Victorian media. I’ve relied on the library’s databases for access to hundreds of periodical and newspaper reviews, published between 1848-1945, to substantiate my argument that scandal was a vehicle for a serious reputation in Victorian cultural circles.

How did you become interested in Henry James? Why did you write a book on him?

Henry James is the greatest American writer from a stylistic point of view. Whenever I pick up a book to read recreationally, whether Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart or Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, I invariably find references to Henry James’s craftsmanship. This is less surprising in Virginia Woolf or even Bowen, who’s writing in the 1930s, but Aubyn is writing this minute. Speaking both of the protagonist and, I very much fear, the author, that a drug addled upper class British twit, who was sexually abused by his father, finds James’s prose transfixing is good enough for me.

I’m looking forward to teaching Henry James in my six-week course in the fall.

Which resources do you use for your research and how do you access them? Do you use any of the resources that the Vassar Library offers?

I use databases that provide access to primary sources as well as current scholarly articles. The library used to have more hard copies of 19th-century periodicals, both American and British. I find it useful to browse in actual copies of newspapers and magazines, because advertising and marginalia, the layout of the magazine, and other details provide context that is hard to access in a digital format.

Does your research interests intersect with the courses you teach? If yes, how so?

There is a tricky balance between riding a hobby-horse in class, which can make students feel that their expectations or interests have been sidelined, and showing enthusiasm for research interests that intersect with courses. If I spend time on art in my Victorian literature class or English 170, it is partly because the visual evidence is such a compact and succinct way of delivering a message. For example, when I am trying to explain the Freudian concept “displacement,” I show students René Magritte’s 2 paintings titled Rape, which superimpose a torso on a human face.

April is National Poetry Month. What is a poem that you enjoy, and why?

I am teaching Swinburne this coming week, so I’ll pick one of his poems: “Laus Veneris,” which was inspired by a drawing on the Tannhäuser legend, and then inspired a painting by Edward Burne-Jones. I like the theme of the ‘sister arts’.

New Faces in the Library: Arianna Schlegel

Last September, Vassar College Libraries welcomed a new librarian, Arianna Schlegel.

 Q. What work do you do at Vassar College Libraries?

I am the Metadata & Systems Librarian, which is a new role here at the library. I help take care of many of the software systems that keep our library running, especially our online catalog so that patrons can look up materials, locate them in our vast collection, and then check them out. I also support systems like those that run some of our research websites and our interlibrary loan, so I am lucky to get to work with a lot of different areas of the library, which I love.

Q. Have you worked at other libraries before coming to Vassar?

I worked at several academic libraries in Connecticut – two of the state universities, and one community college. Before that, my only “library job” prior to library school was actually here, in Vassar’s Art Library – I reshelved books during the winter break of my junior year! I must admit, more often than not you could find me with my nose buried in one of the books that I was supposed to be shelving…I learned so much about art and art history that winter!

Q. What did you do there, and how is it different from your work here?

I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to try my hand at a bunch of different aspects of library science. At Central Connecticut State University, I got to really dig into the digital collections, particularly the CT Gay & Lesbian Film Festival archives, and was able to create exhibits and code custom pages using APIs. At Capital Community College, I got to customize the online catalog and work as a reference librarian, which included sitting the desk and teaching information literacy classes. And at Western Connecticut State University, I got to focus on electronic resource access and website redesign. I really loved all of the things I’ve gotten to try, and I think that variety of experiences has really informed the beginning of my work here at Vassar.

Q. Why do you like (or not like) working in libraries?

I am an information sponge. I want to always, always be learning, a little bit about as much as I can, and I feel that libraries are the best venue for that! Working with people who are performing research on topics I am unfamiliar with just forces me outside of my known comfort zone and I feel as if I learn something new every day, something I might not have encountered outside of the library world. And of course, working at a library feeds my literature addiction.

Q. What are your interests outside of work?

I am an obsessive knitter and compulsive reader (so perhaps a somewhat stereotypical librarian? — but, I don’t own any cats!).  I have been known to binge-watch Netflix. And I love to bake. I dabble in small electronics, as well (I am passionate about bringing makerspaces in to libraries, as I feel they are an ideal match). Mostly, in line with my library tastes, if I can learn anything new, I love to give it a try. It might not always be up my alley, but I never know unless I check it out.

Q. You have an adorable dog.  Tell us about her!

Her name is Fall – not, as I originally assumed, because of her fawn-colored fur, but because she is, in fact, a total klutz. She is an Akita, quite small for her breed, which is a blessing for me because she can be a handful at times! Despite being almost 7 years old, she still looks like a puppy, so I can’t ever stay mad at her for long.