Staff Highlighter: Kiana Fekette

Kiana Fekette came to the Libraries a couple of years ago and was recently named Head of Digitization. Learn a bit about this North Carolina transplant.

What’s your background, and how did you come to work at the Libraries?

It’s a very long, somewhat complicated story of how I got to UT Libraries! Academically, I have BA in Archaeology with a double major in History and an MA in Anthropology with a focus in archaeology. More broadly, I went to university knowing that I absolutely loved history and books but wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do until I happened into a student position within my university’s special collections library as a conservation lab assistant. I knew then I wanted to pursue book and paper conservation but several major life events got in the way and I found myself working for Internet Archive after getting my undergraduate degree. Several years and one master’s degree later, we moved to Austin to be closer to my husband’s family. I wanted to work in something to do with cultural heritage but didn’t have any one specific goal in mind which is how I ended up looking for different library and archive positions.

What’s your title, and talk a little bit about what you do?

As of very recently (May 24th) I am the Head of Digitization within the Digital Stewardship and Preservation unit. Prior to this, I was the Digital Reformatting Coordinator and I started in 2021. As I am still transitioning into my new role, the majority of my responsibilities have stayed the same. I coordinate and execute the digitization of collections materials which include audio-visual and book/paper items. Our unit works closely with library staff members and patrons to make our collections materials more widely accessible by offering them in a digital format. 

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

 Knowing that so many people – both library staff and patrons – rely on the variety of resources produced by digitization. We’re not just taking high quality scans of items to keep on some random, inaccessible hard drive; our goal is to help others with the pursuit of knowledge and to ensure that these items are available for use across time and space.

What are you most proud of in your job?

Despite the small size of our unit, I am proud of the fact that we’re able to produce such a large quantity of archival-quality material for the library.

What has been your best experience at the Libraries?

 Any time the libraries staff is able to get together as a group is always such a fun time to meet new people and catch up with old friends. It’s always refreshing and reassuring to be in a space where you can truly feel the support for one another. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I’ve moved around a lot – first as a military kid, then as a nomadic adult. I’ve lived in Oklahoma, all over central North Carolina, Washington state, Hawai’i, Massachusetts, Ireland, and now Texas. My family is originally from central Pennsylvania (if you can pronounce Schuylkill and Yuengling, or have ever been to Knoebels, please come and find me – I’m sure we have lots to talk about!).

Dogs or cats?

Both! (I have two cats and a dog at home)

Favorite book, movie or album?

Book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Movie: The Princess Bride or Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Album: I don’t necessarily have a favorite album but my favorite musician is Andrew Bird

Cook at home, or go out for dinner? What and/or where?

I enjoy cooking but I also get very bored with food very easily so I’m always willing to go out to get something I wouldn’t otherwise cook. One of our favorite spots is Turnstile on Burnet Road. They’re both a coffee shop and a full-service bar with great breakfast tacos and truly incredible burgers.

What’s the future hold?

I have no clue, and I’m perfectly okay with that! I’m finally settling down in one spot for the first time in quite a while.

Read Hot and Digitized: Preserving the Outcasts with The Queer Zine Archive Project

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of, and future creative contributions to, the growing fields of digital scholarship.

Zines have long been a medium for weirdos, freaks, and outcasts on the margins, which means they’ve been a staple of queer expression. The Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) has been digitizing and preserving queer zines for twenty years

First of all, what are zines? Zines are DIY publications, usually staple-bound and made with printer paper. They’re cheap and easy to produce, and most zine makers give them away for free or sell them at low prices to recoup costs. This allows them to bypass mainstream publishers, so zines are often a medium for marginalized and radical voices. 

Zines developed out of Science Fiction fan culture in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the onset of photocopying technology coincided with the rise of punk music. Punk fans (who often overlapped with Sci-fi fans) latched onto zines as a way to write about their favorite bands, share stories, and build community. As such, zines have always been a venue for outsider expression and radical politics. In the 1990s, feminist and queer zine makers really took hold of the medium. Punk communities might have been made up of outcasts, but they weren’t immune to misogyny and homophobia. Women and LGBTQ punks experienced marginalization and discrimination within their scenes, and zines provided a much-needed space to voice these experiences and find other like-minded queers. 

So a project like QZAP is pretty revolutionary! This searchable database is run by a collective based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and it is and will remain free and open to use. QZAP’s goal is to create a “living history” so they continue to accept new submissions from contemporary queer zine makers. They hold a broad definition of “queer,” too, recognizing that identities and language change over time. Zine makers submit their physical zines to QZAP, and collective members, usually librarians, archivists, scholars, and graduate students, scan the zines and create the metadata. Like zines themselves, QZAP is a DIY enterprise!

QZAP’s homepage features a rotation of different zine covers. This featured zine is about the representation of Black Lesbians in the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

QZAP allows users to browse zines, which is one of my favorite ways to explore their collections. With so much interesting and obscure content, browsing QZAP’s collection is a fun, serendipitous experience. QZAP also has an Advanced Search option for users to find zines by author, place of publication, or year of publication. I’ve used QZAP when working with Women’s & Gender Studies classes so students can see a broad set of queer zines over time. While the website’s look and feel are pretty simple and the technology is a bit dated, students respond enthusiastically to the content. I think QZAP’s simple design and stable technology have made it a sustainable project, especially because it is run by a volunteer collective independent of a university or institution. 

Here’s a screenshot of a digitized zine and its metadata record in QZAP. I like that the metadata is so prominent next to the digital object.

One of my favorite things about QZAP is that it uses a specialized metadata schema just for zines called xZINECOREx, based on the more common DublinCore schema. Cataloging and describing zines are challenging. They often don’t have a title page with publication information. Sometimes no author or creator is listed, or the author goes by a pseudonym. Maybe they have a publication date, but often they do not.

A sample record using the xZINECOREx metadata schema.

Given these complexities, libraries and archives handle describing zines in all sorts of ways. The xZINECOREx schema provides a standard that can be used across institutions and by independent projects like QZAP. QZAP contributes metadata from its collection to the Zine Union Catalog, which aims to be a single place to search for zines across multiple libraries, archives, and independent collections. Because zines are ephemeral, this catalog is a great resource for scholars interested in the history of zines. 

A digital collection like QZAP is vital to preserving the history of these rare, hard-to-find publications, yet there remains great value in studying physical zines. The physical objects provide the reader with a unique, tactile experience. This is especially important for LGBTQ+ history, which is so often erased or hidden. Reading a personal, first-hand account from a queer punk in the 90s – from the actual paper zine that person made by hand – is visceral and powerful. It’s an experience hard to replicate in an online setting. If you find QZAP intriguing, I encourage you to stop by our Zine Collection on the 5th floor of the Fine Arts Library. Our collection has many queer zines, including many published in Texas, and dates back to the 1990s.  

Want to learn more about zines? Check out these resources: