Little Maga/Zine Collection History

The Little Maga/Zine Collection was created in the 1960s in response to the flourishing San Francisco Renaissance. SFPL librarians began collecting in earnest sometime around 1966. Despite a few obstacles “ the short life of many little magazines made it difficult to start and maintain subscriptions, distribution was occasionally disorganized, non-existent, or made only through friends or word of mouth; and the sometime anti-establishment attitudes of writers and publishers often precluded libraries from receiving little magazines “ the collection of 40 titles was assembled and opened to the public in the old Main Library’s Literature Department in 1967. Wild Dog, Beatitude, Black Dialogue, Hollow Orange, The Journal for the Protection of All Beings, and Big Sky were among the first titles held by the Library.

By the early 1980s, the collection had grown to about 500 titles; it was during this time that the development of the collection took a downturn. The changing political scene, and San Francisco’s budget situation, along with the fugitive nature of many little magazines, contributed to a severe reduction in collecting. Subscriptions were cut, magazines ceased publication, and the Library found itself holding a stagnant collection, which was then boxed and stored in the closed stacks. With little public use or knowledge of this resource the collection lay dormant for most of the decade.

The Library continued to maintain some little magazine subscriptions; those magazines were bound into volumes and are now part of the Magazine & Newspaper Center, on the fifth floor of the Main Library.

In late 1988, the Little Maga/Zine Collection was inventoried and stored in archival boxes. The inventory was completed just before the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, with improved conservation protecting the magazines from damage. After the earthquake the collection was moved to the Humanities Department, where a critical point in the development of the collection was reached: in 1991 zines made their first appearance in the collection. A Library produced flyer, "A Call for Little Maga/Zines," was sent out to the community, asking zine creators, readers, and collectors to donate their San Francisco zines to the collection. The Library received an immediate and enthusiastic response for an underutilized but significant collection. In the same year, the publication of the first title catalog announced a reinvigorated collection.

In 1993, the collection was transferred to Special Collections (now known as the Marjorie G. & Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center). The Library received a gift of 250 little magazines, most of them representing the work of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets of the San Francisco Bay Area. Then in 1997, a gift of 240 zines was received from Factsheet Five publisher Seth Friedman. Today the collection holds over 1,200 titles.

The Little Maga/Zine Collection represents the intellectual activity of the people of San Francisco, from the twentieth century onward. An important tool for understanding the literary, social, political, and cultural experience of San Francisco, the Little Maga/Zine Collection tells the story of life in the cool grey City by the Bay.

The collection continues to grow from gifts and donations, rather than subscriptions: a "call" for zine creators, readers, collectors (PDF) anyone interested in the writing life of the San Francisco Bay Area to donate their little magazine or zine to the collection continues as one of the main forms of outreach to the community. The focus remains on San Francisco, with a lesser focus on the West Coast.

Donations to the Little Maga/Zine Collection may be made by visiting the Book Arts & Special Collections Center, Sixth Floor, Main Library, Civic Center; donations may also be mailed to the center. For more information call 415-557-4560 or email us at

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