Nestled between a Pac-Man machine and Cafe Bream, Anchor Archive Zine Library and The People's Photocopier have found a new residence in Plan B Merchants' Co-op. The heady air smells of coffee and taxidermy; the space looks like your great aunt's living room ate a grassroots atheneum---it's alien and it feels like home.
The archive, housed by Roberts Street Social Centre since 2005, holds approximately 5000 zines with another 40 or so titles for sale in its store. There are personal zines and topic zines, the archive holds zines on everything from bicycles to women learning to love peeing outdoors.
Roberts Street housed and fostered an array of projects dedicated to alternative media, art and education. Last April, Roberts Street moved from its namesake location and took temporary residence in the colloquially named Creighton Manor on Creighton Street. After the property's sale, Roberts Street volunteers knew they would have to quit that space by January at the latest.
"We had been looking for a long time for a space where Roberts Street as it existed could be," says Amanda Stevens, a Roberts Street representative.
Searching in vain and running out of time, volunteers decided to compromise. "We started brainstorming places where just the zine library could be," says Stevens, "so I went and talked to Bob."
Bob Chaisson is the founder and president of Plan B. When Chaisson heard the archive was losing its space he wanted to help. "Anchor Archive is just too valuable a resource to have them shut up in a storage unit. I figured we could offer them space here," says Chaisson. "We also gave them one of our bathrooms---so that's now the photocopier room."
Chaisson didn't think twice about donating space, he says "it takes a community to support a shop like ours, so we should support the community---it was a no-brainer."
The coincidental marriage of coffee and reading material is a nice perk. Emily Davidson, another Roberts Street representative, says "it's a nice pairing with the cafe, people go and get a coffee and read a zine."
Katie Habits, the pink-haired owner and operator of Cafe Bream, has become an unofficial ambassador for the archive. "The shop brings in people from all demographics: people who live and work on Gottingen, university kids and old people from the Valley looking for antiques," she says. "I explain zines to people who have never heard about them before."
It seems fated that Habits' cafe shares a wall with the archive. "Anchor Archive was one of the first things I knew about Halifax and it made me interested to come here," says Habits, who hails from Victoria. "Roberts Street was my introduction to Halifax."
Unfortunately, without an all-encompassing space, Roberts Street volunteers disbanded the parent organization to concentrate on its projects. "It doesn't make sense to maintain a Roberts Street Social Centre when there is no space," says Stevens.
Although they have less autonomy than they once had, the archive and the photocopier have gained a stable space and increased public access. Roberts Street was only open to the public on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings, but Plan B is open seven days a week.
The end of Roberts Street is regrettable but its volunteers are nothing if not tenacious. Davidson says: "I have mixed emotions because I definitely had a lot of sentimental attachment to both spaces on Roberts and Creighton, so seeing those disappear is hard, but I'm really proud of the work we're doing to continue to exist."
Zine Library training
Sunday, March 9, 2:30-4pm
Plan B, 2180 Gottingen Street
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