In 2003, Jamez Terry (Burn In Hell, Buddy) and Kelly Shortandqueer (shortandqueer) moved to Denver, bringing along almost 2,000 zines. They started exploring the local scene, trying to figure out if a zine library already existed, was in the works or if there was any interest. Through the Breakdown Book Collective and Community Space, a group of awesome folks who were not only interested in making this happen, but were already working on a similar project, got together. Molly Z. (Growler Distro) had been working with a zine collection at Double Entendre, an independent music store, that she had hoped to turn into a library. An initial planning meeting was called for what would become the Denver Zine Library (DZL) and about 10 people showed up. In addition to meeting every other week for a few months, work parties were organized on the alternate weeks to fix up the space, decide how to categorize zines, input zines into the computer catalog, etc. In addition to Jamez’ personal collection, Paul, the owner of Double Entendre, gave us all of the zine he had been storing. John Porcellino (King Cat Comics) and Misun Oh (Tearjerker) gave us their collections before moving to San Francisco. The collection has grown through continued donations over the years.
The opening event was held on December 5, 2003 in the brand new DZL, highlighting local musicians and zinesters. The collection was housed in a detached shed in Kelly and Jamez’ backyard. Over 60 people came to celebrate, huddled together for warmth, eating donated bagels and looking through the new collection. Visitors came by on weekends and the word spread beyond Denver. Travelers would request to check out the DZL when they were coming through and often donate their own zines.
On March 12, 2004, the neighborhood zoning inspector left a notice that the Denver Community Planning and Development office had received an anonymous complaint about the DZL from a neighbor. Through many phone calls, e-mails and even personal visits, it was determined that the DZL was breaking zoning laws. The first law in question was related to a right of use of the space since it was being “residentially used” and was in a “detached building”. The second law stated that any “residentially used” building must be 20 feet from the center-line of the alley. The converted garage that housed the collection was right where all the other garages were positioned in the neighborhood: 8 feet from the center-line of the alley. A cease and desist order was issued and the zine librarians appealed it. During this process, Jason Heller wrote an article for the Westword about the problems the library was having. A response he received from the department spokesperson about the situation illustrated the ridiculousness of how the case was being handled: “When you purchase a home, you make the investment thinking that you have a good idea of how the adjacent property is being utilized. You don’t expect a gunpowder factory, recycling yard or UPS terminal to be located there.” Immediate neighbors and the landlord were supportive of the library. Unfortunately, it was unlikely that the DZL would win the appeal, so zine librarians began looking for a new space.