Sergej Vutuc: Kevin, in your intro about Looking Back Library you point out buying your first Thrasher Magazine as something special. How did that thought, after all those years, push you to save your room space for magazines and what was that moment when you looked back and realize it was time for the library?
Kevin Marks: I began collecting mags in September 1986 after seeing my first Thrasher. Growing up in Kansas, the mags were my primary link to the skateboard world. I was keen to absorb as much as I could about skateboarding and my subscriptions to the magazines of the time were a vital component to that education. My many volumes of magazines moved with me first from Kansas to Colorado, and then to San Diego. I’ve never collected much else. The moment when I realized I should start the Look Back Library happened on a long drive from Ft. Collins to Portland. The year prior, I’d been working on filling holes in the magazine library at Launch – Community through Skateboarding: a skateboard centered non-profit in Colorado. I’d made several partnerships during that effort, and realized I could keep doing what I’d so enjoyed doing for Launch, but on a much larger scale and so still today Look Back Library is evolving into a network of skate mag libraries around the USA. www.lookbacklibrary.org
Skateboard magazines have a very fragile age of journalism and commercial catalogs. How do you see it, also from your point of view of giving something to new generations.
I see the current generation of skaters as one that was raised on the internet.They receive their information in a very different way than what I was used to. I hope to make available to the younger generations the radical wonderfulness of print – being able to hold a magazine in your hand and read about skateboarding.
The library is based at your house in San Diego, but the concept of Look Back is to have all around the USA spaces with the collection. How many locations are there and how do you manage it?
My home office houses one of the libraries. But others are at Skatelab in Simi Valley, Launch in Ft. Collins, Cowtown in Tempe, Shrunken Head in Portland, San Francisco Skate Club, Aura Skatepark and the House Skate Shop in Vista, and Red Curbs in Fremont, CA. Soon to be building libraries at Southside Skatepark in Houston & The Boardr in Tampa. I manage each library via a spreadsheet that shows me what issues they need. When a new pile of donated magazines comes to us, the pile is organized and I go through all my lists to see what mags are needed where.
How do you cover all the expenses around the project?
I accept donations from private collectors that I work with. I also sell autographed magazines to help cover expenses. If you are a private collector and need help finding rare issues, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In front of your house you also built a community free library. How do your neighbors respond to what you are doing?
The little free library in front of my house has been very well received and we continually see new faces investigating the library and taking or leaving books for it.
What are you planing for rest of year for Look Back Library and how can people support you?
I’m currently on tour for the next seven months, building libraries around the country and curating a classic skate magazine exhibit that I’m calling the #BrotherBoarderPowerSlap tour. www.lookbacklibrary.org/p/events the exhibit is visiting 54 cities and attendees have the opportunity to buy a magazine from the exhibit.
Spreading the word about our tour and our general mission is very much needed. And we also need your help to find old magazines. Do you know someone with a bin of old mags under their bed or in their garage… We want those mags… Do you make a zine…. send it to us…. in addition to magazines, we seek regional zines, international magazines, and books… anything in print about skateboarding… our next frontier is to start taking vhs and dvds.