Collections

Archives and Special Collections Teams with Zooniverse to Crowdsource Boston Phoenix Index

For nearly 50 years, The Boston Phoenix was Boston’s alternative newspaper of record, the first word on social justice, politics, and the arts and music scene. Its intrepid journalists tackled issues from safe sex and AIDS awareness to gay rights, marriage equality, and the legalization of marijuana. Ads for roommates, romantic mates, and band mates—one could find all these and more in the newspaper’s probing, irreverent, entertaining pages. It ceased publication in March 2013, but in 2015 was preserved for posterity thanks to owner Stephen Mindich’s decision in September to donate the paper’s archives to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections (NUASC).

Screenshot of the Boston Phoenix 1974! Zooniverse Project pageToday, NUASC launches Boston Phoenix, 1974!, a new project that aims to make The Boston Phoenix’s content more accessible to researchers. Using Zooniverse, Boston Phoenix 1974! (left) will recruit an army of volunteers to create an index to The Boston Phoenix. Participants will be re-typing a large set of index cards that once helped Phoenix reporters find past articles. Volunteers will have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the arts, culture, politics, and topics of vital importance to Bostonians in 1974 by encountering articles such as “The Winning Ways of Mike Dukakis,” “Kissinger: Financing the Death of a Government,” “Lifestyles: Conversing with Lesbian Mothers,” “Changes ahead for Cambridge Rent Control,” or “Garrity on Busing: No Delaying Tactics." The nonprofit Zooniverse offers this platform to connect professional researchers with 1 million+ volunteers in order to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise.

Index card from a 1974 issue of the Boston PhoenixFor any researcher visiting NUASC to research Boston’s political, cultural, and social history between the 1970s through the early 2000s, The Boston Phoenix is always recommended as a primary resource, and it is widely used both for research and teaching. Pre-COVID, NUASC staff had previously digitized January-June 1974 of The Boston Phoenix for preservation purposes (right). These issues are now available, and provide a prime opportunity for revisiting this year—one filled with civil unrest, racial violence, and ubiquitous activism.

NUASC is offering this free (and fun!) activity for use in homes and classrooms across greater Boston (and nationally through the Zooniverse’s already-established volunteer network) in order to build a community of support—people who will be inspired to read articles they have transcribed and write about them on their favorite social media platform. When complete, the index will become a way for researchers to quickly pinpoint articles without having to browse whole issues. Ultimately, NUASC hopes to raise $250,000 to digitize the entire collection.

For information about the complete contents of NUASC’s collection of the Phoenix and some brief background information, please go to our portal page.

The Boston Phoenix masthead

Discovering Roxbury

Northeastern University has the advantage of being surrounded by many different and distinct Boston neighborhoods. The Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections works to preserve the voices from these communities by collecting from different organizations. One of the newest collections available is from the non-profit organization Discover Roxbury.

As its name implies, Discover Roxbury aims to help people, both locals and tourists, to discover all of the things Roxbury has to offer. Originally named the Bridges Program, this organization was started by Marcia Butman in 1995 in order to introduce urban neighborhoods to suburban parents and students in the METCO program. The organization offers foot, trolley, and bike tours that include visits to historic sites, art galleries, and restaurants. These themed tours are lead by trained Roxbury residents passionate about sharing their knowledge on the history of the neighborhood and its current vibrant arts and culture scene.

Butman’s vision for the organization has always been collaboration, which has led to partnerships with organizations such as the Roxbury Cultural Network, The First Church in Roxbury, Roxbury Heritage State Park, and the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Through these partnerships Discover Roxbury has been able to hold events supporting local artists such as Roxbury Open Studios and ArtRox, events supporting local restaurants and cuisines like Roxtoberfest, as well as holiday pop ups and their annual fundraiser Heart of the Hub held at the historic Hibernian Hall located in Dudley Square. 

The collection includes marketing materials for events and programs, administrative materials, and research used for teaching resources and tour scripts. The collection is currently unprocessed, but if researchers are interested in using the materials, please contact archive staff at archives@northeastern.edu.

Interlibrary Loan in the Time of COVID-19

When Snell Library shuttered its physical doors on Tuesday, March 17, staff were able to rely on robust online services and resources already utilized for our rapidly growing online programming and global campuses and communities, while also confronted with how to adapt those services that are more traditionally in-person and associated with the library as a physical place.

This is especially true in the Resource Sharing (Interlibrary Loan) department. While a sizeable portion of our services are already offered electronically, the building closure, and the closures of most of our partner institutions across the globe, has disrupted access to physical resources such as books and media, as well as the ability to scan physical items only available in print (such as chapters from older books and articles from older volumes of journals). Fortunately, the foundation of Resource Sharing is cooperative and symbiotic by nature, and the community has responded quickly and collaboratively.

Institutions across the country are halting fees associated with interlibrary loan (ILL) requests, and informal requests are being filled more efficiently via listservs. Service providers such as OCLC and Atlas Systems (WorldCat/WorldShare and ILLiad, respectively) have worked around the clock to implement new procedures to adjust due dates, adapt expectations, and simplify workflows for library staff members and patrons newly working from home. RapidILL quickly established a COVID-19 lending pod of willing member institutions; Northeastern is one of 174 participating libraries who are providing article and chapter requests to over 150 non-Rapid institutions across the world, free-of-charge. And perhaps the most promising development is the long-due approach to lending ebooks via interlibrary loan.

Like the music, film, and television industries, book publishers and providers have been slow to the idea sharing ebooks. Public libraries have had success with ebook lending using platforms like Overdrive and Hoopla, while academic libraries buy access directly from vendors such as Ebsco and ProQuest.

The main hurdles in ebook lending via ILL, however, come down to licensing and platform capability: libraries’ licensing for ebook access are typically limited to institutional affiliates and not licensed to share outside the institution. And one of ILL’s most-used management softwares, ILLiad, was not designed to handle either large file sizes, or DRM-protected content. While libraries are fierce advocates for freely sharing licensed (and purchased!) content, the owners of said content have generally offered a collective shrug or cited the potential of lost revenue.

There is no time like the present. Prior to and in response to COVID-19, both the Internet Archive and HathiTrust have been proponents of both Controlled Digital Lending and Fair Use copyright laws in the sharing of full ebooks, and consortia and institutions across the world are continuing to negotiate ILL permissions into their licensing. Through the impressive negotiating of Virginia’s Viva Consortium and OCLC’s compilation of a pilot group of lending institutions who are able to loan ebooks, however limited or specific their offerings, the Northeastern University Library has already had success borrowing full ebooks in ILL. While limited to specific institutions, through specific licensing agreements, and even down to specific books, the tide is changing as the sharing of ebooks through interlibrary loan becomes a reality.

The Resource Sharing department encourages our patrons to continue to submit any desired requests, and we will try our hardest to acquire and fulfill them. Please keep the following in mind:

  • Until the library reopens, physical loans are still prohibited. Due dates for existing ILL loans have been extended and accrued fines will be cleared. Please hold on to them until further notice.
  • Full book requests are possible, but they must exist as ebooks; this may limit access to older or rarer texts. We cannot guarantee fulfillment (and at this point, chances are low) but are willing to try and are hoping the possibilities will continue to expand.
  • We ask that you please consider the ethical implications of requesting articles and book chapters that are only available in print, and so require on-site scanning by our lending partners. We are willing to try, but appreciate your patience and willingness to wait when possible.
  • The physical processing of items (both loans and returns) will be following the guidelines currently being developed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

For more information about accessing resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our resilience page.

Please feel free to contact us at ill@northeastern.edu and stay safe and healthy!

Access to Kanopy limited during summer

Beginning in May, Northeastern University Library will be reducing full access to Kanopy videos. From April 27 through August 24, Kanopy will be a mediated library service and access will be limited to instructional use and research support for faculty and students. Films that are already triggered (licensed because of usage for one year) will appear on the site and in Scholar OneSearch, but other films will have to be requested. 

If you have films you know you will use in teaching and research this summer from the Kanopy collection, please notify Erin Beach (e.beach@northeastern.edu) or Amy Lewontin (a.lewontin@northeastern.edu) and we will ensure that the films are activated in ample time for the summer sessions.  You can also use the request form on the Kanopy site after April 27, and if you identify that the film is for class use, we will expedite the activation.  Please note that this can take a day or two so be sure to build in adequate lead-time. 

If you live in the Boston area and wish to use Kanopy outside of academic use, the Boston Public Library offers Kanopy for free, and one can watch four films a month, once you obtain an e-card. More information is available here.

Thanks for your understanding of this necessary cost-saving effort and please let us know if you have any questions.

Important Temporary Access to Digitized Versions of the Library’s Print Collections Available

The Northeastern University Library is a member of the HathiTrust Digital Library, a major international repository for the digital preservation of digitized versions of print library materials. Normally, there is no access to content which is still under copyright. During the current crisis, as many libraries have closed, HathiTrust took an important step and temporarily opened up copyrighted material in their digital library to member institutions with copies of those items in their physical collections. This means that any books available through HathiTrust which are also in Northeastern’s collections will be available to you while the library is closed. HathiTrust’s online collection contains approximately half of the Northeastern Library’s book collections.

We are working to add this temporary access to Scholar OneSearch. In the meantime, to take advantage of this resource:

  • Visit ​hathitrust.org​ and click the yellow “LOG IN” button.
  • Select “Northeastern University” and log in using your NU credentials.
  • Use the site to locate the item you wish to view.
  • Click on the Temporary Access link at the bottom of the record, if present, to Check Out the item through the Emergency Temporary Access Service.
  • You will have 60 minutes of access to the book during any session. If you remain active in the book at the end of the session, access time will automatically be extended, unless someone else has requested to read the book.
  • You will not be able to download the whole book, although you can download individual pages. You are mainly able to read it online in an active session while using HathiTrust. This is to protect the author’s rights.
  • You will be able to search within the full text of the book.

If you have questions about using this temporary service, please contact help@northeastern.libanswers.com.