Publishing

Overcoming the Paywall: Radical empathy and making the Gay Community News accessible to all

When Jackson Davidow was looking for information on Boston’s gay community in the 1970s, he knew where to go.

“I’ve long been interested in the relationship between queer politics and queer art, particularly in Boston in the 1970s, a point at which the city was a crucial hub of gay discourse, activism, nightlife, and sex,” said Davidow, a postdoctoral fellow in the “Translating Race” Lab at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. Gay Community News “was grounded in the political, cultural, and social environments of Boston. For that reason, it is an invaluable resource for researchers who study gay and lesbian life and liberation in Boston and beyond.”

Scan of the January 12, 1974 issue of the Gay Community News. It includes the headlines: New Gay Bills; UNH Saga Continues; and Maine Gays Attacked
The January 12, 1974, issue of the Gay Community News, one of its first published.

Gay Community News (GCN) was started in 1973 by eight Bostonians seeking to create a community voice for gays and lesbians in the Boston area. Originally published as a 2-page mimeographed sheet, the newspaper grew to have a national and international audience by the late 1970s and became one of the longest-running and most progressive national newspapers in the gay community. It was a natural place to start to gather the information Davidow needed. Issues of the GCN and records from its parent organization, the Bromfield Street Educational Foundation were subsequently donated to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections (NUASC).  

While today’s researchers can contact many archives by email and receive scans of collections remotely, there was a time when physically visiting an Archives was only possible for those who lived in or could travel to the area. To provide more access to collections in the 1980s and 1990s, some Archives made arrangements to microfilm high use portions of their collections. In recent years those microfilms have been digitized and are offered via subscription to libraries — usually at a high cost — and then made available to the students and faculty affiliated with that university, a practice commonly described as “paywalling.”

The August 2-8, 1987, issue of the Gay Community News. Its front page is an image of protesters standing in front of the U.S. Capitol with the headline "DC-Active! Coming out center stage to march on Washington"
The August 2-8, 1987, of the Gay Community News.

Unfortunately, this means that the many of the volunteers who wrote and edited articles, turned the crank on the mimeograph machine, or paid to advertise a queer night at a local club no longer have access to the content they created. It’s a trend that Giordana Mecagni, Head of the NUASC, knows all too well. Troubled, she recently published “Tear Down This (Pay)wall!: Equality, Equity, and Liberation for Archivists” in the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies. The piece describes the negative effect paywalled archives have on institutions, archives, and researchers, and focuses on the GCN.

“Having the Gay Community News behind a paywall results in uneven access, where affiliates of universities can access the resource but members of marginalized groups within the queer community may not,” Mecagni wrote.

“Paywalls restrict who has access to archival materials. Many scholars are independent and unattached to academic institutions, or attached to academic institutions that do not have the money to subscribe to special historical resources,” Davidow added.

The NUASC recently completed an effort to made the Gay Community News freely available to anyone by re-scanning the GCN with help from the Boston Public Library’s “Library for the Commonwealth” program. This program provides free scanning services to Massachusetts libraries who have unique materials they want to share widely  and freely. Now researchers, students, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, writers, and anyone else can browse through 26 years of the GCN to get a glimpse of the gay community in Boston and around the world.

Researchers like Davidow are thrilled.

“The digitization of GCN helps scholars and community members learn about and revisit these important histories,” he said. “During my research for my recent essay in The Baffler, ‘Against Our Vanishing,’ I talked with many people involved in GCN, and everyone was thrilled to learn that the full run is available online.”

The GCN is available to access digitally through the NUASC’s LGBTQIA+ History Collection.

Using PIVOT to Find Funding and Publishing Homes for Your Research

When it comes to finding research funding and publishing opportunities, PIVOT is a valuable resource to make the search a little easier. Interdisciplinary and current, PIVOT provides a variety of ways to access information about grants and calls for papers, and to identify potential research collaborators. The red bar at the top of the page allows users to search by Profiles of successfully funded research; browse and keyword search functions for publishing opportunities is under Papers Invited; and the Awards link provides details about awarded grants, researchers, and sponsors.

The main page of the PIVOT database guides users on how to search for the latest funding and publishing opportunities for researchers.

For new users to PIVOT, a good place to start would be to check out the menu options under Funding Discovery.

The tabs to the right of Funding Discovery allow you to search by text, sponsor, or keyword, and the latter provides a broad alphabetical listing of research topics.

For those that would rather see available resources in their particular research interest and check other related research subjects, users can explore an interactive feature that displays the scope of all available funding within the database. Click on the Funding Discovery link, then Take a Tour and browse by keyword to see how much money is available by research topic.

This interactive tool breaks down how much funding is available for various fields or topics.

As always, if you have any questions about using PIVOT, or any other library resources, contact your subject librarian.

Library Launches Podcast Publishing Service with Northeastern Classes

Is your class starting a podcast? Several Northeastern classes have adopted podcasting instead of the usual term paper or final project, and the library’s Podcast Publishing Team is here to help. Over the past few semesters, Jon Reed from the Digital Media Studios and Brooke Williams from the library’s Research and Instruction team have worked with classes in English, History, Architecture and other departments to help students learn how to create, record, edit and publish their own podcasts.

One of the questions the team was asked when working with faculty was “how do I get my class assignments into Apple Podcasts?” Using the university’s Digital Repository Service and the Library’s CERES WordPress platform, the Library is able to create a stable website for your class assignment to be sent out to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the world. The first podcast published was Speak Up! Podcast, coordinated by English Professor Elly Jackson. 

“The library podcast opportunities are as good as they get and should be blasted all over the campus and around the world,” says Jackson. “My classes set up podcast assignments that have now reached 25 published podcast recordings from undergraduate research, and these are up on Apple Podcasts. I believe educational podcasting has a great future and I am proud of the tram at our library’s podcasting service. This is a stellar partnership and I cherish their talents and commitment to experiential education.”

Some examples of podcast episodes produced by the Speak Up! students include “Death By Chocolate” and “Jet, Set, Go – A Podcast on Medical Tourism.”

Sarah Sweeney, manager of the Digital Repository Service, and Patrick Murray-John, Associate Director for Systems, have both played major roles in getting the podcast publishing program up and running.

Interested in bringing podcasting into your remote classroom? Email the team at Library-PodcastTeam@northeastern.edu. We look forward to working with you closely if even physically afar!