Resource Radar: American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

I have so much to write about, but I’ll have to start with a fascinating JSTOR webinar I attended about a project to digitize American prison newspapers. The project is led by Reveal Digital, which has been part of ITHAKA since 2012. Their mission is to publish Open Access primary sources from historically excluded groups. Currently, the prison newspaper project is about 45 percent funded, and as the collection is being digitized, only those libraries who have contributed to the fund can access the content via JSTOR. Once the project is fully funded, it will be open access!

Merced College offers courses to students who are incarcerated. These classes are taught in person, but, because of COVID-19, they are correspondence courses this semester. I think this will be a particularly exciting collection for our faculty who teach in the surrounding state prisons and those who teach about mass incarceration on campus.

(If you’re an academic librarian, you may also be interested in the Merced College Library’s correspondence reference service for these students. My colleague Karrie Bullock serves as the lead for this service. It was partially modeled after San Francisco Public Library’s prison reference service. Karrie and I attended a presentation led by SFPL librarians Jeanie Austin and Rachel Kinnon and intern Rosa Hall called “What If Patrons Can’t Access the Internet?: Reference by Mail for Patrons Who Are Incarcerated” during the CLA Conference in 2019, and she got lots of great ideas from the session.)

During the JSTOR webinar I attended, which I discovered was the last of a three-part series, I also learned about the Prison Journalism Project (PJP), which provides an online platform and journalism education to help”incarcerated and incarceration-impacted writers tell stories about their communities.” The original vision was to establish journalism education programs in prisons, but when COVID-19 hit, the founders began an online publication on Medium asking for submissions from those in prison. With the help of the American Prison Writing Archive, they received a substantial number of submissions on a variety of topics. In April, the Prison Journalism Project migrated to their own website where they publish writing and artwork by prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, and friends and family who have been impacted by incarceration.

The organization offers submission guidelines, FAQs, writing prompts, and handouts to guide writers. While these are available online, physical copies are also sent to prisons. Submissions can be emailed or sent through JPay or through the US mail. Stories are scanned and then transcribed and edited by volunteers. (The PJP is currently seeking volunteers to help transcribe or edit stories!) PJP publishes about 10 stories a week. Writers retain copyright of their work, and every writer also gets a portfolio page. On the website, stories are tagged by state and topics. The co-founders are also working to develop a toolkit for educators, which will include a textbook in comic book format.

I also learned about the San Quentin News and the podcast Ear Hustle in this webinar. One of the co-hosts of the podcast is actually inside San Quentin. I had never heard of either of these before, but I’m glad to have more resources to learn from those who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated. These resources are also potentially very valuable for reference work!

You can find all three of the JSTOR webinar recordings related to the American Prison Newspaper project below. I will need to watch the others soon.

You do have to share your name and email to watch the recordings.

Copyright and Fair Use & OA and OER

The one thing I did not do in library graduate school was to spend a lot of dedicated time on copyright and other related issues. I’m definitely feeling the crunch, particularly in light of the open access (OA) and open educational resources (OER) movements in higher education. Over the summer, I was very impressed with the University of  Maryland University College‘s move to open digital resources for undergraduate education. Here is Barbara Fister’s overview of recent developments in OA during Open Access Week this past fall. Adding to the recent developments in OA that Fister lists, just today I read that the Oberlin Group, with the backing of liberal arts colleges, launched Lever Press.

In the CJCLS listserv this fall, someone posted the following report, “Opening Public Institutions: OER in North Dakota and the Nation, 2015,” and asked where all the community college librarians were in helping to lead OA/OER on their campuses. Here are some resources some people shared from that listserv, as well as some resources from a question about open textbooks from the ILI listserv:

Affordable Learning Georgia

College Open Textbooks

Lansing Community College’s OER Summit

Lansing Community College’s OER LibGuide

Northwestern Michigan College OER LibGuide 

Open Textbook Library

University of Maryland University College OER LibGuide

OA and OER are subjects I follow, but not to the degree I would like. One of the challenges is that our community college is not part of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, but according to the website “[i]ndividuals, whether they represent Consortium members or not, are welcome to use and modify materials and resources found on this website, and to participate in webinars and other Consortium activities.” I just got added to the CCCOER Advisory Google Group, so I hope to gain more knowledge. They also have a YouTube channel. I suspect that with the push for distance education in our college district, and some of the buzz that was generated by a student leader about open textbooks to the Academic Senate, we will become more involved. As the newer librarian two years away from tenure, it’s difficult to broach these subjects, but I am preparing. In fact, I took an online “how to teach an online” class this past fall with other faculty members more to see what the faculty were saying regarding content for courses, etc. There is a need for OER there.

Someone also pointed me to SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.

Here are some relevant conferences. The 12th Annual Open Education Conference was in Vancouver this past November, so I plan to take a gander at the website for #OpenEd2015. I was really bummed that San Jose State University’s one-day Open Access Conference 2015 was during a planned mini vacation. I will be on the lookout for this year’s conference dates.

I definitely also need to carve out time to watch the Blended Librarian recorded webcast On Becoming Open Education Leaders. Librarians really are in the fantastic position to lead the movement, and there are some college’s that have specific OER/OA librarians. How neat!

(As I was finishing up this post, someone posted about Project CORA, Community of Online Research Assignments: An Open Access Resource for Faculty and Librarians. I am so excited! This “library” will really enhance my information literacy instruction work!)

Another thing I have been meaning to do over the winter break is to start the the Coursera course Copyright for Educators and Librarians (librarians are educators, but okay). I still have time to begin  before I go back to work, though.

I sense a theme among some of the links I’ve been collecting over the last few months, as well.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video 

Digital Media Law Project’s Fair Use webpage

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)‘s Copyright for Librarians

I also find BYU’s Copyright 101 modules to be helpful. The videos don’t really look modern, but they now have captions!