Introducing Reveal Digital’s New Underground Press Digital Platform

For the past five years, I’ve been writing a lot about Independent Voices, Reveal Digital’s keyword-searchable digital collection of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties (primarily sixties and seventies but significant overlap in both directions). I’ve teased interested readers by listing new titles as I obtained permission to include them in the collection. I’ve called out libraries as they’ve joined our growing team of sourcing libraries. I’ve reprinted talks that I’ve given at academic and political conferences and celebrations about the underground press and the digital collection.

It’s been a real ride.

And now, it is my pleasure to share with you Independent Voices’ new, more robust, more dynamic, more attractive, more functional platform for your enjoyment, your inspiration, and your education. [Note: Any fuzziness and blurriness that you see in the blog entry images below are factors of my attempts to reduce screen shots to fit blog space; when you visit the actual website you will see text and images that are crisp and clear.]

Feast your eyes.

We’ll begin with the Home page.


The icon on the left is from a cover of Big Mama Rag, a feminist paper from Denver, Colorado, that published from 1972 to 1984, one of the nearly 120 feminist and lesbian papers that will be available in Independent Voices by the time we are finished uploading content sometime around January 2017. Every time you log on, you’ll get a different cover from among our over 1,000 titles that you’ll be able to access.

In the middle of the page is a brief overview of the collection and on the right, if you’re already familiar with the site and want to start searching, is our Search button. But hold on for a minute if this is your first visit. Let me take you through the rest of the site before you start your search.

The second tab is our Search tab.


Oh, the searches you can do, and the tricks that you can perform to make your search easier.

This brief blog entry isn’t a complete tutorial so I’m not going to hold your hand and take you step by step through every feature. Instead, I’ll refer you to the Help tab (see below).


Here you will learn how to do simple keyword searches, exact phrase searches, and Boolean searches, as well as how to apply filters to refine them. You will learn how to search over one or multiple publications, within date ranges, and within full text, comments, and tags. You will learn how to choose the number of search results you want displayed on each page, and determine whether you would like text or image previews displayed with your search results. Wildcard searches? Fuzzy searching? Optical character recognition? Proximity searching? The fun is just beginning.

The next tab, Titles, is my favorite because it is such a vast improvement over our earlier site. In our earlier site, you had no idea what the full range of uploaded titles was, so you could enter a title and not know if it would even come up. Now we present to you an alphabetical listing of our titles—but note that these are only the titles that have been uploaded. The scanning and digitizing process is still in full action mode and isn’t slated to be finished until the end of January 2017. New titles are being uploaded regularly.


This above screenshot shows titles that begin with A. In addition, a number of titles from our collection of GI underground papers began with numbers so those appear above the A’s. Notice that the titles all have locks after them except for one that appears in red. The vision of Independent Voices is that it will be an open access system after we have recovered our costs, which means that, sitting in your home or your favorite restaurant or wherever you do your Internet research, you will be able to conduct a simple keyword search on our site and view every title. We aren’t there yet. While production is in process, only patrons of supporting libraries have complete access, a perk we provide supporting libraries as an incentive for them to help us reach what we call our “sales threshold,” which is the amount of funding we need to break even on this immense project.

But for those who can’t access the complete site, we have already placed a handful of titles—22 to be exact—in open access so that you can get a feel for the site and see what you’re missing. In this screenshot the GI underground paper The American Exile Newsletter is open access. A short list of others: Battle Acts, Berkeley Barb, The Rag (Austin), Bragg Briefs, Conditions, Ann Arbor Sun, Great Speckled Bird, On Our Backs.

Here is our list of libraries that have made the one-time investment to help us achieve open access according to our unique “cost recovery = open access” economic model. As someone who spent over a decade of the last century editing library journals, including Reference Services Review and Serials Review, I regularly heard librarian laments about shrinking budgets and ever-rising serials costs. “Open access” is the gold star for librarians, the alternative to the models of our competitor companies whose digital collections are priced prohibitively high for most libraries and remain behind a pay wall forever, meaning they are only accessible to patrons of those libraries that can afford it, while scholars forever have to pay to gain access to their own articles.

If your library is on this list, you’re in luck. Your thoughtful, progressive, insightful librarians have thrown their support behind the principle of open access while enabling you to do the research you need for your classes and your continuing education in women’s studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, poetry and fiction, American history, political studies, military history, and more. If your library is not on the list, tell your librarian why being able to access Independent Voices is important to you. Personal requests from patrons go a long way in helping librarians determine how to spend their scarce funds. Then contact me or have them contact me at

Before we leave the Titles tab, I want to take you one step inside it. Here’s what you see when you click the red “American Exile Newsletter, The”:


We call this a landing page and every title has one. As you can see, Independent Voices has eight issues of this GI underground newspaper, which was published in Stockholm, Sweden, from March 1973 to March 1975. You can now click the icon for each issue and explore further. The landing page also was not part of our earlier website.

The next three tabs are, respectively:

  • Dates: Presently it goes back to 1950 but two titles that haven’t yet been loaded but that have their roots in the forties are Vice Versa, considered the first lesbian publication of our era, and National Guardian, the forerunner of The Guardian. It goes up to 2013 because, while our stated date range of fifties through eighties (with the two above exceptions) refers to founding dates; some of the papers continued to publish after the eighties and in fact are still publishing.
  • Libraries: We’re working with a growing team of sourcing libraries that provide us with original copies of papers to scan and digitize once we get permission from the intellectual property rights holders. This tab lists the libraries and private donors that have loaned us the titles that are already uploaded. This list will continue to grow substantially because libraries trust us to care for the materials that they send us from their non-circulating collections. We scan and digitize the issues, then return them to the libraries still in good shape because our scanners are the highest-quality, best-trained in the business. At the same time, we provide them with keyword-searchable digital files and metadata of the titles they provide to us.
  • Series: another convenient new feature. Presently it indicates that the website already includes titles from the following collections: Black American, Campus Underground, Feminist, GI Press, LGBT, and Little Magazines. Not listed yet are Latino (including our Chicano papers) and Native American, two of our growing collections for which we have obtained many permissions but that haven’t been loaded yet.

Finally, for now, accessibility is important to us. The content loaded in Independent Voices is page-image-based but we have created a text layer that is accessible to screen readers. The text is created by optical character recognition (OCR) with auto-column detection. It has not been corrected or manually tagged. The text layer is accessible both within the application at the page level (under the “Text” tab) and as downloadable PDF files, at both page and issue levels. The interface uses element labels/titles to assist screen readers in navigation.

Our new hosting platform is Veridian. Here is what Veridian wrote on their website concerning their compliance with web accessibility guidelines:

Veridian is used by many government/public institutions that need to conform to local or international web accessibility guidelines, and as such it has been carefully designed to comply. Veridian has been chosen by the American Foundation for the Blind as a platform for their Helen Keller Archives, partly due to Veridian’s strong commitment to supporting web accessibility, and removing barriers preventing access to websites by people with disabilities.

And that’s my fifty-cent tour of Independent Voices. Now it’s your turn. Search by series or by title or just do a random search and enjoy what you find. If your favorite publication from the period is missing drop me an email at It may simply not yet have been uploaded. Then again, I may have been unable so far to obtain permission. My biggest challenge is finding rights holders. Your help in locating them for me can bring your favorite titles into the collection.

Thanks in advance for your help and your support. If you like what you see and you are excited about the potential, please consider a tax-deductible financial donation to the library or libraries of your choice earmarked to fund their support of Independent Voices. If you don’t know who to contact there, let me connect you with their collection officers. Whatever we’ve done so far, however many newspapers and magazines we’ve already digitized, we can do much more with your help.



Redirecting Library Budgets in Support of Open Access

In my last post I reproduced the talk that I gave at the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference that was held at Bryn Mawr College on May 21-22. Today I am honored to publish the talk given by one of my fellow panelists, Andrée Rathemacher, head of acquisitions at University of Rhode Island. If you are a librarian or anyone interested in how library dollars are spent, especially why so few dollars are being spent on books nowadays, you will find this guest blog to be a major eye opener.

Andrée Rathemacher at Rhode Island Library Association conference, May 28, 2015. (c) 2015 Dhana Whiteing

Andrée Rathemacher at Rhode Island Library Association conference, May 28, 2015. (c) 2015 Dhana Whiteing


As my introduction noted, I’m the head of acquisitions at the University of Rhode Island Libraries. It is the Acquisitions Unit that expends the library’s annual materials budget of about $4 million. I’ve been in this role since 2009; before that, from 2003 to 2009, I was the serials librarian, managing the library’s thousands of print and online journal subscriptions.

Perhaps it is this personal involvement with channeling $4 million a year to various publishers that has turned me into an open access advocate.

Before I tell my story, let me share with you a definition of open access from open access leader Peter Suber, philosophy scholar and current director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. Suber provides this definition: “Open-access or OA literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.”

Thus, open access removes price barriers (like subscription fees and licensing fees), and open access removes permissions barriers (that is, restrictions on how material can be reused).

We’ll return to this definition later.

What I’m going to share with you today is the story of how I came to support open access and to believe that libraries should show their support of open access with their collection dollars.

 Scene One — Journal Cancellations

I started working as an academic librarian in November 1995. Not too many months after I started my job, the library embarked upon what was one in a long series of serials cancellations: In 1996 we canceled 169 titles that cost $216,000.

Incidentally, I was assigned as liaison to departments in the College of Business Administration, and in this role I was expected to meet with each department chairperson and share with them the list of journal titles in their area that the library did not plan on renewing. During the meeting with the chair of the Accounting Department, a senior accounting professor sitting in on the meeting began yelling at me in a classic case of shooting the messenger. After several minutes of this, I decided that I’d had enough, so I got up to leave. This faculty member followed me down the hall, shouting, “You come back here, young lady. I’m not finished talking to you.” Eyes straight ahead, I continued my walk back to the library and went straight to the office of our collection manager, where I promptly burst into tears and told him I was never going to go back to the College of Business ever again. He started laughing. It was a formative experience.

Such cuts had been commonplace, and they kept coming.

  • There had been cuts in 1976 (683 titles), 1983 (142 titles), 1988 (210 titles), 1991 (906 titles), and 1994 (131 titles).
  • After the tears incident, there followed more cuts in 1998 (237 titles), 1999 (196 titles), and 2003 (274 titles).

Then, after the financial crisis, in 2008 and 2009 (two years in a row), we cut a total of 1,212 titles worth $646,000.

This time, as serials librarian, these were my cuts. I was the one responsible for carrying them out.

Hey, after the fact, I even got two book chapters published on the topic.

Though it did occur to me that someday when I looked back on my professional career and how I made my mark, however small, it was kind of bleak that because of these circumstances the expertise I had developed was “how to cancel stuff.” (Incidentally, my next article, co-authored with a colleague with whom I led a project to dispose of almost a mile of bound periodicals from the library collection in order to make room for a “learning commons,” revealed my expertise in “how to throw stuff out.” Not the most inspiring legacy.)

This experience of journal cancellations was not unique to the University of Rhode Island. As many of you have probably heard, price increases for journals have far outpaced the rate of inflation since the mid-1980s. From 1986 to 2012, the cost of library materials in general has risen 322%. Continuing resources (that is, serials) have increased by 456%! During this time period, the general rate of inflation measured by the CPI only rose 109%.

In concrete terms, this means that in 2015 URI pays (in rounded numbers):

  • $106,000 for journals published by Sage;
  • $118,000 for journals published by Springer, now “Springer Nature” following Springer’s recent acquisition of Macmillan Science and Education).

Add to that

  • $36,000 for a small handful of journals published by Nature;
  • $85,000 for journals published by Taylor and Francis;
  • $283,000 for journals published by Wiley;
  • $77,000 for journals from the American Chemical Society;

And, everyone’s favorite…

  • $703,000 for journals published by Elsevier.

To name a few examples.

Together, expenditures on journal subscriptions make up 66% of our materials budget. If you include journals plus other subscription-based electronic resources, the total climbs to 85%. This leaves just 15% for books and media.

This is typical (actually, a little worse than typical).

According to statistics from the Association of Research Libraries (which represents the largest academic libraries in North America), in 2011-2012 expenditures on ongoing resources of all kinds comprised, on average, 69% of total library materials expenditures.

Where is all this money going? Of course there are legitimate costs to publishing, but, in the case of journals, most of the work (writing articles, editing, peer reviewing) is done by academics on a voluntary basis. Much of the staggering prices of these resources go, quite simply, to publisher profit.

For example:

For those of us not so into business, is this even high? Yes, it is high.

For comparison:

So why is this relevant, other than illustrating how I became an open access advocate?

Why is it relevant to you, women’s history scholars, who don’t deal all that much with journals, especially expensive science journals?

It is relevant because this is where all the money in libraries is locked up. This is money that is not available for books, for primary source databases, for humanities materials, for innovative new services.

 Scene Two — New Forms of Digital Scholarship

Ryan Cordell is an assistant professor of English at Northeastern University and a digital humanist. One of his areas of study is viral texts in nineteenth-century newspapers. I heard him speak about his research at a workshop for librarians in April 2013.

In the nineteenth century, newspapers and periodicals published short works of fiction, poetry, and other prose. At that time, before modern copyright law, it was common for editors to reprint these texts, originally published elsewhere. The texts moved around the country through this network, resulting in a shared print culture.

Cordell’s research seeks to identify these shared texts, to examine which were reprinted and why, and to map how they traveled and changed as they passed from publication to publication. Cordell’s primary source for his research is the Library of Congress’s website Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. The site contains the full text and page images of many American newspapers between 1836 and 1922.

Cordell and his colleague David Smith, a professor of computer and information science, “scraped” the full text of all newspapers published before 1860 in Chronicling America and performed a computational analysis using algorithms they developed to identify matching texts. Thus far, the team has identified thousands of viral texts, including minor pieces by major authors that were far more influential than previously realized. They have also mashed up their data with other open data to reveal connections between viral texts and the expansion of railroads, the establishment of political boundaries, and local population characteristics.

Yet, according to Cordell, there are “glaring holes” in his research. His data includes no content from Massachusetts—and Boston was a major publishing center of the time. There is also very little available to him from New York or Philadelphia, also vital to the period. He lacks this content because it is locked up in commercial databases of archival newspaper content, such as those published by Gale, Readex, and ProQuest. Although his institution subscribes to a number of these databases, the ability to download the text for analysis (which his research requires) is not available.

Hearing Ryan speak that day really deepened my understanding of the need for open access.

Remember that the definition of open access refers to material that is not just free to read, without cost, but free to re-use.

Ryan found that innovative re-use of the content of these databases was either not possible at all, or was possible only by special arrangement, under limited conditions, for a financial cost.

Even though many of the sources in archival, primary-source databases are themselves in the public domain, once the content is digitized, vendors assert intellectual property rights over it and sell it for a profit. Thus, they are not readily willing to openly release the full text.

Due to pressure from libraries, some vendors of primary-source databases are beginning to include text and data-mining rights in their licenses with libraries. (Gale was the first in a license pioneered by Darby Orcutt at North Carolina State University.) But this is still awkward, involving hard drives arriving in the mail and very bad quality OCR, as scholar Paul Fyfe at NC State has discovered. And still, these arrangements, when available, are only available to researchers at institutions that subscribe to a given resource.

So, open access is not only for journals; and it is not only to make sure that material is “free to read.” Open access applies to all types of scholarly materials, and re-use is a very important component.

This is why an open access model like Reveal Digital, as Ken outlined, is so important.

And it is important now, since even a casual perusal of the websites of Adam Matthew, Alexander Street Press, EBSCO, Gale, ProQuest, and Readex shows that they are working with libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to create newly digitized archival collections at a prolific rate. In fact, a 2015 press release from ProQuest boasted that, in 2014, the company digitized approximately 12 million pages of historical documents.

What Can Libraries Do?

Among the core values of librarianship are access to information, facilitating education and lifelong learning, social responsibility, and the public good. Open access aligns with all of these values. In fact, there are an increasing number of opportunities for libraries to support open access initiatives through crowd-funding and other models.

Here are the open access initiatives that we’ve supported so far at the University of Rhode Island:

  • January 2014: SCOAP3, Cost: $364. SCOAP3 is a worldwide initiative coordinated by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, that converted key journals in the field of high-energy physics to open access. SCOAP3 centrally pays the article charges for articles in these journals from a common fund to which libraries contribute.
  • January 2014: Knowledge Unlatched Pilot Collection, Cost: $1,196. This is a collection of 28 newly published, open access e-books in the humanities and social sciences from 13 well-known publishers; 297 libraries from 24 countries shared the cost of publishing these titles. As of April 2015, the titles had been downloaded almost 30,000 times from around the world.
  • March 2014: Reveal Digital, Independent Voices, Cost: $10,250.
  • October 2014: Reveal Digital, SNCC Archive, Cost: $4,000 (pledge).
  • October 2014: Reveal Digital, Liberation News Service Archive, Cost: $735 (pledge).
  • October 2014: Reveal Digital, Highlander Folk School Archive, Cost: $3,250 (pledge).
  • February 2015: Open Library of Humanities, Cost: $1,000 per year for 5 years. Open-access, peer-reviewed journal and book platform for the humanities funded by an international consortium of libraries.

As you can see, these costs are not at all expensive in comparison to overall library materials budgets and the costs of many library subscriptions. I encourage you to speak with your campus librarians and press them to support these and similar open access initiatives. And to remember that all open access is connected: whether for sciences or humanities, journals or books, or archives. Because OA in any of these areas has the potential to free up money in support of OA in another. And the more examples we have of successful OA initiatives, the easier it will be to advance open access publishing models in the future.

But, of course, open access is not just, or even primarily, about saving money. Initially, it might even cost more or require hard decisions about what to support or no longer to support.

Open access is primarily about enhancing access to scholarly content and enabling creative re-use.

So, I advocate for taking some portion of library budgets that currently are used to purchase the products of legacy, closed-access publishers in order to facilitate open access to scholarship and unique primary source material through new publishing models.

In Conclusion

I believe that librarians need to resist the enclosure of the scholarly and cultural commons that is the inevitable outcome of the traditional publication model and actively participate in experiments that seek alternatives.