Requesting permission to use a copyrighted work
The first step in obtaining permission is finding the copyright holder. For books it may be the publisher or the author, and that is usually stated on the copyright or publishing details page.
For journal articles, there are many different agreements; you would need to check the policy of the journal to determine to whom you would apply for permission.
Video and audio recordings are usually copyrighted by the producer or the production company.
Images, sculptures and other visual arts copyrights usually reside with the creator, or with the institution that purchased the work.
Works produced by the US government are not copyrighted.
If you cannot find a date, author, or publication information, you cannot assume that the item is free from copyright, rather, you should assume it is copyrighted and either find something different or make very limited use of it, that can be defended under Fair Use.
Why Can't I Make a Coursepack?
For many years, faculty tried to ease the burden of students, and increase the likelihood that those students would consult supplemental readings, by ordering coursepacks--printed booklets containing articles from different sources--through the college bookstore. However, with the rise in both quantity and quality of online materials, coupled with increasingly high fees for copyright, combined to make coursepacks economically unviable.
I don't know how to request permission, or when I need to do so.
Most of the time, if you are mentioning or suggesting a title in your classroom, you don't need permission. Likewise, if you link to articles available through the library website in your Brightspace course, you do not need to seek permission.
If you are using a pdf file of something that you either scanned or had scanned for you, you will need permission. Even images, charts and graphs that you use for a PowerPoint presentation need to have permission, especially if you are going to post the materials online at any point.
Questions, concerns, and assistance in finding rights holders, can be requested through your Copyright Liaison, Pam O'Sullivan.
Guidelines for Requesting Permissions
One good resource for checking/requesting permissions was put together by the Copyright Librarian at USF, and can be accessed here.