Published July 20, 2021, by Trevor Owens
In today’s post, By the People community managers Carlyn Osborn, Lauren Algee, and Abby Shelton reflect back on changes in their program since March 2020. Launched in 2018, By the People is a volunteer engagement and collection enhancement program at the Library of Congress that invites the public to explore and transcribe documents on the Library’s website, loc.gov. When transcriptions are completed by volunteers, they are integrated back into the Library’s online catalog, where they become fully searchable and readable by accessibility technologies.
Fifteen months ago, the By the People crowdsourced transcription program was in a different place.
We had launched fewer than a dozen campaigns representing 50,000 pages from the Library of Congress collection on crowd.loc.gov, and recruited and registered around 12,000 volunteers. Compare this to July 2021, where we now have 24 campaigns representing over 500,000 pages, with 25,000 registered volunteers. As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded in March and April 2020, activity on our site more than doubled and suddenly we were seeing demand for Library of Congress virtual volunteering like never before.
During this transformational and challenging time, we were also asked to introduce an entirely new user group to By the People: fellow Library of Congress staff. As our buildings largely closed to the public fifteen months ago, many staff (including us) transitioned to telework. For some Library of Congress staff, it was possible to do their normal work remotely, but for many, it was necessary to identify new kinds of remote projects. In this context, as an already 100% virtual program, we were able to provide safe opportunities for our colleagues who needed to rapidly shift to remote work.