Over the last 10 years, accessibility has become a topic of great importance in public and academic libraries as awareness of the challenges some patrons face increases. Digitizing material has been an excellent way that libraries can open up their collections to communities far beyond difficult to reach reading rooms. However, digitized records can come with their own accessibility challenges. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs have helped to make type written materials more accessible to text readers and search engines, but do not work for handwritten materials, especially those in cursive script.
Many libraries are considering how to tackle this particular challenge. The Library of Congress has addressed this challenge by opening its archives to citizen historians and asking for help to make their online collections more accessible by transcribing materials and providing transcription reviews through their program, called By the People! There are several campaigns to choose from including:
- Civil War Justice: The Correspondence of Joseph Holt, Judge Advocate General
- Organizing for Women’s Suffrage: The NAWSA Records
- Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents
- American Creativity: Early Copyright Title Pages
If you are interested in lending a hand to make the above collections, or any of the many more collections, more accessible to more people, then it is easy to get started. You can simply jump into a transcription or a review via the By the People! main page.