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Crowdsourcing at the Law Library

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The Law Library acquired a large collection from William S. Hein & Co., Inc. to make all volumes of several collections (like the Federal Register) available in open access to researchers. Preparing these files by adding metadata for easy searching takes a lot of work, so this summer we asked law students and library students from across the country to help become our “crowd” in order to crowdsource metadata for a collection of 542 volumes of U.S. Reports.

Our summer crowdsourcing group was about 70 interns strong. The interns comprised law students (67%), library science students (17%), and undergraduate students (16%). We had students from 48 schools in 35 different states, from Maine to Florida to Hawaii. We even had two students working from outside the U.S. in Germany and Uganda.

Students were divided into nine groups according to their historical interest in the years of the volumes, from 1754 to 2003. Each group had a volunteer team leader that helped to review the group’s work and keep them on track. We also had three metadata technicians here at the Law Library who applied their library science backgrounds to help the group leaders and compile the work. Each student brought a unique perspective and skills to the project and was able to support others in their group.

The Power of the Crowd - Law Library of Congress Poster
The Power of the Crowd – Law Library of Congress Poster / Photograph by Andrew Weber / Poster created, compiled, and edited by Jennifer González, Janice Hyde, and Francisco Macías

At the end of the project, we had rave reviews! Most of the interns said the internship was educational and valuable. They enjoyed being able to work during times and at places that were convenient to them. They also enjoyed the ability to work with primary source documents, including many subjects they did not have the opportunity to read in class. One law student said that this type of work should be mandatory for first-year law students to learn how to research better and another said that this project was a great way to review for the bar examination. Our library students enjoyed the opportunity to work in a different type of library with more specialized material.

Are you interested in helping big projects like this one succeed? The Law Library lists opportunities on its internships page, but there are also ongoing projects at the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Archives and Records Administration.

This collection will be available online in early 2017. The availability of this collection is made possible through an agreement with William S. Hein & Co., Inc. The agreement precludes bulk downloading and commercial reuse.  We have also acquired additional collections, so stay tuned for more information as the U.S. Reports and other U.S. legal materials become available!

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