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Of the people, by the people, for the people : Now

Virtual Service Learning Hours with By the People

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This post is by Abby Shelton, a Crowdsourcing Community Manager for the Library’s By the People program. To learn more about the program, visit their website. Information for teachers interested in using By the People can be found here.

Does your school or organization require volunteer hours for graduation, class credit, or service learning? The Library’s virtual volunteer program may be able to help you fulfill those hours online. By the People invites volunteers from all over the world to transcribe historical documents from the Library of Congress collections to make them more searchable, discoverable, and accessible to all. The team has recently rolled out some new features to help volunteers track and document their time.

You can volunteer with this crowdsourced transcription program from anywhere as long as you have an Internet-connected device! Volunteers dive into the Library’s collections to transcribe handwritten and printed historical documents. These transcriptions help patrons more easily search and find research materials on the Library’s website, make historical documents accessible to patrons who use screen readers and assistive technologies, and transform the collections into machine-readable data that facilitates new forms of digital research. In the program’s five-year history, volunteers have transcribed over 728,000 pages in collections that cover a wide variety of topics, locations, and time periods – from George Washington to Rosa Parks! You can see all of the currently active transcription campaigns on the By the People website. Make sure you read the “Get started” guide before you jump in.

We have several new tools for volunteers who want to log service hours transcribing documents. The By the People site doesn’t keep track of how much time you spend volunteering, and the program team is unable to verify your hours, but our new website tools should help you keep track of your own time. First, sign up for a user account and log in each time you volunteer. Your profile has a record of the pages you worked on and how many transcriptions and reviews you completed. The profile page also features some of our new documentation tools.

Sample By The People Profile Page
Sample By the People Profile page

On the first tab of your profile page (“My Contributions”), you can download a letter on Library of Congress letterhead that includes your total number of contributions as well as a list of every page you’ve worked on in the past six months. These page logs include date and time stamps that can be helpful in reconstructing and documenting the number of hours you’ve spent volunteering. You can choose to include your first and last name in the letter, instead of your username, by entering your information into the “Account Settings” tab on the profile.

Underneath the service letter download button, you’ll also find a spreadsheet template that you can use to input and track your hours. The spreadsheet has a simple addition formula built in to help you add up your hours.

Page where one can download service letter and spreadsheet documenting work on By the People website
Links on the By the People profile page for downloading a letter of service documentation and spreadsheet template for tracking volunteer time

The “Recent Pages Worked On” tab of the profile page contains a list of every page you’ve worked on over the last six months, including date and time stamps. Some volunteers use screenshots of the date and time information to verify the number of hours they spend volunteering.

Page from By the People providing information on what collections you recently worked on
List of Pages Worked on from By the People website

Although By the People Community Managers cannot sign off on organization-specific forms, including automated ones, or create customized letters, we hope these verification tools will make it easier for you to track you own hours. Contact the By the People team anytime if you need help getting started or figuring out how to use one or more of these features!


  1. I worked as a Social Studies veteran sub-teacher today.We enjoy the LoC in DC.

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