LOC Staff Telework Guide

Hi and welcome! By the People is a crowdsourced transcription program launched by the Library in October 2018. It invites anyone with an internet connection to explore Library of Congress digital collections as a virtual volunteer by transcribing and reviewing handwritten and typed digitized documents that can’t be automatically read by computers to improve searchability and access.

Completed transcriptions are eventually returned to loc.gov, where they help make content keyword-searchable and more easily readable. In addition to helping meet our mission to open the treasure chest for users generally, this work is especially useful to individuals who use screen readers.

Guidance for staff and supervisors

To help support those in need of telework activities that do not require access to the Library network, Library leadership has determined that staff may work on transcribing and reviewing collections in the Library’s By the People platform as an official remote work activity.

To maximize the effort already committed to By the People, we ask that staff only work on the campaigns which have been added to the site specifically for this period of extended telework. More information in the "Finding a page to work on" section below.

Library Staff:

If you are interested in helping with By the People as part of your telework, please share this resource with your supervisor. Your supervisor will need to provide guidance on the extent to which you can work on transcription and review activities as part of your work. The attached Guide for Library Staff offers information on how to get started.

Library Supervisors:

If you would like to assign work on By the People to your staff, please share this guide with anyone on your team. You will need to offer guidance to staff on how much time they can dedicate to this activity during this extended telework period.

How it works

Technology requirements

By the People is entirely web-based and does not require VPN access or a Library of Congress device -- just internet access! We support the two most recent versions of major browsers. You’ll have the best experience if you use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari. The site will not work as designed on the Internet Explorer browser.

Because By the People invites you to transcribe documents, it is best experienced on a device with a keyboard.


Make sure you are logged in to By the People before starting work! Though the site allows transcription without an account, please log in to an account linked to your loc.gov email for any work you do as a Library employee.

Register for an account using a personal email account if you don’t have access to your Library email from home. Create a username and password of your choice. To complete account activation, you will need to click a link in an email sent to that personal email address. Once you have successfully logged in, navigate to your profile by clicking "Account" in the top right of the By the People site. There, you can change your email to your Library email address. You will not need to click on any further activation emails. The change is immediate.

It is important for the By the People team to keep staff and public contributions separate for reporting purposes, which is why we ask you to register and take part with your Library email address.

Transcription and Review

Completing a page requires at least two people – one to transcribe and another to review – but a document can go through several passes of transcription and review by several people before it is complete.


Transcriptions are created by one or more people looking at a digitized Library document and typing what they see into the By the People interface. Please do your best to transcribe whole pages, but don’t worry if you can’t read something. Just follow the guidelines for how to note uncertainty or simply do what you can and save you work rather than hitting submit. If you save a page, it will be marked as “in progress” in the system and others will be able to step in where you left off and later submit it for review.

Once a page is completely transcribed, hit submit to put the page in the review pile. Another person will then review the page.


A reviewer’s task is to read the entire transcription and carefully compare it to the original image. The reviewer can accept it as complete or make edits and resubmit for another person to review.

Both transcription and review are important, but review is often the slower process, though critical to moving pages across the finish line to complete. So we ask LC staff to focus their efforts on review.

Once a transcription is accepted by a reviewer, it is ready to be published on loc.gov. The transcription publication process is not immediate, but all completed items are queued for loc.gov ingest. We only export items after every page has been completed. For example, if 97 pages of a 100 page document are complete, but three pages need review, we won't export that document until the entire resource is done. Helping to complete almost-finished items will make a dramatic difference in the number of pages we can make accessible!


Tagging is currently an experimental feature and tags cannot yet be added to loc.gov for search or access, therefore please focus on transcription and review.

Keeping track of your work

You can see all of your contributions, including links to pages you have worked on, by visiting your Profile page. This lets you easily track and share with your supervisor the work you have completed.

Getting Started

Before jumping in, read through the By the People welcome guide and instructions:

  1. By the People Welcome Guide
  2. How to Transcribe
  3. How to Review

Finding a page to work on

Although there are many fascinating campaigns available through the main By the People site, we ask that LC staff only work on the following campaigns which have been added to the site specifically for this period of extended telework.

We ask that you not share these links with anyone beyond LC staff. These materials are not being shared with or promoted to the general public. It is also important to keep staff and public contributions separate for reporting purposes, which is why we ask you to register and take part with an loc.gov email address.

On the page for each campaign you’ll find background information on the collection and links to useful resources that may help you decipher names, dates, and more.

Use the statuses listed under the progress bar to filter the items and pages based on the activity you are doing. Select “Needs Review” to only see materials waiting for review. Click through the project and then item level to select a page to work on.

Need Help?

By the People for Telework Overview

This presentation (available as Powerpoint download or PDF) walks you through this staff guide, including how to register and basic instructions.


Access instructions at any time in the Help Center by clicking “Help” at the top of any page. Most frequently needed instructions can also be found under “Quick Tips” on any transcription page.

History Hub

Public volunteers ask questions and share their findings in our discussion forum on History Hub. Visit by clicking "Discuss" at the top of any page. Find answers to many questions about how and what to transcribe by searching or browsing these posts. Please do not post about or link to the staff-specific campaigns in History Hub.

Office Hours and Webinars

Downloadable presentations:

George Patton:
Theodore Roosevelt:

By the People community managers have suspended office hours, which were formerly Mondays at 11am. We plan to continue to offer curator chats and other special webinars. Watch this space for info on upcoming virtual events for staff.

We're eager to hear from you about any professional development opportunities related to By the People and crowdsourcing that you'd like to see.

Ask us questions!

If you can’t find an answer to your question in History Hub or the How-To pages, feel free to email the By the People community managers at [email protected]