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Volunteering online! Open Library and LibriVox

22 May

As a librarian, it is a given that access to information is part of the purpose for this career. Also, it follows that information literacy (if you like that buzz word) or good research skills (if you like it put more plainly) are important for assessing information and its sources. In my “Professional Practice” course this last term, I learned of Open Library and LibriVox, and began to pursue them both; volunteers can help to provide good, accurate, as well as access to, information.

Open Library is an open access catalog, part of the Internet Archive, that works similar to Wikipedia, meaning any volunteer can add or change records in the online catalog. Signing up is not required, edits can be made anonymously, but lets you build a name for yourself and become part of the community. Every bit of information counts. They are trying to create one webpage for every book ever published and provide links to other sources such as WorldCat and LC but also to full texts when available. My moniker is–what else?–ReadWriteLib but identifies me as Emily Alinder Flynn on my profile. Since I’ll be moving out of my grad apartment at the end of June, or sooner depending on when a job comes through :D, I am sorting through my many books and cataloging, or enhancing records, on Open Library as I go; it’s slow work but then I get to peruse my books and decide which to keep and read, and which need to be donated (Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, NYC, is a great place for that! Or ASB fundraising here at UM SI)–seriously, after toting them around for all of college and now grad school, if I don’t have a pull to read it after looking it over, the book needs to go somewhere else and allow someone else the chance to read it. Plus, you can get anything at a library these days, but I can’t give up all my books, can I? I could but I can’t…you know what I mean because you probably have a bookshelf or two of your own. So I’ve been adding information like toc and measurements, and correcting errors when found. Open Library believes the more information the better so since I have the time, at the moment, I’ve added in all that I can, including chapter titles because they can be very helpful and most records are pretty bare. This is one way to work on my cataloging skills further while helping to get better, complete information to people searching Open Library, and I feel that I am making a big difference in my small way.

Second is LibriVox which is a website that provides access to audio files of public domain books, all read and produced by the forum participants. I think this is a fabulous idea because people love audio books and public domain books are already available so why not make them audio files! There is a whole plethora of types of works–nonfiction, foreign languages, and of course fiction. I was lucky enough to get chapter 27 of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as my first contribution! And ironically it happened to be the chapter that I had left off reading on my iPhone–remember that Classics app, which iBooks looks a lot like? I forgot what a great adventure story it is and have now gone back to finish it since reading this chapter. You do have to sign up and get a test recording approved, and they have really good instructions and tips on their wiki page, but after that you find a work in the forum that you want to be a part of and request a certain chapter/portion. The fun part is reading. The hard part is editing and rerecording bits but it’s worth it. Again, my moniker is ReadWriteLib and this will show up in the catalog with this work when it is complete and available to listen to. The other day I resubmitted my corrections; others are still recording their chapters so the work is not complete yet. I had a lot of fun with this and will do more again…but first I need a little break and to get through all the books on my bookshelf with Open Library.

These are two great resources to know about, and help out if they sound appealing to you! I find it enjoyable to put my library and information skills to work through this type of volunteering, from anywhere and at my own pace while making a difference in my own way. I hope you at least check them out, and considering adding to them as well.

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