With everyone currently cooped up at home, the Service Committee thought it would be a great opportunity for members of LLNE to once again donate their time to help transcribe historically significant documents. The Boston Public Library is asking for the public’s assistance with transcribing its digitized collection of 19th century handwritten correspondence between anti-slavery activists; doing so will improve the collection’s visibility, accessibility, and searchability for users.
Simply visit https://www.antislaverymanuscripts.org and click “Start Transcribing.” You will then be prompted to create an account before starting. The BPL has put together a great tutorial and field guide to help new volunteers, and you can transcribe as little or as much as you’d like—whenever you’d like! Please note that the project is currently not supported on mobile devices.
If you have any questions or comments about this project, please feel free to contact Kaitlin Connolly at Kaitlin.Connolly@mass.gov.
In honor of the LLNE Fall Meeting titled
“Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms in Law Libraries and in Legal
Practice”, the Service Committee is promoting the use of the online legal
game, Learned Hands. Developed by the Stanford Legal
Design Lab and Suffolk’s Legal Innovation and Technology
Lab, Learned Hands is a crowdsourcing game that helps develop
access to justice technology. The game asks players to spot possible
legal issues in real people’s stories. When you spot a legal issue,
you are teaching the technology how to spot the issue as well. The
technology will then be used to help link legal resources to the people who are
searching for help.
play! To participate, go to https://learnedhands.law.stanford.edu/. Creating an
account only takes a minute. Once you have an account, start reading
stories and answer questions about any legal issues you find. You accrue
points for every question you answer. Our goal is to reach 50,000 points
by the end of November! To help us reach that goal, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your
username so we can add your points to LLNE’s overall total.
This year the LLNE Service Committee continued to work closely with the Rhode Island State Archives for its 2019 spring project. Participants transcribed handwritten document pages virtually, from the comfort of their own homes or offices, which was a different approach to the transcription party that was held on Roger Williams University’s Providence Campus in November of last year. Participants received 5 pages (with the ability to request less or more to work on) from the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association (RIESA) journal, which is comprised of minutes, written in late 19th century cursive, of the meetings held between 1888 and 1892. Also included for participants were transcription tips and helpful resources on how to read historical handwriting.
I was unable to attend the transcription party in November, so Iwas excited to be given an opportunity to transcribe pages virtually. I’ve worked on transcription projects in the past for my place of employment and as a volunteer for the genealogical research site FamilySearch, and over time I’ve found that I actually really enjoy it. Older handwriting can be incredibly frustrating to read, and it often requires a bit of detective work; getting a sense of the way the author stylized certain letters and words and figuring out the context of the document, if it’s not immediately apparent, can often provide important pieces to the puzzle. And what librarian doesn’t like a little bit of a research-related challenge?
I was assigned five pages in the RIESA journal that were a summary of a meeting held in 1891, and the main topics that were discussed included the need for women in law and government, the enfranchisement of women, and the protection of children factory workers. It was incredibly easy to view the document online (no downloading was necessary) and write my transcription in Word. I was fortunate that the secretary who took the notes for this particular meeting wrote relatively clearly, and it may have taken me no more than an hour of my time altogether to transcribe the pages. There were a couple words I scratched my head over (like “grogshop”???), but by the end I was confident that I had everything transcribed correctly—spelling and grammatical mistakes included, even though it’s sotempting to make corrections! It was also neat to read first-handabout the different speeches given during this spirited meeting by well-known names such as Mary Ann Greene and William Lloyd Garrison, with Anna Garlin Spencer presiding over the meeting.
Once the transcription was complete, I emailed the file to the Rhode Island State Archives. While certain types of documents can be fed through optical character recognition (OCR), transcribing handwriting requires manual effort and time; it felt good to be able to help provide greater access to this important association’s records for researchers and the general public.
The LLNE Service Committee would like to thank everyone who helped us transcribe documents for the Rhode Island State Archives this year.
In the Fall, the committee hosted a transcription party with State Archivist, Ashley Selima. LLNE members transcribed documents from the Rhode Island Suffrage Association from 1868-1871 and 1888-1892 at the Roger Williams Law Providence Campus. Transcribers were then treated to a tour of the Rhode Island State Archives and a social hour at a local restaurant. The committee would like to thank Roger Williams Law Providence Campus for the fantastic space and technological support. We would also like to thank to LLNE and Lexis for sponsoring the event.
After the party, members of the Service Committee wrote an article titled “Hosting A Successful Transcription Party”, which was published in the March/April 2019 issue of the AALL Spectrum.
In the Spring, the Service Committee took the transcription party on the road. LLNE members from all over transcribed historical documents from the comfort of their home or office. The committee is happy to report that we had 23 volunteers transcribe over 100 pages of the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association Journal from 1888-1892. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and made this project a success!
All the transcriptions will help make these fascinating historical documents more accessible to everyone. The LLNE Service Committee would like to thank the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office and RI State Archivist Ashley Selima for providing this wonderful opportunity.
Thank you to the members of the Service Committee for all their work making this project a reality. We are always looking for more volunteers! If interested, email Jessica at email@example.com.
The LLNE Service Committee is taking the Transcription Party on the road! We are looking for members who are interested in helping us transcribe documents from the Rhode Island State Archives from the comfort of their home or office. Here is how you can help:
Email Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive 5 pages from the Rhode Island State Archives Suffrage Association collection. (Want more or less? Just let us know!).
On Sunday, October 28th, members of the LLNE A2J Committee and the LLNE Service Committee presented at the New England Library Association Conference (NELA) in Warwick, RI. The presentation titled “Law, Technology, and Access to Justice” discussed the access to justice gap in both New England and the United States and how technology is being developed to help bridge the gap. The presenters showcased a variety of current and upcoming technologies that are focused on helping self-represented litigants prepare for court, such as RePresent, Objection! Your Honor, and the Odyssey Guide and File. The session also tackled ethical concerns and the unauthorized practice of law with presenters role-playing common legal reference scenarios to show setting boundaries with patrons. Finally, and most importantly, the presenters discussed LLNE’s Legal Link resource for providing legal reference and referrals. The session was well-received and the attendees were engaged with the material. The slides from the session have been uploaded and shared on the NELA website.
From 1-4pm, we will be at the Roger Williams University Providence Campus (1 Empire Street, Providence) transcribing historical documents from the Rhode Island State Archives’s Suffrage Association collection. Afterwards, come enjoy drinks and appetizers (and the company of fellow law librarians) around the corner at Rosalina’s (50 Aborn Street, Providence).
No experience with transcription necessary! None of us have ever hosted nor attended a transcription party before so don’t worry if you are unsure about transcription! Come ready to have fun and help out a great organization!
There are some questions that a public librarian will not answer because they fall under the purview of a specialized profession. We don’t want to do harm to our patrons nor do we want to be liable for questions about health, medicine, or taxes. You can also add legal questions to this list, but what I learned at LRIP is that there is a world of difference between legal advice and questions about the law. Information about the law is much more readily available than I realized. It was useful and instructive to learn how to use Lexis and Westlaw, but most public libraries do not have the funding for such resources. But LRIP taught me how to find useful legal information via Google as well as state and federal government websites. The lessons learned in this course certainly made me feel empowered. Before LRIP, I would refer all legal questions down the road to the Plymouth Law Library. After LRIP, I feel better prepared to help patrons with questions about the law.
*Alvin Ealy is the Head of Adult Services/Reference at the Kingston Public Library in Kingston, MA and a recipient of the 2018 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.
For this year’s Spring service project, the Service Committee organized a drive for Veterans Inc. Helping homeless veterans since 1990, Veterans Inc. provides housing, medical, and employment assistance to veterans in the New England area. Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, their philosophy is “They were there when we needed them. We must be there now that they need us.” Veterans Inc. provides 24/7 support to veterans and their families with emergency, transitional, and long-term housing, career counseling and training, as well as support groups and substance abuse treatment programs. For more information on Veterans Inc., visit http://www.veteransinc.org/.
To help them supply essentials to veterans in need, the Service Committee asked LLNE members to donate gift cards that provide food, clothes, and medicine. The committee is pleased to report that $555 in gift cards was contributed by LLNE members. Thank you to everyone for their generous donations.
Thank you to the members of the LLNE Service Committee for organizing the Veterans Inc. Drive. The Service Committee is always looking for more volunteers! If interested, go to https://llne.org/committees/service/.
Beyond supporting patrons’ research and learning interests, I would like to extend the reach of what we can do at the library in terms of patrons’ access to justice. Perhaps because of our proximity to the Trial Court Library, reference services have comprised of referring folks to the expertise of the law librarians there. I felt limited by my own threadbare understanding of the legal system and intimidated by the process of reading the law. In these regards, I certainly related to patrons dealing with complex, unfamiliar, or overwhelming legal issues. The Legal Research Instruction Program exposed me not only to open-web legal resources that I can share, both with patrons and on our library’s website, but also to the types of research methodologies that attorneys, paralegals, and law librarians use. This type of insight strengthens my own research process, which helps me to interview patrons better and prepare them for further research at the Trial Court Library. Furthermore, I’m excited to connect to the law librarians there, build a stronger professional relationship between our two institutions, and better facilitate community access to legal information. Considering the systemic inequalities that play out through the courts, the laws, and law enforcement, I consider this work to be profoundly important for our commitment to equity and justice. It was a great, eye-opening experience to demystify the legal research process!
*Heather Diaz is a reference librarian at Forbes Library in Northampton and a recipient of the 2018 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.