Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 2)

As part of Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary celebration, yesterday we took a look at the public domain e-books we’ve contributed to Project Gutenberg. Today we look at:

The People

Numerous people from around the world participate in our book-preserving mission – the volunteers at DP and those who work with our partners in other like-minded organizations.

Our Volunteers

Since DP’s founding 20 years ago, more than 55,000 volunteers from around the globe have contributed to creating our e-books – nearly 40,000 e-books – making them freely available to all at Project Gutenberg.

With many people spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, DP has had an influx of new volunteers this year. This has not been a short-term impact of a few days or even weeks, but a sustained addition of volunteers every month. Welcome, welcome to all of you! And thank you, thank you to all of the existing volunteers who have been working steadily to keep a variety of projects available for the new volunteers to work on, as well as answering questions, mentoring, and moving the projects through the rounds of proofreading and formatting.

Numerous volunteers wear numerous hats at DP. We have a General Manager, Linda Hamilton, at the helm, appointed by the Trustees of the Distributed Proofreaders Foundation (the non-profit corporation with overall stewardship of the organization). We have our Site Administrators – the folk who keep our wheels running, affectionately known as “Squirrels” because back in the olden days, our site server was in our founder Charlz’s garage, and sometimes squirrels would visit it… You’ll read some more about their work tomorrow, when we talk about the Tools. And there are Project Facilitators who smooth the path of a project on its way to becoming an e-book.

Then we have the many people who are involved in the direct production of our e-books. This blog post on the life of a book at DP, written by one of our Squirrels, will give you an excellent idea of the process and the people involved – Content Providers, Project Managers, Proofreaders, Formatters, Post-Processors, Smooth Readers, Post-Processing Verifiers. We even have specialists to help with things like mentoring, image processing, music transcription, and projects in languages other than English.

Some of our busy volunteers have reached milestones of their own over the last few years. In August 2016, one Project Manager created his 2000th project. That means that he alone had created 6% of the projects we had worked on at that point. Nearly every proofreader and formatter at that time had likely worked on at least one of his projects. Just last month, one Smooth Reader completed smooth reading more than 1,000 books since 2007. And one of our post-processors completed post-processing more than 1,000 books.

Our Partners

Project Gutenberg is our primary partner, making all the projects we work on available via online download. They are for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost. The user may copy them, give them away, or re-use them. The e-books are all in the public domain in the United States. Since its founding in 1971, Project Gutenberg has amassed a collection of over 60,000 e-books on a vast array of topics, nearly 40,000 of which were contributed by DP volunteers over the last 20 years. Both Project Gutenberg and DP follow the principles of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement, which means that the e-books we work on are not restricted as to content.

We owe a great debt to Project Gutenberg, not only because they are a repository for our work, but also because their hardworking volunteers, like the “Whitewashers” who do the final checks on all e-books submitted to Project Gutenberg, share our high standards of quality.

We’re also celebrating our anniversary in partnership with Librivox, whose volunteers – people from all over the world – record audiobooks from books in the U.S. public domain. As with Project Gutenberg’s e-books, these audiobooks are freely available to anyone. In honor of DP’s 20th anniversary, Librivox has recorded DP’s 35,000th title, Shores of the Polar Sea, and Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title (the e-book of which was also prepared by DP volunteers), The Living Animals of the World, vol. 1.

DP volunteers have also helped with a number of preservation projects in conjunction with educational and cultural institutions all over the world. In 2018, we began assisting in Project PHaEDRA, a joint project of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute, in transcribing some of the Harvard College Observatory’s 19th- and early 20th-Century astronomical logbooks and notebooks. These were produced by a group of Harvard researchers that included early female astronomers and the famous Harvard Computers. And in 2019, in connection with an exhibition in at the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, entitled “Data Workers,” DP volunteers transcribed French and French-English texts from the Mundaneum’s archive.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the Tools that make it possible for us to preserve history one page at a time. We’re so proud to have been doing that for 20 years!

This post was contributed by WebRover, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

2 Responses to Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 2)

  1. genknit says:

    Thanks, WebRover–an excellent post.

  2. genknit says:

    Thanks, WebRover–another great post!

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