You don’t have to travel to Washington D.C. or Philadelphia to be involved up close and personal to rescue and make more publicly available, America’s most seminal historic documents of the prior 200-plus years.

In fact, ordinary citizens can work from home, partnering with the Library of Congress (LOC) to play a vital translator rescue role in salvaging the content of all manner of documents that reveal who and what America was and became.

And what catastrophe triggered a recent public virtual 911 emergency call from Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress to harness the talent and civic spirit of citizens across America?

Water damage and floods? Mildew? Fire? Paper-eating insects? Humidity? No.

Computers — combined with someone’s idea, a decade or more ago, to abandon standard teaching of cursive writing in America’s public schools — are the culprit. These unintended consequences threaten library preservation of America’s history.

LOC seeks (unpaid) translators from English into English who can work from home. Access via crowdsourcing at

Computers, thought to be infallible miracles, are confounded — unable to read thousands of handwritten (in cursive) and some pounded out (on upright typewriters) — American documents ranging from baseball scouting reports of Hall of Famer Branch Rickey (1881-1965), known for breaking Major League Baseball barriers by signing black player Jackie Robinson, to constituent letters written to President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).

“Computers cannot accurately translate (cursive and typed-on-uprights text) without human intervention,” Hayden said.

You can help, Hayden implored in a public unveiling of a national and international public crowdsourcing effort which can be accessed online via Nonspecialists are welcome. Time is of the essence.

“Library of Congress invites the public to volunteer to transcribe and tag digitized images of text materials from Library collections. Volunteers will help the library while gaining new skills, like parsing primary sources or reading cursive.

“Volunteers will type what they see in the image. After other volunteers verify, these transcriptions will return to the interface for pubic search and use, enhancing metadata of existing collections,” Hayden said.

Only registered users can review or add tags.

“Coming soon are materials related to Civil War veterans, women’s voting rights, American poetry, the history of psychiatry and more,” Hayden said.

LOC employees Lauren Algee, Elaine Kamlley, Victoria Van Hyning and Meghan Ferriter are leading the public effort, according to Carla Hayden.

Janice Law is a columnist for The Daily News. Have a travel question? Email

(2) comments

Carlos Ponce

The Common Core Curriculum does not include writing in cursive. Texas never adopted Common Core.
Wring in cursive starts in the second grade:
From Texas TEKS:
§110.4. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 2, Adopted 2017.
(b) (2) (E) The student is expected to develop handwriting by accurately forming all cursive letters using appropriate strokes when connecting letters.
And it continues in Grade 3
(b) (2) (D) The student is expected to write complete words, thoughts, and answers legibly in cursive leaving appropriate spaces between words.
Grade 4
(b) (2) (C) The student is expected to write legibly in cursive to complete assignments.
Grade 5
(b) (2) (C) The student is expected to write legibly in cursive.
There was a time when printing writing samples was preferred on standardized tests. Writing sample readers had difficulty reading some students' poor penmanship. The current STAAR EOC test administration manual however has the following instruction: "Be sure to write neatly so that others can read your writing. You may either print or write in cursive, whichever is easier for you."
Your Texas Elementary student should be taught to write in cursive, what we used to call "real writing". If not, point out the TEKS to the teacher and or administrator. TEKS - Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
Now some bright youngster can teach a computer to read!

Miceal O'Laochdha

What brave new world our grandchildren shall inherit. I believe it was 2nd grade when the good Sisters of St. Joseph taught me the Palmer Method penmanship exercises to ensure I would be able to write properly. I can still recall how to make the repetitive loops of the exercises to create muscle-memory in my hand, wrist, and forearm. At the same time, they also instructed us on the proper use, care, and maintenance of Parker cartridge-style fountain pens. Computers? I managed to figure out how to use them on my own. I have never heard of anyone developing carpal tunnel syndrome from frequent handwriting.

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