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Check out these .gov webinars, training opportunities and crowdsourcing projects while you’re telecommuting during COVID-19

This surely is a surreal time as counties around the San Francisco Bay area are issuing “shelter in place” orders until at least April 7, 2020 and other cities around the country have already or will soon be following suit in order to try and curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we scramble to find work for our library staff, here’s a reminder that the .gov domain (International, Federal, state and local!) is a great place to find webinars and other training opportunities as well as pitching in on some amazing crowdsourcing projects from agencies like the Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Here are just a few examples for readers to explore. Let us know in the comments if you have other favorites.


Given that the Census 2020 is currently being mailed to households around the country, now’s a great time to explore all of the webinars from the US Census Bureau. They’ve got recorded webinars and courses/workshops going back to 2015 on their site covering topics from data tools, population characteristics, housing, data visualization, census data with R and so much more!

Another awesome place for webinars about government information is the “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” webinar series which has been hosted by the North Carolina Library Association since 2011(!). All have been recorded and available on their site as well as on YouTube. You’ll find webinars covering local, state, US and international government information — and even a few done by your friendly FGI writers on saving government data and fugitive documents hunting!

There are so many webinars out there in the .gov domain, and even some that are suitable for middle- and high school students (the younger kids might want to check out Ben’s Guide from GPO for a fun learning opportunity!). The best way to find these is to do a google search for “webinars site:*.gov” or “webinars site:*.un.org” or “webinars site:worldbank.org” (or put in your favorite government agency url after “site: “).

Crowdsourcing projects:

Crowdsourcing is another great way to use your “shelter in place” time for a good library/archives cause. Here are just a few:

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Citizen Archivist Dashboard. NARA has opened up their treasure trove of archival records of the US government so that citizens can tag, transcribe, and add comments to NARA’s records, making them more accessible and searchable. Explore all of NARA’s “missions.” There’s something there for everyone.

The Library of Congress launched its By the People (crowd.loc.gov) in the fall of 2018. The application invites everyone to transcribe, review, and tag digitized images of manuscripts and typed materials from the Library’s collections. There are so many campaigns to choose from. I’ve been chipping in on the Walt Whitman at 200 project which has been amazing since he’s one of my favorite poets.

While not technically .gov, the Zooniverse is a great platform that brings together researchers, scientists, academics with citizens in a many-hands-make-light-work manner. Projects that are in need of citizens with time and an internet connection run the gamut from arts, biology, climate, history, language, literature, medicine, to physics and space. One of my favorites actually IS a .gov project called “Old weather” where scientists seek help in transcribing Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship’s logs since the mid-19th century. This started as a British Navy project, but NARA became involved and brought logbooks of the US Navy into the project. There’s so much to explore in the zooniverse for librarians, staff and even their kids!

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