Remote volunteering can be an excellent way to increase output, find potential volunteers with a variety of skills, and mitigate the impact of being unable to record onsite. Some considerations for starting and maintaining a remote volunteer program are included in the sections below.
In general, preparations for a remote volunteer program involve creating applicable documentation, and identifying/implementing equipment-related solutions.
Volunteer assessment materials
Ideally, training resources should be available for completing tasks in more than one software application (i.e. Hindenburg and Audacity).
Links to helpful/relevant YouTube tutorials can be sent to volunteers as supplements, too (i.e. 'how to record quality audio at home').
Collecting feedback from volunteers able to achieve good quality recordings at home can be an effective way to identify new and effective strategies, and improve documentation.
In addition to being a great resource for general considerations (especially 3. Technical Requirements of the Audio Recording), it can also be helpful for volunteers with professional/semi-professional narration experience, or those interested in working as professional narrators.
Depending on available resources, it may be desirable to provide volunteers with a computer/laptop/ single-board computer
equipped with recording software.
Handheld recorders can be a good way to enable volunteers without computers, or who are not comfortable with using computers, to participate.
Many handheld recorders are very simple to operate, and are able to record at levels that meet or exceed NLS-required specifications.
They are often much less expensive than computers or single-board computers (as computers usually require peripherals such as monitors and keyboards, and separate microphones).
As many potential volunteers may have access to computers, the internet, and a quiet space to record, providing them with a computer may not be necessary. However, the microphones that volunteers have ready access to may cause sound quality issues. While many handheld recorders can work as external microphones/audio interfaces, USB microphones can also be used as competitively priced alternatives.
Microsoft SharePoint servers are very easy to use and can be set up and maintained by IT staff. However, as they are not designed to be used with larger files, they require some extra considerations. For more information, please refer to the File and data exchange section below.
For libraries with the necessary resources, setting up a designated server could allow for more customization, and mitigate potential issues with SharePoint.
There are two primary methods for recruiting: in-person and virtual.
In-person (On-site visits, Zoom meetings, etc.)
Local organizations, schools, or libraries can be a source of volunteers, and creating time to make visits and presentations can help spread the word about volunteer programs. Since many potential volunteers may be unable to come to the library during hours of operation, informing them that remote options exist can encourage participation, and recruiting local remote volunteers can make equipment and physical file/data exchange easier.
Virtual recruiting boards
Making documentation on core processes (written, or video contents) available online can be a great way to enable potential and current volunteers to access tutorials easily.
As some volunteers may need additional support, quick, focused tutorial videos or documentation can also be created and uploaded to individual volunteer directories on the server. Once a resource has been created, it can be distributed to other volunteers who encounter the same issue, or used as the basis for creating new general tutorials.
File and data exchange
File and data exchange involve both physical and procedural considerations.
Clearly stating that the primary method of file exchange involves accessing servers in volunteer recruitment listings or presentations is recommended.
However, alternate methods of file exchange (i.e. exchanging USB flash drives through the postal service) can also be implemented for volunteers without internet access, or as a back-up to mitigate potential server issues.
Computer, supported smart device, etc.
As with internet access, the need for computer access should be included in volunteer listings/presentations.
For volunteers without computer, a library-supplied computer/single-board computer, or a handheld recorder can be used as an alternative. In this case, physical file exchange will probably be necessary.
Guidelines by file format
| Recording Type || Export Format || Notes
| Master Recordings || .wav || - Especially for SharePoint servers, it is recommended to have volunteers split/export .wav file recordings into separate files that are less than 1 hour in length prior to upload.
| - In addition to reducing the upload time for files, it will also prevent potential upload issues, especially with SharePoint servers.
| Review Recordings || .mp3 || - As .mp3 files are much smaller than .wav files, they are a good choice for reviewing, and upload of longer files (greater than 8 hours) can also usually be completed without issue.
| - Use of .mp3 format also enables quick download by volunteer reviewers.
| Marker files || .txt, .midi || - Exported marker/label files used to indicate major book elements and locations of corrections can also be exchanged very easily over the server due to small file size.
While the previous sections provide an overview of important general considerations, making every effort to ensure that processes are accessible is a great way to get end-users involved in the book creation processes and increase quality.
Accessibility-related information for individual software applications and equipment should also be consulted where applicable.
Accessible/Partially Accessible solutions can also be created in-house due to the wealth of documentation on coding and open source software solutions available on the internet. Currently, an in-house portable review station which includes marking/timestamp functionality (similar to DTB players) is in use at MBTBL. The review station was created using a Raspberry Pi 3b+ ( Arch Linux ARM), and the review program was written in C ( SDL2, SDL_Mixer).