Volunteer Overview

Volunteer Overview


Bookshare’s® goal of increasing access to books for people with print disabilities is achieved largely through the efforts of our volunteers. These dedicated volunteers scan and proofread books from their homes. They also apply their skills in software development, image description, outreach, and more, either remotely or at our Palo Alto, California offices. Our volunteers belong to a rich and lively Bookshare community and participate in discussion groups, book clubs, and events. They are a vibrant mix of people, both with and without print disabilities, who love books and come together virtually to help make the printed word accessible. They range from techies, musicians, grandmothers, high-school students, science-fiction buffs, teachers, published authors, and artists…just about anybody who wants to help!


Any U.S. resident over 15 years of age can be a Bookshare volunteer. To be a virtual volunteer who adds books to our library, all you need is an Internet connection and basic computer skills (web browsing and word processing).


Though many hundreds of Bookshare volunteers are also Bookshare members, there is an important distinction: Bookshare members are individuals with a qualifying print disability (such as blindness or dyslexia) who read books with a computer using Assistive Technology (AT).  Members receive unlimited access to accessible books, textbooks, newspapers and magazines in our collection. Some members are also volunteers. Bookshare volunteers receive $2.50 in credits for successfully submitting or proofreading a book. Member/volunteers can apply these credits to their membership fees once the book has been added to our library. That way, not only can members help add books they are especially interested in to the collection, but they can also “pay” for their yearly subscription with the credits earned from scanning or proofreading.  Many volunteers are not members, and therefore cannot download books from our online library for the purposes of reading, but their efforts subsidize the membership fees of print-disabled people who cannot afford the annual membership fee. Volunteers can also donate their credits to specific members. For more information about donating credits, contact the Bookshare Volunteer Coordinator. Make sure to select "Volunteering."


Summer Internship


For the second summer in a row, Bookshare is offering an exciting internship for students in their final years of high school and beginning years of college. Our application is due is April 15th, and the internship will run June-August. Please click the link above for more information and application details.


Volunteer Tasks and Opportunities


 Scanning: Volunteers scan hard copies of books into a computer using optical character recognition software (OCR) to convert the scanned image into a digital text file (we require Rich Text Format (RTF)). They then review the scanned book to confirm that all proper pages, page breaks, and chapters are included before submitting it to the queue for proofreading. 


Proofreading: Volunteers review scanned submissions for basic quality and correct any errors created by the scanning process. They never correct the author’s text. The volunteer then uploads the reviewed or proofread book to the Bookshare approval queue for a final review before it’s made available to members.


Image Descriptions: We have a new opportunity to improve textbook accessibility for visually impaired and blind students.  We are seeking volunteers with strong writing skills and knowledge of academic subjects to describe images in textbooks.  Volunteers write image descriptions in their subject matter preference, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and/or math.  Our volunteers, who are pioneers in this cutting-edge technology, work entirely online, using an open source description tool.  You can describe a single chapter or an entire book – it’s all up to you.  For more information, view our wiki page and register here.


Technical Opportunities: Software industry professionals have the opportunity to contribute to various open source software projects that Bookshare relies on.  Volunteers should consider their skills and available time when selecting a task.  Please visit our projects on the Social Coding 4 Good page to review the current projects.


 Other Volunteer Opportunities: Here you will find information about our other volunteer opportunities, such in-house opportunities at our Palo Alto, CA offices, as well as opportunities in other departments and with other Benetech projects.


 Sign Up: Ready to become a Bookshare Volunteer? Great!


FAQs: Read through these FAQs and tips before you begin. You’ll find an assortment of common mistakes that people make, with easy fixes.


 Meet the Volunteers: Learn more about our wonderful volunteers by reading their profiles!


Policies: Follow this link for information related specifically to volunteer policies.


Contact Us: Find contact information for the staff, discussion groups, and more.