Navy Department Library, Washington, D.C.


The Navy Department Library offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including include website development, processing of manuscript collections, translation of foreign language materials, and providing assistance with reference and cataloging. Contact the library to find out more about the following projects.

Website Development

The Naval History and Heritage Command website is consulted by a world-wide audience of many thousands of people every month, and has received the recognition of the National Endowment of the Humanities as one of the best teaching-related resources on the Internet. Almost anyone can help with developing the website as long as they display a strong attention to detail, own a computer, and are able to word process; individuals with strong proof reading skills are particularly needed. Website development consists of digitizing (word processing and/or scanning), proofreading, and in some cases also formatting electronic files. Items for website posting include subject presentations as well as individual documents and publications relating to naval and military history. In order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and to make materials easy to use by researchers, the library is focused on producing text files of historic materials. Website volunteers can work at the Navy Department Library, or at a distance, communicating via e-mail. If working at the library they may need to bring their own laptop, though sometimes a computer is available in the library. If working at a distance they will communicate and send digitized files to the library via e-mail. Hardcopy materials (typically photocopies) will be mailed to volunteers.

Processing of Manuscript Collections

Retired librarians and archivists are preferred, though individuals with a strong interest in history will be considered. Attention to detail is essential. Volunteers must work onsite during normal business hours. The library has a large collection of manuscript materials including personal papers collections, journals, notebooks, scrapbooks, and individual documents. Items range from the 1700s through the Global War on Terrorism, with the majority dating to the 19th and 20th centuries. In some cases collections need to be organized and placed in folders and archival boxes. Individual items, often handwritten, will need to be briefly described with regard to authorship, subject, date, etc. In the case of collections, finding aids will need to be prepared on the model of the following collections:
Commander William S. Edwards
Rear Admiral William J. Galbraith
Captain George W. Much
Passed Engineer Robert Salmond Talbot
Captain William L. Ware

In some cases individual documents will need to be transcribed. Library staff will assist with the formatting of electronic finding aids.

Translation of Foreign Language Materials

Strong foreign language abilities are essential. Although the cataloging staff sometimes needs help with translating publication information, duties normally involve the translation of historic documents and publications. The library is particularly interested in obtaining help with translating German, Vietnamese, and early 19th century Arabic documents. Recent projects include materials captured on German submarine U-505 . It is preferred that volunteers work onsite during normal business hours, though in some cases volunteers can work at a distance, communicating via email. If working at the library, they may need to bring their own laptop, though sometimes a computer is available in the library. If working at a distance they will communicate and send digitized files to the library via email. Hardcopy materials (photocopies) will be mailed to volunteers.

Reference Assistance

Retired librarians and individuals with a strong naval history background are preferred. Volunteers typically assist the staff with the preparation of document finding aids/inventories and subject bibliographies, as well as assisting the reference staff with answering public inquiries for historical information. Volunteers must work onsite during normal business hours.

Cataloging Assistance

Persons interested in cataloging work are desired. Assistance is needed with descriptive and modified cataloging of naval, maritime and related subjects using the OCLC database. Also assistance is needed with updating the cataloging module of the library’s integrated library system, as well as all phases of processing such as the attachment of security strips, the preparation and replacement of spine labels, inventory of collection, and minor book repairs. Volunteers must work onsite during normal business hours.