The "What's on the Menu?" project is a powerful example of how a library can use technology to recruit members of the public to help it handle labor-intensive tasks, in this case transcribing thousands of dishes from digital copies of the menus posted on the project's Web site. But the benefits go far beyond free labor.
When the subject of crowdsourcing comes up, the question of quality control is rarely far behind. So far, library curators say, the volunteers' work has been excellent.
Once in a while there's a typo or other minor error, but overall the transcriptions have been of high quality, according to Mr. Inman. Library workers, including interns, review the fully transcribed menus. Volunteers tend to police themselves and each other, he says.