I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- the greatest advantage and challenge of my project is its uniqueness. After researching and interviewing librarians and archivists who manage all kinds of public-facing capture staions or personal archiving outreach, I’ve yet to find something similar to the Memory Lab’s ambitious one-stop-shop for personal archiving.
But a couple months ago, I found something close.
In May 2015, Vancouver Public Library opened its Inspiration Lab, “a free place dedicated to digital creativity, collaboration, and storytelling.” In many ways it’s analogous to the Labs at DC Public Libraries- its got a sound studio like our Studio Lab, computers with robust production software like our creative computers in the Digital Commons, and collaboration spaces similar to our Dream Lab. Last but not least, they have analog-to-digital conversion stations!!!!!VPL’s Digitization Stations
There are 8 stations all together- 2 have open hookups so patrons can bring in their own devices to plug and play, and the remaining 6 are outfitted with the following:
- Epson V700 Flatbed photo/negative/slide scanner station (2)
- VHS video tape-to-digital conversion station (2)
- 8mm/Digital 8 analog video casette tape-to-digital conversion station (1)
- Audiotape-to-digital conversion station (1)
Stations use Elgato converters with CyberLink MediaSuite Software and Audacity Software for their tape-to-digital conversion workflow.
Another characteristic that got me excited was they’d set up the stations to be DIY. A helpful libguide gives step by step instructions with pictures for each kind of transfer, assuming only basic technological skills.
Interview with Erin Rickbeil, Assistant Manager, Inspiration Lab
The following are notes from my interview with Erin, organized loosely by topic. I wanted to include as much as I could for you readers, not knowing what would be useful (although all of it was useful to me!).
-Patrons book the space using the library’s booking system. At first patron’s were sending in emails, but it was determined that an automated system would make it easier for staff to provide faster service to patrons.
-Patrons book for 3 hour spots.
-Patrons log off and on themselves using a library card. They save onto the D: drive, and every morning a staff member wipes all drives to protect patron privacy.
-One staff member floats around the whole lab, so there’s always someone on hand but their time is shared.
-Patrons teach themselves using the libguide, printed handouts, or by attending a once a week “digital drop-in” where they can answer specific questions. Found that the vast majority of people had a specific thing they wanted to digitize, so orientations that covered all formats were not efficient.
-Patrons are moved to editing station for post-production work.
-Haven’t experienced technical problems yet with equipment, but the scanner glass has gotten scratched and they now keep an extra glass pane in stock so that it can be switched out. Scanner cleaning kits are available for patrons to use before and after sessions
-Staff do not screen tapes before they’re put into the machines.
-Not really wedded to particular formats at this point and they are taking ongoing donation requests for equipment.
-Judging file size and how long it takes to save files/ adequately scoping a 3-hour lab session. Staff are working to educate users on the impact of resolution on file size, and just how long it may take to upload or save large files.
-Patrons do not always bring in storage equipment, so staff now sells 16GB USBs.
-Scanning is the most finicky, although the average use time was only two hours vs. three for a/v.
-Unlike other stations in the Inspiration Lab, the digitization stations attract retirees and those who are not as familiar as other patrons with technology.
-The actual digitization is just a small piece of the process. Many patrons desire to incorporate what they capture into a creative project like creating a slide show, etc and want help with that as well or misjudge
how long it takes do create that.
-Staff desires to teach fair-use and copyright and long-term stewardship classes, educate about these issues or put them more seamlessly into the creative classes that are taught.
-Patrons are not digitization everything they are bringing in.
-Patrons have cried or laughed at the stations- it’s an emotional experience
-Very popular. In the first three months, 95 scanner bookings happened and 54 of them were pre-booked.
-VHS and scanning stations are the most popular.
-Next year, they are setting up a smaller version in a neighborhood branch.
-The central library where the Lab currently is sounds similar to our location- Erin is curious about how usage would be different if it’s in a
more neighborhood branch vs. downtown.
How this interview will influence the Memory Lab
It struck me that here at DCPL we were also planning similar workflows with the Memory Lab such as 3-hour lab limits, a libguide to facilitate DIY user behavior, and preventing post-production work in the space. We also had in mind rolling orientations, but VPL’s transition to digital drop-ins is something we will seriously consider.
The open a/v hookup idea is a genius way of broadening the lab’s capabilities without allocating more resources, so I’ll def. be using that idea as well (thanks Erin et al.!)
Most importantly, Erin raised a list of issues that I need to figure out how to prevent. Namely, what can I do to help patrons
- understand the relationship between resolution and file size?
- estimate how much memory will be needed?
- estimate the time required for digitizing and saving?
- complete their digital project by connecting them to other Lab resources?
Putting Preservation into Digitization
VPL’s Inspiration Lab is an amazingly cohesive space for patrons to work on creative projects from start to finish. That goal of aiding creativity is at the heart of their digitization stations, which are usually the starting place for people’s projects.
Although some equipment and workflows in the Inspiration Lab are the same, the goal for the Memory Lab is a bit different- instead of creation, our focus is on preservation. We are providing free resources for transfer and access as a method of accessible digital stewardship for non-archivists. Although I am aware that patrons will want to do creative projects with their files- such as making movies or slideshows to share with family and friends- the goal is still preservation. How can we give patrons the freedom to create while also ensuring that their seed material is preserved? The success of our Lab rests on this question.