NDSR DC 2016 Symposium

We held a symposium called “Digital Frenemies: Closing the Gap in Born-Digital and Made-Digital Curation” on May 5th, 2016. For full audio recordings, you can visit our website. For the storify, visit https://storify.com/ncontaxis/ndsr-symposium-2016

8:30 – 9:30 Registration

9:30 – 10:00 Welcome & Opening Remarks, George Coulbourne, Library of Congress and Betsy L. Humphreys, National Library of Medicine

George Coulbourne is Chief, Internships and Fellowships, in the office of National and International Outreach, at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Coulbourne was a co-founder of the pilot NDSR program in Washington, DC and currently leads the third iteration of the Library of Congress/IMLS National Digital Stewardship Residency Program and serves as a NDSR advisory board member for the American Association of Public Broadcasting and the newly awarded NDSR Philadelphia Museum of Art and ARLIS North America NDSR programs. He was co-founder of the Library’s nationwide Digital Preservation Education and Outreach initiative and serves as the agency lead for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Internship Program.

As deputy director of NLM, Betsy L. Humphreys shares responsibility with the director for overall program development, program evaluation, policy formulation, direction, and coordination of all Library activities. Ms. Humphreys also coordinates the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) project, which produces knowledge sources to support advanced retrieval and integration of information from disparate electronic information sources, and NLM’s activities related to health data standards. She contributes to the development of NIH and HHS policy on a range of matters, including health information technology, public access to research results, clinical trial registration and results reporting.

10:00-10:50 “The Walking Dead,” Jason Scott, Internet Archive/Archive Team

Click to download and open slides from Jason Scott’s “The Walking Dead”

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Currently, Jason Scott is the curator of the Software collection at the Internet Archive. In 2009, Jason Scott formed the Archive Team, now coined as a “loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage.”  Leading the Archive Team, Scott provides technical expertise as the creator of emulation software JSMESS. Scott is also a filmmaker, historian, and a celebrated force of unyielding digital archiving outreach and advocacy

10:50-11:15 Break

11:15-12:00  National Digital Stewardship Resident Lightning Rounds: Jessica Tieman (GPO), Nicole Contaxis (NLM), John Caldwell (U.S. Senate Historical Office) Valerie Collins (American Institute of Architects), Jaime Mears (DC Public Library)

Click to download and open slides from the NDSR Resident Cohort Presentations

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Jessica Tieman, U.S. Government Publishing Office

Jessica conducted an internal audit to prepare GPO for external ISO 16363 certification of GPO’s Federal Digital System as a Trustworthy Digital Repository.

Nicole Contaxis, National Library of Medicine

Nicole created a pilot workflow for the curation, preservation, and presentation of a historically valuable software product, developed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which is deemed to be historically noteworthy due to its usage by a user community and/or its distinctive technical properties that are at risk of being lost due to obsolescence.

John Caldwell, U.S. Senate Historical Office

John studied and assessed current Senate workflows in appraisal, management, ingest, description and transfer of Senate committee digital assets into the Congressional Records Instance of the National Archives’ Electronic Records Archive, and Senators’ digital assets into academic and institutional repositories, benchmarking current policies against best practices.

Valerie Collins, American Institute of Architects

Valerie co-led testing and implementation of an institutional digital repository system at the American Institute of Architects to preserve the AIA’s born-digital records that represent its intellectual capital and/or have permanent value for the history of the architectural profession.

Jaime Mears, District of Columbia Public Library

Jamie created a sustainable, public-focused lab, tools, and instruction for building public knowledge and skills around the complex and paralyzing problems of personal digital recordkeeping.

12:00-1:15 Lunch on Own

1:15-2:05 “The Rise of Data Publishing in the Digital World  (and how Dataverse and DataTags help)”, Mercè Crosas, Chief Data Science and Technology Officer, IQSS at Harvard University

Click to download and open slides from Dr. Mercè Crosas’ “The Rise of Data Publishing in the Digital World  (and how Dataverse and DataTags help)”

Dr. Mercè Crosas is the Chief Data Science and Technology Officer at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University. She has more than 10 years of experience leading the Dataverse project, an open-source repository framework for sharing and archiving research data, and more than 15 years of experience building data management and analysis systems in industry and academia. She is part of numerous committees and collaborations focus on research data management, as well as on data standards and research best practices. More recently, together with Dr. Sweeney, she leads the DataTags project for sharing sensitive data. Crosas holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and a B.S. in Physics. More at http://mercecrosas.com.

2:10-3:00 “Breaking Down Barriers: Creating a Mobile Digitization Service,” Caroline Catchpole, Culture in Transit

Click to download and open slides from Caroline Catchpole’s “Breaking Down Barriers: Creating a Mobile Digitization Service”

Caroline Catchpole is the METRO Mobile Digitization Specialist for Culture in Transit, a project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The project aims to bring mobile scanning equipment to smaller libraries, archives, museums, and the communities they serve. The outreach-centered digitization model aims to democratize and diversify NYC’s historical record. Before joining METRO, she served as Archivist in a major project at the Natural History Museum in London, to digitize the correspondence and assorted manuscripts of nineteenth century naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace and place the digitized content online. Caroline has worked in the archives and library sector for 10 years with a special focus on the digitization of cultural heritage material and increasing access to archives since 2009.

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3:00-3:20 Break

3:20-4:00 Panel: All Presenters, Moderator: Julia Kim, ’15 NY NDSR & Folklife Specialist (Digital Assets Management) at Library of Congress

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4:15 Adjourn


Class: Digital Estate Planning

The Case

The user group most in need of personal digital archiving resources at the moment are retirees as they plan for end of life. Many that I’ve spoken with only include physical objects in their estate plans, and the idea that they must also think about their ‘digital estate’ is alarming.

You might think that retirees don’t have many digital assets, but according to a 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal called “How Technology Will Transform Retirement”,  those 55 and up were the highest percentage of mobile smart phone app users (although they tend to use the smallest variety of apps).


From my experience teaching digital estate programs this year, retirees are most interested in the future of the photos on their phone, their email, personal computer, and Facebook. What differs from other age groups is the greater concern for privacy and the wish to delete these assets so that they do not linger after death. As one attendee told me, the idea of a memorial Facebook profile was “creepy.”

In summary, this is an important program for public libraries to run, and to encourage librarians to do so, I’ve put together a packet that includes slides, a review of one of my programs, examples of how they’ve been marketed, and class handouts.

The Class

I taught this class 5 times in the District this year – 4 at library branches and once at a senior center.


Capital Hill Village Senior Center Ad for my class.

The majority of the resources for this class come from John Romano and Evan Carroll’s fantastic website thedigitalbeyond.com . I can’t rep this resource enough. It aggregates resources and news related to digital estate planning under archival, cultural, technical, and legal themes. Some of my favorite resources include:

90 minute class outline:

  • Begin by making a case for digital estate planning. I discussed this from the perspective of an archivist, but you could also take a legacy or privacy angle in this intro.
  • Review the current legal landscape with the introduction of the FADAA, and emphasize that at this point in time (in DC) nothing about the future of your digital assets can be taken for granted and it really comes down to communicating with loved ones and writing explicit directions in a will.
  • Define a digital asset vs. a digital account, emphasizing that assets are yours but accounts can be trickier due to Terms of Service agreements
  • Review the digital asset management checklist
  • Discuss how to help facilitate the transfer of digital assets and accounts using three examples: Facebook, personal computer, smart phone
  • Review sample statements provided by Romano and Carroll (who are both attorneys) that could be used in a will
  • Discuss available resources
  • Have a 20 minute Q and A

Tips from teaching these classes:

  • Emphasize at the beginning and end of class that you are not a lawyer and are not giving legal advice. You are sharing resources created by attorneys.
  • Demoing how to change the legacy settings of a Facebook profile is very popular
  • Working on the inventory together is a great activity to gauge how well people are understanding what digital assets and accounts are
  • Encourage retirees and their loved ones to take the class together and discuss the check list with each other
  • Assume that tech knowledge will be varied
  • Connect with a local senior center or retirement group to come to the class or go to them

Class Materials


Interested in personal archiving programming? Check out my workshop lesson on Personal Archiving with Facebook!

Week 47: Wiring Diagrams

Back when I was researching about how to build a transfer lab for magnetic media, I didn’t find much documentation on how to actually set-up a rack. You know- where the chords go and stuff.

This documentation has also been heavily requested by staff members at my library who are assisting customers in the lab and troubleshooting.

I used the online graphic design platform Canva  and Issuu to make a book of them. For more information about our Memory Lab, go to the wiki.



Week 40: My NDSR Enrichment Session on Education and Advocacy

The following is a post I wrote for the Library of Congress’s The Signal blog.


Digital Curation and the Public: Strategies for Education and Advocacy

This is a guest post by Jaime Mears.

Photo of computers in the memory lab.

On March 4th, 2016, the Washington DC Public Library hostedDigital Curation and the Public: Strategies for Education and Advocacy at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. It was what the National Digital Stewardship Residents program calls an “enrichment session” and the audience was composed of NDSR colleagues and mentors.

Over breakfast I gave informal tours of the Memory Lab, a public-facing digitization lab I created as a part of my residency work. It felt like the project’s capstone, debuting the space to our group and receiving comments and questions from those that have supported me throughout its development.

Yvonne Ng, senior archivist at WITNESS and a member ofXFR Collective, led a workshop exploring methods of promoting digital curation to the public. The presentation began with a powerful case study of Kianga Mwamba, a Baltimore resident arrested in March 2014 for using her phone to video record an instance of police brutality. When she was released on bail the next day her phone was returned but the video was no longer on it. Luckily for Mwamba, it had automatically backed up to her Google account. It was introduced as evidence in a civil suit with the Baltimore Police Department.

WITNESS reaches their activist audience by creating targeted promotional and educational material about digital preservation. Case studies like Mwamba’s are incredibly effective, though they can be difficult to find, especially when the absence of a digital record proves why it should have been preserved. Other methods WITNESS employs include involving local “influencers” in train-the-trainer programs as a way of disseminating information to their communities, and creating engaging educational resources in multiple languages. One of these resources, the Activist’s Guide to Archiving Video, received the Society of American Archivist’s Preservation Publication Award in 2014.

Photo of room with computers.

Ng said that sometimes no matter what you do, it’s effectiveness is a matter of timing. WITNESS tries to avoid reaching people before they’ve amassed enough material to care about preservation. And WITNESS folds preservation education into larger training sessions that address other video activists’ needs, such as video-as-evidence training and post-production work.

After the lecture, Ng asked residents and mentors to identify four or five communities we wanted to support, and to identify the challenges and strategies to working with that community. Although my NDSR project is the most obviously public-facing, the exercise revealed that all NDS residents have had to advocate and educate within their host institutions to successfully meet their goals.

From Senate staff to scientists at the National Institute of Health, digital content creators have to be appealed to. It is a necessary part of effective life-cycle management. Ng reminded us that, besides ensuring that valuable material is preserved in each of our institutions, there are other benefits to such advocacy, including raising awareness about the long-term value of content and educating creators about what archivists actually do.

After the discussion activity, I escorted the group upstairs to our Washingtoniana Room where DCPL Special Collections librarian Jerry McCoy discussed the history of the library’s community archive and the significance of ourMies Van Der Rohe building, slated for a large scale renovation project later this year.

We ended our session with a tour of our Studio and Fabrication Labs. Labs manager MaryAnn James-Daley, connecting back to WITNESS’s strategy of using “influencers,”  discussed how essential a teen volunteer has been in a recent campaign to get more teens into these spaces.

Week 42: We’re Open

Memory Lab_Logo_2colors


It’s been a while, so I’ll give a brief overview about how the Memory Lab (our public facing lab for personal archiving) works.

It has a home page on the DCPL website and a wiki built with Libguides that will serve as an aggregate of transfer workflows, personal archiving resources, and directions for building a transfer station. Patrons can book a one-hour drop-in session or a 3-hour lab session to use the space. They must fill out an intake form and report what storage environment they will provide. When they arrive for their appointment, they check in at our information desk in the Digital Commons (our large computer lab on the main floor of our central branch) and are led to the space, shown what machines they will be using, and left with the section of the “In the Lab” wiki tab with the directions for their DIY transfer. If the patron encounters a problem, they go back to the info desk to get help from a Labs staff member. We’ll talk about how well that actually works in a bit.

The Launch


The Memory Lab had its grand opening on Saturday, February 20th, 2016. We had running tours throughout the morning and in the afternoon filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris screened his award-winning documentary “Through a Lens Darkly” and held a Digital Diaspora Family Reunion event where he asked audience members to share and discuss their personal photographs. This partnership was a perfect way to celebrate the Memory Lab’s debut at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and highlight the potential for personal archives to inspire creative works and social change.

Here’s a write up of the event with great pictures by the DDFR crew.

Here’s coverage we got about the lab from the Washingtonian and DCist and Daily Kos. There was also a spot on our local Channel 4 news network.

Here’s some tweets about the Memory Lab launch.





Growing Pains

So what happened after we opened? Things got real, real busy.


We use Acuity Scheduling to manage bookings for our labs.  As of today, the Memory Lab represents 37% of all lab hours since it opened. To put it another way, 46 orientations have been booked and 91 3-hour sessions.


I realized right away that I didn’t block enough time out to make changes in the Lab or do further trainings with staff because the space was always occupied by patrons. Beginning in April (because March is already booked) the Memory Lab will be open to the public Monday- Thursday & Saturday, and Friday & Sunday will be “play days” for Labs staff and other system librarians to work and train on the machines and software. This time will also be used for maintenance and experimenting with new decks.

Another problem I didn’t foresee was how hard it would be to let go. I wanted to be with the machines to make sure they didn’t break, and with every customer  to make sure they got done what they wanted to do (and didn’t break the machines). The first week it seemed warranted because there were lots of problems (the computer falling asleep, stereo vs. mono issues with tape deck, figuring out the burning disc workflow, etc.) and I was gathering useful feedback to incorporate into the wiki, but by the second week it was obvious I was having some separation anxiety. And I still do. What if the machines don’t get shut down? What if someone can’t save their stuff? What if they don’t know where the play button is on the VCR? I am aware, no matter where I am, if a patron is in the space.  I’ve realized that TRUE user testing is sometimes letting people fail in order to see if it’s truly DIY friendly. So- it’s a conscious effort but I’m trying to do it bit by bit, day by day. Other things one can do to let go: stop emailing patrons with your personal work email, create a working group of staff members to serve as team experts on the space, allow yourself time to document and don’t feel guilty about it (hence this blog post).

Spending so much time with customers has been really useful. Here are some trends I’ve noticed already, and you’ll recognize a lot of overlap from my interview with Vancouver Public Library –

  • Retirees tend to come to morning appointments and working professionals in the evening, which usually  corresponds to increasing tech capability throughout the day (but not always)
  • VHS and 35mm slide transfers are the most popular
  • People over-estimate how much they can get done in a 3-hour session.
  • User queries can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 50 minutes based on technical capability and curiosity
  • Some customers prefer consulting printed directions to having to navigate between software and browser windows
  • Saving is the hardest step in the process
  • When scanning film, it is difficult for patrons to identify the front from the back, and patrons are often shocked by the dust and scratches that a high res scan reveals
  • Many patrons want the ability to do simple edits to their audio and video, and to rip movies off of DVDs
  • We have had several requests for 8mm transfer capability

Other general revelations

We have had an incredibly wide range of users come in- artists, cultural heritage professionals, public historians, life-time DCers, students who want a/v experience, those with recently deceased relatives, professors, journalists… every day is another surprise. On top of this, some local organizations have been interested in touring or training in the space as a means of seeing if a transfer station could work for them.

Staff need more hands-on training to feel like competent authorities when helping patrons.

In its current location, the Memory Lab competes with the busiest area in our library (the Digital Commons). Even with the DIY model, patrons in the Lab have to compete with demand on staff from Digital Commons patrons.

How I’m Measuring Things

Acuity Intake Forms – Here I can see if patrons have realistic expectations about what they can do during their appointment. I can also measure the most popular formats transferred, and if a patron is open to donating a digital copy of their work to the library (although we have not formalized this process).

Acuity Reports – I can generate reports on bookings, cancellations, no-shows, total appointments and/or hours book by month or year, and how these compare to the other labs.

In-person Observation & Interviews – I watch people in the space with their permission when I can and ask questions. This has been the most effective way of understanding how to improve DIY usability.

Emailing for feedback – I’ve been emailing a couple of patrons a week for feedback and recording their answers in Slack as well as any changes I made in response to comments.

Slack – This was how the Labs staff was already communicating before the Memory Lab opened. We added a #memorylab channel, and staff are using it to report problems and transfer knowledge between shifts. I’m also using it to report updates or ask questions.

Wiki views – The wiki has had 2,998 views since it was published in February. Although some of this is probably (hopefully) DCPL staff, it shows me that people are finding what I consider to be the heart of the Memory Lab’s online presence.

Feedback from Staff – I conduct iterative oral interviews with Labs staff and ask for feedback from system-wide Librarians and LAs. Questions have been raised about how to serve patrons without computers, if machines are portable and can be loaned to other branches, how we can serve patrons without basic computer skills, and if staff not affiliated with the Labs can come on closed days to train on the machines.

The Last Leg of the Journey: March – June

June marks the end of my fellowship, and it’s really not that far away. Here’s the official workplan created at the beginning of the project for this final period and how I’m addressing each-


Oh man. Memories.

  • host NDSR symposium – Ha! Great timing. Registration begins today.
  • Speak at conferences
    • “Personal Archiving and DCPL’s Memory Lab.” Jaime Mears, Don T. Hawkins. Computers in Libraries 2016, Washington, D.C.
    • Accepted presentation “Making Theory Practical: The NDSR Cohort Shares Their Digital Preservation Experience.” John Caldwell, Jaime Mears, Nicole Contaxis, Valerie Collins, Jessica Tieman. MARAC Spring 2016, Pittsburgh, PA.
    • Accepted presentation “Doing Digital Archives in Public.” Wendy Hagenmaier, Jaime Mears, Eric Milenkiewicz, Jessica Meyerson. SAA Archives * Records 2016, Atlanta, GA.
  • Host public events – By the end of the project, I’ll have done about 15 events at 6 library branches and 4 DC organizations. More on that in a future post.
  • Evaluate – I discussed earlier how I’m evaluating the physical lab, but I still need to consider how to evaluate the impact of programs, the online resource, and staff trainings.
  • Educational programming– I’m currently training 54 Librarians and LAs from around the DCPL system in a SMART goal series on digital preservation. It consists of 3 classes and each staff member has a required deliverable. More on this in a future post as well!
  • Final Report – Yikes. Haven’t started this yet.

Other things I need to do:

  • Continue to improve Lab directions
  • Transfer full Lab operation to Labs staff
  • Finish and publish wiki online resources
  • Bring Betamax deck online
  • Bring 5.25′ floppy online

Stay tuned as I cross the finish line.



Class: Preserving Digital Photographs

I had the pleasure of teaching a class on preserving digital photographs at the Historical Society of Washington D.C. with Library and Collections Director Anne McDonough. Both sessions were sold out (although not everyone came), and I was able to record the second session (mostly).

The slides from the session are available here.

Creative Commons License
Personal Archiving: Digital Photography by Jaime Mears, DC Public Libraries and Anne McDonough, Historical Society of Washington D.C. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.