Week 1: A Maker in Her Space

Six months ago, I submitted this video to the National Digital Stewardship Residency Program telling them why I thought I was the best candidate to create a personal digital archiving program for DC Public Libraries.

They picked me (thanks guys!), and now I’ve got a badge, and a view of the National Portrait Gallery from my desk, and the exhilarating-terrifying-empowering-petrifying weight of a 12 month project in front of me to “create a sustainable, public-focused lab, tools, and instruction for building public knowledge and skills around the complex and paralyzing problems of personal digital recordkeeping”.

I don't look scared, right?

I don’t look scared, right?

I’ve jumped in with the free web-based project management tool Trello to get some perspective. You can create lists or workflow stages, and populate each with tasks or “cards” that can be moved from one stage to the other. One card can include a stream of comments and attachments from as many collaborators as you choose to invite, and due dates associated with each card can be synced directly to your Google calendar.


My “To Do” list is kind of a hodge-podge of project milestones (“Interim Report”), events (“ZineFest”) and ongoing work (“Literature Review”). I also made an “Ideas” list to organize resources related to personal digital archiving, and extraneous things that didn’t fit anywhere else (like ideas for workshops and possible partnerships). I upload online resources I come across as attachments under each card and use the comment function to add ideas or citations that are useful to this stage of my research. This whole arrangement might need to get a bit more granular as the year progresses, but for now it’s definitely helping me organize a wide breadth of thoughts and appointments in one visually pleasing layout.

It’d be oh so easy to hide behind a cool tool all week, but I’m glad the staff has taken the time to show me around. The library is doing some amazing things, like preparing for the launch of two makerspaces that open to the public tomorrow. One is a Fabrication Lab with tools that range from saws and hammers to a 3D scanner and printers.

Digital Commons Librarian Matt decorating the Fab Lab in the vein of DeWitt.

Digital Commons Librarians Matthew and Peter decorating the Fab Lab.

The second makerspace is the Studio Lab, an A/V lab complete with sound proofed rooms to do professional-level audio recordings and mixing, a video recording room with a green screen….it is INSANELY DELIGHTFUL that all of this stuff is free. I keep telling my friends here in DC about it and they kind of don’t believe me.

After the Dream Lab and the Digital Commons, the PDA lab I’m creating will be the fifth installment of a makerspace here, so I plan to watch these labs closely to see how the public responds and what challenges they may encounter. From sitting in on the pre-launch staff meeting, I’ve already learned some valuable things for my own project:

1. Make sure legal is involved from the beginning. No one wants to get sued, ya’ll.

2. Get your staff to USE the machines as much as possible.

3. Aesthetics are important

I realize that getting my super cool colleagues to be as jazzed about personal digital archiving as they are about recording and laser carving is of paramount importance to the sustainability of this project. As I create my communication/marketing strategy next week, I’ll be thinking carefully of how to win the staff’s ❤ along with the public’s.

Stay tuned.