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 . 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 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.

Vancouver Public Library’s Inspiration Lab

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!!!!!

PNG0505-Inspiration Lab

VANCOUVER: May 05 ,2015. – Peggy Watkins, library technician peruses some digital files as The Vancouver Public Library launches its new digital media hub the Inspiration Lab at the librarys central branch downtown Vancouver on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.VANCOUVER, May 5, 2015. (Jenelle Schneider/PNG staff photo) (for PNGstory by Gillian Shaw). [PNG Merlin Archive]

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.

Future Plans
-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.

Class: Personal Archiving with Facebook

I taught a class called “Personal Archiving with Facebook” in partnership with Knowledge Commons DC and DC Public Libraries! This post is a cursory description of what I discovered and a summary of how the class went. To access the full lecture or to try the class out yourself, download the following:

Personal Archiving with Facebook Slides Only

Personal Archiving with Facebook Slides and Notes


For over 1 billion of us, Facebook has become a default archive for the artifacts of our personal lives, and with features like “On this Day” and memorialized profiles, the company is deliberately framing themselves as a service for saving as well as sharing. But is it a suitable method for personal digital archiving?  

To answer this question, I used the four challenges to pda identified by Catherine Marshall  as a metric. Then I used Facebook’s capabilities as an online environment and what you get in your downloaded archive to grade how well Facebook addressed each challenge.

Accumulation: C 

I’m not too sure about this one. On one hand, we make specific choices about what we upload to our profiles, and therefore inherently delete things or leave their destiny to fate (for example, you’re not going to upload all 5 attempts at the same shot to an album). On the other hand, I feel like I document things now more than ever because I can put them on Facebook, so you could look at it as an impetus to produce and accumulate more.

Distribution: A 

Although I keep my stuff on multiple devices and web sites, Facebook is where I centralize my photos, daily thoughts, and links to other work.  Since opening my account in 2005, I have had two computer crashes and a handful of forgotten web environments where my photos and diaries were stored- but Facebook’s popularity has caused me to maintain my account for a decade, which in turn makes it my default place for publishing, which in turn makes it the number one place for saving and accessing.

Digital Stewardship: B 

Marshall defines this as automatic maintenance, communal maintenance, and individual maintenance of files. Facebook does have automatic mechanisms in place for maintaining your files, updating them, and protecting them from viruses. It does a great job providing communal maintenance because it encourages sharing and downloading, and the comments provide communal description. Individual maintenance (as I’ve discussed previously) is also fairly easy to do and encouraged. BUT you have no technical or copyright control over what happens to your files after you upload them, which is crucial for stewardship. [see more about this in my slides and notes]

Long-term Access: D

In order to ensure long-term access, we have to prepare for the possibility that the site will die. This means we’ve got to have local, offline control of our files, and those files need descriptions. The ability to download the data helps us with local control, but unfortunately there are many things that are not included, such as a history of your likes and comments on other people’s stuff, their likes on your stuff, posts on your timeline, or posts by you to other timelines. We also have no way of knowing if we’re really seeing everything Facebook keeps on us. To see a list of what they disclose, go to Accessing Your Facebook Data.

Overall it’s the description that really sinks Long-term Access to a D. Let’s look at photos as an example.

Case Study: Photos


Here’s what you see in your downloaded “photos” folder. Everything has been given a unique identifier, so there’s no way of knowing what your original file name was or even what album’s what. Notice how they also give you your facial recognition data. 


Here’s a snippet of what you see inside of a folder. All JPEGs, all with unique identifiers and an html index.

When you look at the properties of a file, there’s not much embedded metadata. You’ve got the size, resolution, bit depth. That’s about it.


In this example, the photo on the left is how it appears when this album’s html index is open in a browser. It gives the date uploaded, orientation, and IP address uploaded from. The one on the left is how it appears on Facebook. See what’s missing? BASICALLY EVERYTHING.


Photos uploaded from my smart phone include EXIF data in the archived html page as well, which is useful, but still doesn’t make up for the obliteration of user added description.

Summary of Findings

During the class activity, I assigned each person one of the following types of files to examine “as an archivist.” Here’s what we found together.


The students were shocked, and some great discussion ensued.


These were my final slides with suggestions for now and going forward.



How the Class Went

I had 6 students and 1 KCDC facilitator, ranging in age from ~25 – ~50 years old with varying digital literacies and no archival expertise. When asked why they had come to the class, students reported they had previously experienced data loss on web platforms such as Live Journal, GeoCities, and WebShots, were interested in personal digital archiving, or were worried about the security of their online content.

Overall I was very pleased with the class.  The students were engaged with the material, and everyone was able to contribute insights during the group activity. 4 out of the 6 students left contact information so that I could notify them of future classes, and one even tweeted me!

If you try the lesson, make sure you have extra laptops for people, and move through the slides at a steady quip to leave plenty of time for the last two suggestion slides. Perhaps re-thinking the title of the class will make it more approachable and increase attendance (something like “How to Save Your Facebook Profile Forever”).

Give it a try! 

Please download the slides and let me know how it goes at your library!

Designing a DIY Lab: Lessons from MakerCon 2015

The following post was written for The Future of Information Alliance. It was published on October 8th, 2015 in their News section

As a National Digital Stewardship Resident for DC Public Libraries (DCPL), my project is to help the public with personal archiving, especially when it comes to digital materials. One strategy is to open a DIY lab where patrons can transfer their home movies off of obsolete media and/or digitize photographs and papers. The “Memory Lab” (as I’m calling it) is the fifth DIY space to open at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library under the umbrella of The Labs at DC Public Libraries.

The FabLab at MLK Library.

DCPL’s Fabrication Lab includes a 3D scanner, 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines.

The DIY trend has been referred to in the past decade as the “Maker Movement,” catalyzed by declining costs of professional equipment like 3D scanners and printers, the increasing amount of open source software available, and a recovering economy that encourages people to build out their skill set and stop paying others to fix things for them. This all comes at an opportunistic moment for information professionals as we redefine our public services and how our spaces are used, and DCPL is not alone in capitalizing on the Movement’s popularity. The Urban Libraries Council lists 43 other public libraries that have labs or “makerspaces,” and higher learning institutions such as the University of Maryland have also gotten on board.

To start thinking like a “maker” and find some inspiration for my lab design, I attended MakerCon 2015, a conference of entrepreneurs, product developers, and community leaders interested in the Maker Movement.


Makers= 300? Archivists= 1

Here’s what I learned from this community about designing a lab for the public:

Have a sense of play. Emilie Baltz, an experiential artist and educator, said during a panel that she included the phrase “and have fun” in the written mission of one of her projects. Users find play engaging, of course, but they also learn through it. What can I do to make my lab more playful?

Don’t make users dependent. Dave Rauchwerk, founder and CEO of Next Thing Co., premiered a $9 computer that he hopes will encourage people to innovate and stop seeing computing as some kind of inaccessible “dark art.”

I’ve thought a lot about making my process building the lab transparent for other librarians, but never considered patrons wanting this information. Maybe some will be interested in building a lab at home? How can I help them?

Try try again. I was inspired by the tenacious work ethic of the many designers at the conference, who go through hundreds of versions of a prototype before it’s ready for the market. One great example is Allan Chochinov’s work, Chair of the MFA in Products of Design graduate program at the School of Visual Arts, whose website 52,000 Knots documents his progress with the incredibly difficult and arcane knotting art of tatting that he taught himself through a series of YouTube videos.


Spring Doily, Round 6. (22,332 knots), from Chochinov’s site 52,000 Knots.

I have also had to teach myself a lot about A/V transfer, and get frustrated when things don’t work. In tatting, one mistake means going back and untying knot after tiny knot in the pursuit of perfection. Whether it’s zen or grit, Chochinov has mastered a state of mind that produces results. I also want to be as patient and deliberate when testing and improving my workflows. In the end, I’ll be making more than a doily (his words!), I’ll be helping people save their memories.

If you’re interested in learning more from this incredible group of people, you can watch the MakerCon 2015 sessions here. And watch for the Memory Lab’s opening in February 2016!

Week 8: What We’re Getting (for now, at least)

After weeks of research, interviews, a site visit, bouncing ideas off of my mentors,  and procurement hiccups, we’re finally buying things for the Memory Lab.

A visualization of lab- but with people, and cords, and walls!

A visualization…. but with people, and cords, and walls!

The Set-Up

A/V Station

 The A/V Workstation will be used to transfer media formats such as VHS, miniDV and audio-cassette to disc, USB, social media or cloud storage.  Although I considered professional grade A-D converters such as Black Magic DeckLink 4K Extreme, I found their costs prohibitive and their software a bit complex for the average library patron. I chose the Honestech VHS to DVD 7.0 Deluxe because it’s been on the market for a while and has a good reputation, it’s easy to use, has robust capture formats (including Blu ray), and accompanying software that supports one-click wizard transfer and publishing options to social media platforms and cloud storage. For more advanced post-capture edits, patrons will be directed to one of the Digital Commons workstations outfitted with Adobe Creative Suite.

Other things: Audacity, Floppy drive

Photo Station

The Photo Workstation will be used for the digitization of photographic materials and documents to disc, USB, or cloud storage. Wanting to give patrons access to professional-level equipment, we chose the Epson 11000XL Photo Scanner. This scanner includes a transparency lid for digitizing slides and negatives, can batch scan files, and includes elements like the AutoFocus Optics system and one-touch color restoration.

For cases where patrons want to convert digital pictures to analog for storage or re-purposing, we’re buying the Canon Pixma iP110.  Both compact (it will fit in the A/V rack) and portable , it creates high quality prints at 9600 x 2400 dpi and can print directly from camera phones or digital cameras.

Other things: Picasa

A Lesson in Procurement

Besides the challenges of dealing with obsolete equipment (see Week 3), there’s also challenges inherent to the way purchasing works through the DC government. As it turns out, they don’t like for you to buy things off of Ebay (which is where the majority of this equipment is sold), and they’d prefer it be from a Certified Business Enterprise Contractor. I’m all for supporting small, minority-owned businesses in our community, and it would help the lab’s sustainability if we could form relationships with local vendors. BUT the directory is…… not very user-friendly. Because there are 1096 contractors, it made sense for me to search based on what I wanted to buy. The system is such that you can’t type in “VHS player” and get a list of contractors that sell them. You’ve got to go to the list of NIGP codes, do your keyword search there, and then use the corresponding codes back on the contractor page. If that wasn’t enough, the codes need some controlling for realz.


Should I choose Video Players, Video Cassette Players, a Video Recorder/Player, or a Video Cassette Recorder/Player?????

After 4 hours of searching, I found 1 appropriate contractor. Hmph.

What We’re Buying (Round 1)

Product type # Product name Vendor
Audio-Cassette Deck 1 Teac W-890RmkII Double Auto-Reverse Dual Cassette Deck B&H
Protection Plan 1 Square Trade Protection Plan – 3 Years B&H
External Floppy Drive 1 Sabrent 1.44MB External USB 2X Floppy Disk Drive B&H
Rack 1 CFR2136 36U AV Rack B&H
Time-Based Corrector 1 DataVideo TBC-3000 Time Base Corrector TGP Sales
VHS Deck (Professional) 1 Panasonic AG 1980P 4-head VCR TGP Sales
S-Video cable male to male 1 S-Video male to male cable TGPSales
Scanner 1 Epson 11000 XL- Photo Scanner Epson
wipes 1 KIMTECH® Kimwipes® (280-Pack) Gaylord
gloves 1 Microflex® XCEED® 3 mil Nitrile Gloves MEDIUM (250-Pack) Gaylord
swabs 1 Assorted Foam Swabs (36-Pack) Gaylord
compressed air can 1 Pressurized air duster Gaylord
DVD duplicator 1 Reflex7 CD/DVD Duplicator Disc Makers
DUP010-00552 – Reflex7 CD/DVD with USB 2.0
WAR001-00116 – 1 yr Extended Warranty-Reflex7 DVD/CD
Printer 1 Cannon Pixma iP110 Canon
Warranty CarePAK Plus (3 Yr.) Canon
Headphones 2 Maxell HP/NC-II Noise Cancellation Headphone Laser Art
UPS 2 APC Back-UPS 550V Laser Art
A-D Converter 3 Honestech VHS to DVD 7* Amazon
VHS-C Adaptor 1 Gigaware VHS-C Adapter Amazon
MiniDV Player 1 Sony DSR-40 DVCAM / DV / MiniDV VTR Player/Recorder Amazon
Applique 2 Frosted temporary applique Signs by Tomorrow

Building a Vendor Relationship

We’ve going to try out TGP Sales as  our go-to vendor for professional VCRs, TBCs, and any other equipment that might become available. I had heard the company mentioned on digitalfaq a couple of times (yes, I know I bashed the listservs previously but this actually was very helpful! ), and I liked that a biography of the video technician Tom Grant was one of the top links on the site. TGP also provides a lot of free information on how to care for their machines, which made me think that there was some heart involved here, you know? The featured professional decks were the exact models I was interested in getting, too, so I figured they had exquisite taste.

Scarred from my last phone experience (see my comment on Week 3), I dreaded calling, but Tom picked up and we had a nice little chat. Turns out one of his first jobs was as the A/V guy for a University library, and he seemed to be really excited about the project. He described in detail how he refurbishes the circuit boards in the PRO decks, and even offered to give over-the-phone training on how to maintenance the equipment. When I described to him the challenges of sustainability when working with the public, he suggested using a cheap deck to test the tapes for stickiness before I popped them in the Panasonic AG-1980, and I’m definitely going to try that out.

The quality of the machines will be the ultimate test, but I’m hopeful that TGP Sales and the Memory Lab can ride off into the sunset together.

Free Things

You’ll notice there’s a couple of things missing from our equipment list (furniture, computers), and that’s because they were already available at the library. Multiple old VCRs and tape players in our A/V department are also available for the lab, so I’ll be testing these in the coming month and reserving some as back-ups.

“Your first tester”: Toshiba SD-V296 DVD/VCR and a Panasonic Palmcorder Afx8

I’ve even received two donations (Thanks Nick! Thanks Mom!), leading me to think a city-wide donation drive might be a great opportunity to build-out our transfer capabilities and raise awareness about the lab. If you’ve got an old player or camcorder, hit me up!

Week 5: The Craft of Communication

Creating a successful campaign for personal digital archiving has been a big focus in weeks 4 and 5. Cue the Mad Men theme.


In preparation for my meeting with the Communications Department, I was told to prepare a list of “user profiles” I would be targeting this year. This took me aback – I mean, i’m targeting EVERYONE, right? Aren’t everybody’s archives important? But as I now know, only thinking of the general public as your audience is not as effective as recognizing specific groups and crafting messaging towards each. So here are some of my target audiences coupled with idea “tiles” (also a new concept for me):

Retirees: Many retirees already take up archiving as a pastime, I just need to get them thinking about their digital assets as well. Topics such as digital estate planning should be popular.


Example tile for a retiree audience.

Self-Employed Professionals: Photographers, musicians, writers- anyone producing digital work without organizational support will care about curating it.  They’ll want practical, straight forward steps and suggestions on specific tools and storage options in a range of prices.


Example tile for 20-40s. I was thinking of doing a “remember me?” series with different obsolete media (floppies, vhs, maybe myspace?).

 The 20-40s: Notoriously the most difficult group to get in the library door, they are also the biggest producers of digital material. When addressing this group it’s really important to make PDA hip and fun, banking on the nostalgia and DIY culture that’s currently in style. Topics such as archiving social media and smartphones might be engaging.

Anchor Events

The Communications Department also suggested making a list of “anchor events” that could be used as points throughout the year to ramp up messaging. Cushing (2015) as well as Calloway (2015) found that people think about archiving during times of transition and large life events, so appropriate anchors might be holidays, DC Public School’s graduation, and popular birth and wedding months. National campaigns such as Preservation Week and local events such as Foto Week will also be great opportunities to bludgeon people with best practices and strategies. This concept inspired me to launch the digitization lab (which I’m thinking about calling the Memory Lab) during African American History Month as yet another way of using well-known events to help carry the campaign.

Picture from the Joseph Owen Curtis Photograph Collection at DigDC.

Picture from the Joseph Owen Curtis Photograph Collection at DC Public Library Special Collections.

Creating a Zine

Some of my opportunities to communicate have been less traditional, but given that I only have a year to get DC archiving, I’m taking every opportunity I can get.

For the past 5 years, DC has had a Zine Fest to promote self-publishers and artists in the community making fanzines. In 2014 my colleague Michelle Casto created the zine “Maximum Preservation” on behalf of the library and DCPL’s punk archive to educate the public on preserving their physical papers. This time around, I’m working with Michelle to do “Maximum Preservation 2: Electric Bugaloo,” a zine to promote- you guessed it- personal digital archiving.

So how do you communicate a big topic in 12 tiny pages? It wasn’t easy, and I realized that even when I thought I was making the language accessible, I was still dependent on an esoteric vocabulary built over my two years of graduate school. For any joe shmo off the street, the public librarians stressed to me, these words were not going to fly.

Librarians Michelle and Bobbi helping me make a  zine at Mount Pleasant Library.

Librarians Michelle and Bobbi helping me make a zine at Mount Pleasant Library.

So with their help, I began again- focusing on the basics with as little academic jargon as possible:


Another more serious issue was committing to a set of best practices. Although a lot of the literature focuses on the process of identify-aggregate-describe-curate, I feel that aggregation is not a realistic option for many with the increasing variety and use of storage and production environments. Instead, I’m urging the public as a first step to create a “list” of each storage environment, and a macro-level (not item level!) description of what kinds of files they store there. Instead of the 5 year curation timeline, I’m advocating for users to make a PDA “holiday” and check-in on their files once a year, moving valuable files out of/off of obsolete environments and adding new ones if appropriate. If you’re curious about the finished product, I’ll be posting it here after Zine Fest on July 25th to the delight of Devo fans everywhere.

If YOU feel like getting crafty and making your own zine for outreach, print out the template makeazine and go to town. We are using the slightly larger quarter page format, but this makes the more traditional 8 pager.