Memory Lab

A California State Library LSTA grant program intended to facilitate easy duplication of successful projects

Informational Webinar

  • Sample application, budget, and timeline
  • Contact name and email Pamela Vadakan, Director, California Revealed,
  • CopyCat grant maximum funding: $20,000

Description: The Memory Lab is a space for free do-it-yourself digitization of photos, documents, audiovisual recordings, and other formats. It provides Library staff and patrons with guidelines, tools, and training for personal analog and digital archiving. The Memory Lab components - equipment and resources - are modular and scalable and can be set up as an in-house, curbside, and/or mobile program. Open documentation provided by the Memory Lab Network, along with monthly webinars provided by California Revealed, will offer support and training through the course of the grant, and beyond. The Memory Lab support page for the toolkit is available through California Revealed.

Purpose: Memory Labs are a way for organizations to personally connect with their communities, save shared history, and drive home principles of preservation and access.

Target Audience: Community members of all ages and with all levels of digital literacy seeking to learn how to organize, digitize, and share their family collections. Intergenerational scanning projects are encouraged in particular. To use the Memory Lab, patrons must attend an orientation, read and agree to the Memory Lab policies, sign a release form, and make a reservation.

Expected Outcomes: The library will start to develop a digital preservation workstation that meets the transfer needs of their community collections. Scanning equipment and software can accommodate photographs (prints, negatives and slides), documents, audio cassettes, VHS/VHS-C cassettes, DV/miniDV cassettes, 8mm/Super 8mm film, CDs, DVDs, and 3.5" floppy disks. Community members will gain the skills and the confidence to digitize, care for, and manage their own histories. Through monthly webinars, library staff will gain practical knowledge in digitization, plan their own digitization program, develop a Lab Orientation, set workflows, and design a preservation plan to continue and sustain the Memory Lab.

Partnerships: In partnership with the Memory Lab Network, California Revealed will provide support and training through the course of the grant, and beyond. If an institution is a California Revealed partner, and the community member is willing, California Revealed will receive copies of the files and provide long-term storage and online access at Memory Lab grantees are encouraged to connect with other Memory Labs to build regional partnerships in California and contribute to the Memory Lab Network - exchanging information, troubleshooting, and reaching wider audiences. Check the Memory Lab Network map for a Memory Lab near you.

Budget Considerations

Do you want to set up in-house, curbside, and/or mobile services? (Is your library open to the public, offering curbside pickups/drop-offs and/or online services?)

  • Equipment: hardware and software (Consider modular and scalable scenarios. Start with one format and add on more depending on the needs of the community and your Library's local history collection)
  • Staff time (Include training, troubleshooting, transfers, outreach, and workshop program)
  • Outreach and marketing supplies (Who is your primary audience and how will you connect with them?)

Implementation Steps

  • Create and administer a survey of transfer needs of your community collections, including your library collections. What are the most common formats? Keep it simple and start with a couple of material types, such as paper materials and VHS tapes.
  • Brainstorm and discuss needs and goals for the Memory Lab. Sample discussion questions and Project planning form
  • Plan program format (in-house/curbside/mobile), policies, and workflows. Model workflows and Considerations for Inspecting Materials. Visit Los Angeles Public Library's Memory Lab as one potential model that offers both an in-house and mobile program.
  • Identify and recruit volunteers and staff for training. Consider established Memory Labs in your region — they may have volunteers they can share. If possible, find at least one local person with experience in legacy audiovisual formats who would be particularly good at sourcing and setting up equipment. See the Volunteers section of this website for tips on recruiting and working with volunteers.
  • Select test items from your local history collection to use for training and troubleshooting
  • Source, solicit, and purchase equipment. Baseline equipment list for in-house and mobile set ups, Equipment inventory example, and Equipment solicitation example letter
  • Hook up equipment and troubleshoot. Memory Lab Set Up and Transfer example and Galleries
  • Train staff and volunteers
  • Plan programming events or workshops, including a Lab Orientation, that will be online or in-person in a manner that adopts physical distancing guidelines (see COVID-19 Guidance for Re-Opening Libraries).
  • Post online guide
  • Begin Lab Orientations
  • Develop promotional materials
  • Publicize the program via library
  • Attend monthly webinar training sessions, including: The Memory Lab Model(s): on-site/curbside/mobile; Goals and Expectations: Formulating a Plan; Introduction to Digital Concepts; Introduction to Audiovisual Preservation; Equipment Set Up, Workflows and Troubleshooting; Training Your Staff; Evaluating Your Memory Lab; Sustaining and Expanding Your Memory Lab; Introduction to Programming
  • Survey patrons, staff and volunteers to measure outcomes and satisfaction
  • Reflect and modify program based on feedback from survey responses.
  • Launch the Memory Lab
  • Evaluation: See the standard project outcome survey questions. Create an online survey for patrons to complete anonymously at the end of each session. Data such as number of Lab users, number of hours, formats transferred, common issues, and feedback, will quantify the level of services provided by the program. Distribute California Revealed's survey on training support at the conclusion of the grant. California Revealed staff will follow up with a phone call interview for additional feedback. The surveys and interviews will evaluate the significance of the Memory Lab for each institution, and articulate findings of how to create and sustain successful Memory Lab programs throughout the state.