Emerging Technology Planning Assignment: RetroTech Lab – Digitization and Archiving of Analog Mediums and Specialized Programming for Professionals, Collectors, and Enthusiasts

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Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

The nature of today’s information society emphasizes a deep cultural connection to the ways the Internet and the latest smart devices/mediums keep our citizenry informed on breaking news from across the globe, or what they might have missed last night on one of the numerous streaming platforms being utilized and binged-watched by millions. The digitization of content has helped to bring about new ways to distribute and share personal ephemera on the World Wide Web (WWW) for audience known and unknown to the content creators. In the mid-to-late 1990s emerging communal platforms like blogs, digital chat rooms, crude HTML websites, and early forms of social media helped to connect strangers across stateliness and international borders within a few mouse clicks. Through a rapidly growing dictionary of leetspeak and Internet slang communication through the WWW took on a life on its own. The digital revolution may have started in the early 1980s with the introduction of the personal computer, but the generational divide it would create would be felt for decades to come. 

Although technology companies adapted their wares early on to help segue their consumer bases towards this new digital frontier, many people were not easily swayed by the infinite promise of the Internet and crafting a life lived online. The idea of meeting people over a broadband connection sounded absurd to some, and the high cost association with the hardware and software would deter even the most optimistic supporter. This demographic of “technophobic” and “techno-illiterate” individuals continue to navigate our public spaces without buying into the latest trends and changes in how modern society communicates and conducts commerce using technology. I have found many middle-aged and elderly patrons during my library career who refuse to buy into smart technology, or create a digital presence because of any number of personal trusts issues associated with digital privacy and information theft. Even if many of these services are relatively safe and commonplace I still get pushback by certain patrons who refuse to divulge their personal data to any corporation. Even if that data is simply their name. Yet, I have found that these patrons do overwhelmingly trust the public library as an institution, and wish to utilize all the resources that are allotted to them, such as e-books and other e-resources. I feel there has to be something done that will not only assuage their worries about technology, but also build their confidence in using these tools for their own livelihood. 

The creation of this program helps to fulfill several different objectives that range from satisfying a standard technology service (digitization), to a more instructive component that helps to bridge the gaps between analog and digital education, as well as bring together different patron communities to share and learn from one another by means of meaningful participation, engagement, and collaboration. Libraries help to share and spread out the different narratives that are collected on our shelves, within the different repositories housed on and offline in our possession, as well as human narratives found in our patron population.

The goal of this technology service is to initiate the patron into conversations about the nature and methodology of the documenting (film/slide photography, reel-to-reel home movies, Hi-8 camcorder tapes, audio recording etc.), collecting (vinyl records, cassette tapes, VHS films, old fliers, posters, news clippings, postcards, etc.), preserving and sharing of their personal collection and effects. This program will be accessible to all, and of course free of charge to use.

This service can support different communities from an anthropological, sociological, historical, artistic, and archival point-of-view, helping to open up new pathways to contextual understanding often lost within the many cultural nuances contained in our national population. The preservation and sharing of information are what public libraries are known to do best, allowing us to build and amplify the best storytelling assets we have at our disposal: Our very own patrons. 

Photo source: CVLT NATION

Description of Community You Wish to Engage:

I wish to engage the creative young adult and middle-aged patron populations of the Santa Clara County Library (SCCLD) who wish to utilize these services for archival preservation, storytelling, and educational purposes.

Action Brief Statement: 

For Patrons (All-ages)

Convince our ethnic, racial, gender, and generationally diverse patron population that by obtaining these digitization resources they will be able to preserve their memories and personal effects for themselves and their inheritors. By teaching our patrons how to use these emergent technologies we are aiding in their technical competency as well as inviting them to share their personal narratives and knowledge with other patrons and our library staff, thus building stronger communal ties within the surrounding locale. 

For Staff: 

Convince our library staff, civic administrators, and library partners/supporters that by offering these technological tools to the public they will help to build a stronger, more capable citizenry around different technology. The public will view the library as an invaluable resource that helps to supplement the vanishing digitization services that are being phased out by big-box institutions around the nation. 

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service: (URLS, articles to help guide you)

Katz, B. (2017, October 25). The Boston Public Library Is Digitizing 200,000 Vintage Recordings. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/boston-public-library-will-digitize-200000-vintage-recordings-180966931/.

LibGuides: Preservation: Digital Preservation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://libguides.ala.org/libpreservation/digitalpreservation.

LibGuides: Preservation: Digitization. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://libguides.ala.org/libpreservation/digitization.

Retro Tech: From the Analog Past to the Digital Future. (2019, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.sjpl.org/blog/retro-tech-analog-past-digital-future.

Tehama County Library. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tehamacountylibrary.org/retro-technology-lab/.

Weatherly, K. (2005). Retro-Technophobia: A New View of Older Technologies. Community & Junior College Libraries, 13(4), 81-87.

Zeeb, J. (2019, April 11). Library gets grant to digitize retro media. Retrieved from https://www.redbluffdailynews.com/2019/04/10/library-gets-grant-to-digitize-retro-media/.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

In order for the RetroTech Lab to become a successful initiative I would make sure the rationale for the program adheres to the mission and values of the SCCLD while following the privacy guidelines set by the library and the American Library Association. This also includes the equal rights for this service to be accessible to all law abiding library patrons, regardless of their social and economic standing as found in the ALA’s website under “Access to Library Resources and Services”. Since access to this service would allow patrons to create digital reproductions of original content found on analog mediums, reenforcing the rules and regulations for fair use and promotions set by the U.S. Copyright Office would be advisable, if not also contacting a local representative who is well versed in the specifics of the law. 

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

For this project to be successful procuring the necessary funding to purchase the equipment (hardware), physical and digital storage spaces for the devices, maintenance, marketing/promotions, and programming all needs to be taken into consideration. Support for the service can be done in any number of ways; this can be done mainly through the SCCLD’s annual budget, from funds granted by the SCCLD Friends of the Library foundation, outside in-kind donations by vendors/patrons/partners, awards from local and national grants, and fundraising (if necessary).

The service shall be organized and maintained through trained library staff and volunteers. Librarians and clerical staff will provide patrons with appointment based scheduling, equipment training, technical support, and all related event programming as detailed and offered by the library.

Action Steps & Timeline:

There are several different steps to take before initiating this service to the public. These guidelines and times can be adaptable and expanded based on the unique needs and means for each library institution. The points listed below can be worked on separately or at the same time based on the library institution’s staffing bandwidth. These are relaxed approximations.

  • Researching the equipment, their cost analysis, their ease of use, and the methods of adoption for the library. (1-2 months)
  • Contacting local professionals, organizations, and other library institutions currently utilizing these technologies for their own personal archival projects to gather insight, assistance, and possible demonstrations. (1-3 months)
  • Gauging the interest of this service with the local population in the area. This can be conducted through surveys (print, digital), social media, demonstrations, trial runs, and interviews from the reference desk. (1-2 months)
  • Itemizing the cost for program, drafting the proposal and presentation, and securing the support/funding for the program. (3-12 months, depending on funding acquisition and allocation).
  • Purchasing all the necessary equipment, technical hardware/software. (1-2 months)
  • Training approved staff. (1 week/month)
  • Marketing, promotions, and scheduling system in place for the new program. This also entails brainstorming ideas for specialized workshops, events, and programming to accompany the service. (1-2 months)
  • Launch service to community.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

The program can be scaled to fit the needs of the community it is serving. However, since there are limitations as to how many people can use an individual device at a time, as well as to how long each program session may last, an appointment based scheduling system should be put into place to help control the flow of requests. This service is designed so that it can be ran by one to two people, namely trained librarians and staff member. Based on the needs and demands of the community, the service can be expanded in size and scope.

The RetroTech Lab service can be integrated into a library’s weekly/monthly schedule, in one to two hour increments, becoming a signature service akin to an hour of e-resources and technical help for seniors. As long as there are trained staff members to help run program, teach new patrons about the equipment, and troubleshoot any technical issues, the hours required to keep the service afloat can come from regular desk and programming hours. If a library does not have the additional staff and volunteers required to supervise a weekly/monthly program, patrons may check out the service for “in-house” purposes only (similar to using digital scanners and microfilm readers).

Photo source: Robb Report/Shutterstock

Training for this Technology or Service:

One or more librarians should be trained to assist patrons with every aspect of the RetroTech Lab. Before rolling out this service to the public a library created guidebook should be available to aid trained staff members, trained volunteers, non-trained personnel, and patrons in the event that a trained facilitator is not available to answer any questions. But it is advisable to always have trained library staff present when a RetroTech Lab is in service, for liability reasons. Workshops on the best practices to handle different analog mediums (vinyl, cassette tape, VHS etc.) should be included within the training.

Additional training(s) can be scheduled and organized as needed by the facilitating librarian, based on any new technological acquisitions and/or upgrades procured by the library to replace any preexisting/obsolete equipment.

Recommendations include contacting and training any library personnel working in the tech/computer lab, as well as any volunteers from the staff (e.g. circulation) who may wish to learn about the service and aid in any issues if and when there is an emergency.

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Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: (How can the new technology or service be promoted?  Brainstorm some ideas to promote within your organization. Brainstorm more ideas to promote outside your organization.)

  • Create print and digital assets (e.g. video, flyers) to be posted within the library space, on the library’s social media, and at related organizations within the community.
  • Create tutorial videos promoting the various services offered by the RetroTech Lab using real materials (from patrons and/or staff) to be digitized.
  • Contact affiliated organizations and interested parties who may find benefit and use for the service. Examples are: archival repositories, record stores, genealogy societies, DJs, college radio stations, retirement communities, museums, government run archives, historians, educators etc.
  • Allow library staff to access and use the service before opening it up to the public. The best advocates for the service should come from the library organization itself. If there is a lack of staff involvement utilizing the service (lack of materials to digitize) then affiliated organizations should be invited to test run the service.
  • As the service grows testimonials should be gathered from the patrons/users to help promote the value the RetroTech Lab to the library community. Release forms should be signed off if quotes/visuals are to be used in any official library marketing campaigns.
  • Periodical onsite and offsite workshops can be conducted at select locations and events to demonstrate the RetroTech Labs services and help promote the library in general. These events can be partnered with other library/community departments to help increase visibility.
  • Create specialized programming to promote audio and visual archiving. Inviting local professionals in education, the arts, photography, and amateur collectors to conduct workshops on best practices for organizing and storing your physical and digitalized memorabilia.
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We will base the success of the service on a number of metrics and factors: weekly patron use, the amount of patrons at each session, the amount of time it takes to train patrons on the equipment, which equipment gets used the most (popularity), how patrons and public find out about the program, the engagement received from social media, email and marketing, and how patrons feel about the service over all (as users and non-users).

It is preferable to evaluate the service over its inaugural year, appraising the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the program in monthly and quarterly reports. These reports should take into account the different identifying factors that make up the users of the service: age, race, gender, occupation, types of analog mediums brought for digitization etc. Shifting patterns of use for the service during different periods (seasons) of the year should also be noted in the report. The participation numbers before and after a marketing and promotion campaign should be documented as well.

The program should be promoted as a tool to help patrons preserve their personal history and stories. Whether it is a single artifact, or a collection of personal belongings, our RetroTech Lab should be seen as a safe and inclusive space to help patrons safeguard their memories from any number of unforeseeable tragedies. This space should be inviting enough for open sharing and storytelling, allowing a community to come organically together in fellowship and camaraderie.


Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Chant, I. (2016). User-Designed Libraries – Design4Impact.

Mattern, S. (2014). Library as Infrastructure

Peet, L. (2018). Libraries and Social Infrastructure.

Tomlin, P. (2018). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries

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