Having been inspired by our reading about the DIY Memory Lab (DML) at the Los Angeles Public Library, and its alignment with the participatory services model promoted by the Hyperlinked Library Model, I decided to explore this project more in depth. I quickly learned that LAPL is only one of several library systems that make up a Memory Lab Network, and decided to draw upon these to create an outline for a similar initiative for the Seattle Public Library (SPL) system. This proposal is informed not just by the models provided by these libraries’ Memory Labs, but also transformative perspectives, models, and practices emerging within the archival profession, embodied in the more user-inclusive and -centered frameworks of participatory archives and Archives 2.0, and collection development/management.
The SPL Memory Lab initiative is based on a more open, participatory, user- and community-centered conception of archiving that has been developing within the profession in the past decade and a half. This vision — expressed in concepts such as Archives 2.0 and participatory archives (or the liberated archive) — has elevated critical questions around how our collective stories and understandings of ourselves are shaped by archival work, and how traditional archival practice has contributed to the erasure or silencing of marginalized voices and those with less social power within such shared stories. This emerging vision promotes new archival practices and ethics based in cultural humility, openness, and adaptability, as well as a commitment to ongoing user and wider community inclusion in building and maintaining archival collections, particularly those documenting the stories of marginalized communities.
The practice of collection development and management has become increasingly dynamic over the past two decades, based in the possibilities for wider access to a variety of formats via digital technologies, and the inclusion of creative tools and educational objects via the Library of Things concept; these trends have been disrupting the notion of what is meant by a library’s “collection.” Shifting community demographics — and thus, audiences to be served and content to be offered, in format and form — have likewise challenged library professionals’ understanding of how libraries can ensure they remain responsive to users’ needs and wants, and support their connection with content and experiences that enrich their lives. The continually evolving hybrid model of analog and digital engagement in library service enables users to participate in collection development, adding both physical and digital content for access by all that could not be acquired or discovered through traditional collection management practice.
Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:
The Memory Lab initiative at SPL is intended not just to provide a valuable service to SPL users, but also create opportunities for creative and collaborative exchange between users and librarians/library staff. It is also intended to serve non-users as well, who through using the service, may subsequently become inspired to become active users. Specific goals/objectives for the service would include:
- The expansion and enhancement of SPL’s local/community history archival collection;
- The promotion of SPL’s local/community history archival collection and its value as a community resource and body of shared community heritage;
- The cultivation of a diversity of personal historical artifacts, images, and other story-bearing materials to elevate the experiences and knowledge of marginalized communities in support of the goal of serving a diversity of user backgrounds, interests and needs;
- The creation of new flows of access, use, and sharing of content/information between users and library staff;
- The engagement of users in participatory, collaborative curation and exhibition of SPL’s local/community archival collection;
- The provision of a useful information service to current non-users of SPL, towards the goal of having them become engaged users.
Description of Community you wish to engage:
The SPL Memory Lab would be open to all community members with a Seattle Public Library card. Users would attend an orientation (either in-person or online), review and agree to SPL Memory Lab policies, and make a reservation. They would also review the SPL Memory Lab release form (through which they would opt in to allowing their digitized content to be added to the SPL collection and/or the Digital Public Library of America.
As noted below in the Marketing/Promotion section, outreach efforts around the SPL Memory Lab would also seek to engage current SPL non-users through community events and other promotional activities. Such efforts would make non-user community members aware of the service, and encourage them to become users through obtaining an SPL library card.
Action Brief Statement:
For community members (SPL current users and non-users):
- Convince community members that by collecting, preserving, and sharing their personal artifacts they will contribute to building and preserving a more diverse and inclusive shared historical record which will spark new learning opportunities and expand new cultural understanding, because it offers up new perspectives, experiences, and knowledge for all.
For SPL library administrators, professionals, and staff:
- Convince library administrators, professionals, and staff that by offering personal/community archiving services they will create meaningful, engaging experiences for community members around personal and collective storytelling which will deepen SPL’s relationship with their communities and enrich their collections, because it affirms and elevates SPL communities’ diversity of perspectives, experiences, and knowledge.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:
DIY MEMORY LAB About / Program links (Selected)
Whalen, L. (2020, January 7). Uncovering the Past: With digitization, libraries bring treasures to light. American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2020/01/02/uncovering-past-libraries-digitization/
- Memory Lab Network – https://memorylabnetwork.github.io/
- LA – https://www.lapl.org/memorylab/diy
- DC – https://www.dclibrary.org/labs/memorylab
- Troy, NY – https://troypl.org/services/digital_services/memory_lab.php
- CUNY – Queens – https://qc-cuny.libguides.com/MemoryLab
- Chesapeake Library – https://chesapeakelibrary.org/memorylab
On Archival Silences, Participatory Archives, and Community Engagement
- Carter, R. G. . (2006). Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence. Archivaria, 61, 215–233. https://historyinpublic.blogs.brynmawr.edu/files/2016/01/Of-things-Said-and-Unsaid_Carter.pdf
- Caswell, M. (2014). Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation. The Public Historian, 36(4), 26–37. https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2014.36.4.26
- Cook, T. (2011). “We Are What We Keep; We Keep What We Are”: Archival Appraisal Past, Present and Future. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 32(2), 173–189. https://doi.org/10.1080/00379816.2011.619688
- Flinn, A., Stevens, M., & Shepherd, E. (2009). Whose memories, whose archives? Independent community archives, autonomy and the mainstream. Archival Science, 9(1-2), 71–86. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-009-9105-2
- Greene, M. A., & Meissner, D. (2005). More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing. The American Archivist, 68(2), 208–263. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.68.2.c741823776k65863
- Schwartz, J. M., & Cook, T. (2002). Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Archival Science, 2(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02435628
- Tai, J. (2020). Cultural Humility as a Framework for Anti-Oppressive Archival Description. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, 3, “Radical Empathy in Archival Practice,” eds. Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez, Jasmine Jones, Shannon O’Neill, and Holly Smith. https://journals.litwinbooks.com/index.php/jclis/article/view/120/75
- Theimer, K. (2011). What Is the Meaning of Archives 2.0? The American Archivist, 74(1), 58–68. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.74.1.h7tn4m4027407666
- Winn, S. (2017, April 24). The Hubris of Neutrality in Archives. Medium. https://medium.com/on-archivy/the-hubris-of-neutrality-in-archives-8df6b523fe9f
Participatory Projects/ Social Tagging and Transcription
- Library of Congress By the People Crowdsourced Transcription Project https://crowd.loc.gov/about/
- Iowa State University Library Transcription Projects – https://instr.iastate.libguides.com/transcribe/about
- Baiocco, L. (2016). Labor or Love: Opening Up Archival Gems for Community Engagement. Information Today. https://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/may16/Baiocco–Labor-of-Love–Opening-Up-Archival-Gems-for-Community-Engagement.shtml
- Becerra-Licha, S. (2017). Participatory and Post-Custodial Archives as Community Practice. EDUCAUSE. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/10/participatory-and-post-custodial-archives-as-community-practice
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:
The SPL Memory Lab model will offer community members/users a service through which they can digitally preserve photos, documents, and other media artifacts (such as audio and video) of value to them, and transfer these artifacts’ content to more current, user-accessible, and shareable formats. All Memory Lab users will be provided a flash drive with their digitized content at the conclusion of their archiving appointment.
The SPL Memory Lab will also offer users the opportunity to share their digitized content with others in the Seattle community and beyond, through choosing whether or not to allow their content to be added to the SPL collection and Digital Public Library of America. This hyperlocal approach — drawing upon community-generated content — will provide a meaningful way for SPL to build out a local/community history archival collection of greater relevance to its users, to engage both users and non-users, and demonstrate the value of the ever-changing and expanding constellation of information and resources available in the system. By being open to all and drawing upon the personal archiving of SPL community members (both users and non-users), the SPL Memory Lab initiative would an active intervention towards the development of a more diverse library collection, and deeper collaboration between library professionals and staff with community members around collecting, curating, and sharing stories.
The guidelines and policies essential to the success of the SPL Memory Lab initiative would include the following items:
1) A service-specific collection development policy, with clear scope of the materials anticipated to be collected via the initiative,
2) A cataloging /metadata standards document, to help guide initial and ongoing tagging of SPL Memory items added into the SPL collection, and moderation of tags on the online interface,
3) A release/opt-in document for SPL Memory Lab users, that allows them to authorize or restrict inclusion of their digitized content into the SPL collection and/or Digital Public Library of America’s collection,
The SPL Memory Lab initiative working group — which will include SPL librarians, IT staff, front-line paraprofessionals, and current SPL users — will consult with librarians from other systems with Memory Labs around the these policies/guidelines, as well as review related existing SPL patron guidelines & policies for materials and technology use, and privacy/confidentiality.
In the initial year of this service, these would be reviewed and revised quarterly as needed by the SPL Memory Lab initiative working group to address any identified gaps or issues not currently covered in the guideline or policy. Alongside the internal review, this working group will collect feedback from users and library staff at the Memory Lab locations towards reassessing these policies, quarterly in the initial year, and every six months in future years. Special collections, IT, and cataloging staff will be consulted around the development of basic metadata standards.
Briefly outline how your technology or service’s grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc.will be distributed:
Due to a generous grant provided through the Institute for Museum and Library Services’ Digital Humanities Advancement grants program, the Memory Lab initiative at SPL has obtained the funding necessary to cover the capital costs for the initial three locations, particularly the purchase of digitizing equipment and their accompanying software, and Content DM an OCLC digital asset management system.
Additional costs will include staff training time and allocation of additional staff hours to service the SPL Memory Lab; SPL IT staff time for design of a new interface/platform for the SPL digital collection that integrates the Memory Lab’s user-generated content with Content DM and enables user search, tagging, and other engagement with the materials; potential consultation costs with other Memory Lab library service providers; and promotions/marketing costs. These additional costs will be funded through a combination of IMLA DHA grant funds, a special projects allocation from SPL. Ongoing costs will include contract/support costs for Content DM. Post-launch year, the service will then be fully funded by SPL.
Physical spaces in the Central, Green Lake, and New Holly branches have already been identified for the SPL Memory Labs. There will be minimal IT-infrastructure upgrades needed to implement the service, since all three locations have undergone significant upgrades in the past decade.
Action Steps & Timeline:
The mission, goals, and objectives of the SPL Memory Lab initiative set forth a regional approach, across three initial branch locations. However, this service can be prototyped at the Central branch, with an initial “soft-launch” a month prior to the official launch across the three branch locations. With dedicated staff planning time, the overall timeline for the Memory Lab launch at the Central branch will be four months. The Memory Labs at Green Lake and New Holly would then be launched in five months.
Major action steps along this timeline include the following:
SPL Memory Lab Working Group
- Recruitment/initial planning meeting meeting (some SPL staff have already identified themselves as interested in participating in this group)
- Policy/Practices review – relevant SPL policies, review of Memory Lab policies/practices, consultation with Memory Lab Network
- Drafting of user policies and guidelines
- Coordinate review of user and staff training materials by representatives of SPL staff at all levels of each Memory Lab branch
- Space planning with directors of each planned Memory Lab branch, to ensure space, equipment, staff, and user needs can be aligned
- Brief SPL community engagement staff around Memory Lab initiative, and discuss opportunities for outreach and engagement at initial launch, and beyond
- Brief SPL Promotions/PR/Marketing department around Memory Lab initiative, and develop promotions plan including press releases, email announcements, launch events, and news coverage
- Consultation with Memory Lab Network contacts to research potential digitizing equipment/software options
- Research of pricing and purchase of digitizing equipment, digital asset management system, and related software, in consultation with SPL ML Working Group
- Development of storage capacity for content, new user interface for digital collection
- Installation/setup of Memory Lab equipment and physical space at branch location(s)
- Testing/troubleshooting to prepare for staff trainings
- Development of staff and user training design by SPL ML Working Group, in coordination with SPL instructional/programming librarian representatives and frontline staff representatives
- Training/orientation of staff at planned branches — including directors
- Evaluation/feedback gathering on training — to help refine future trainings
- Finalization of initial staff and user training materials and workshops
- SPL community engagement staff begin outreach efforts to community organizations, especially cultural heritage-focused organizations in areas around the three Memory Lab branches
- Develop promotional materials (press releases, email, social media, library website article) and events in consultation with SPL ML Working Group
- Arrange press coverage around ML initiative, and launch events
Launch Events – all potential promotional/press coverage opportunities
- Soft-Launch at Central branch
- Combined Launch at Central, Green Lake, New Holly branches
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:
The SPL Memory Lab initiative will require some additional staff hours, with a projected initial direct service timeframe of 6 hours per week per location. These hours would include two 3-hour service windows on one weekend and one weekday afternoon (exact times to be determined), across its three locations.
Beyond these direct service hours, additional staff hours would include processing of digitized content prior to its addition to the collection (including basic metadata tagging and quality control), promotion/outreach efforts (detailed further below), and email communication with prospective and current users about the service.
A community internship or partnership element may provide additional capacity for this service, with a trained SPL staff member working in tandem with community members interested in learning more about archiving (either for educational credit or personal enrichment). Such partnerships would include a training going beyond the orientation provided to all users, spanning all elements of the service (equipment use, guidelines/policies, back-end processing of materials).
Training for this Technology or Service:
There will be two areas of training related to the SPL Memory Lab initiative: one for librarians and paraprofessional staff who will be facilitating the service, and another for community users of the service.
SPL will draw on training materials developed by other library systems in the Memory Lab Network to help outline these two trainings, but also will bring together an advisory working group to help finalize the training materials. This team will include SPL special collections/digital humanities librarians, IT trainers, and both digital-friendly and digital-hesitant librarians and frontline staff to map out the training materials. Instructional materials and consultations with the equipment and software vendors will also be integrated into the training development process.
Trainings for library staff will occur twice a year, and be focused on specifics of working with digitized content, including capture/scanning/transfer, quality control, editing, metadata creation, filing and storage, and access/privacy policies and considerations for users. They will also learn how to assist and train users in working with the different SPL Memory Lab archiving technological tools (scanners, audio and video converters, etc.).
Users will be provided orientation/trainings quarterly. These will include instructions on how to use the SPL Memory Lab tools, as well as reviewing the guidelines and policies regarding privacy/confidentiality, and their rights around determining how SPL can potentially use, store, and share their digitized content. In-person trainings will be supplemented by video tutorials and webinar versions of the training materials, as well as printed versions of the materials and other necessary instructions available at Memory Lab locations.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:
Promotion for the the SPL Memory Lab initiative will include both internal and external promotion efforts, described below:
Internally, the SPL Memory Lab will be promoted to administrators, librarians, and library staff as offering:
- New professional learning experiences for library professionals and staff, around aspects of archiving, community history, and special collections through a participatory ongoing service experience. This learning will include training and experience with digitizing technological tools, archival processing/metadata tagging, and curation/management of the collection;
- New opportunities for community engagement and collaboration, in building collective history and also potentially developing programs or exhibits based on collection content, alongside users;
- Learning opportunities about the stories and experiences of community members/users, towards a deepened understanding of the communities they serve;
- An inclusive collection development model for diversifying the SPL archival/digital collection.
Externally, the SPL Memory Lab initiative will be initially be promoted to both users and larger community through the following means:
- Print materials within all library branches;
- An email announcement and print mailer to users shortly before the initiative launch;
- A prominent story displayed on the SPL library website;
- Press/news articles in local outlets;
- Simultaneous launch events at the Central, Green Lake, and New Holly branches.
Following launch, external promotion will include these additional efforts. These will occur within the first six to twelve months following launch:
- A Mobile Memory Lab outreach booth to promote the service at a few key cultural events/festivals;
- Outreach to local community organizations, including several related to cultural heritage, and community/local history;
- A collaborative online exhibit with accompanying program drawing upon the collection, and developed through collaboration between library staff and community members/users;
SPL will use a number of metrics to assess whether or not the SPL Memory Lab initiative is producing value; these will include both quantitative and qualitative measures, with an emphasis on centering user engagement and experiences.
- The number of service interactions with users will be used to measure both overall use, while tracking where in the city users of the service reside can help identify possible usage trends and visibility of the service across different regions served by SPL. Such trends may point to further outreach opportunities or service expansion to additional SPL regions. It can also be used to evaluate whether Memory Lab services have been properly located, or would be better sited at a different location.
- The number of items transferred to digital format via the Memory Lab service and the pace of acquisition will be tracked, to assess user interest in this service. In addition, the number of items added to the SPL collection during Memory Lab use will likewise be tracked, to understand user interest in sharing their materials.
- The addition of items by format will also be tracked to develop an understanding of what types of materials ML users are most interested in preserving and sharing. This measure will also provide critical information around whether or not the service has been properly resourced at the equipment/software level, and/or whether or not additional resources should be allocated towards the service.
- The number and types of user interactions with the digital objects added to the SPL collection via our digital access platform will also be recorded and examined. Such analytics can be useful in determining what features of the interface enhance users’ experiences with the collection, as well as to better understand what types of content the larger community SPL serves is most interested in connecting with and learning from within the collection.
- Surveys — both digital and print — will be used to gather feedback from both users of the Memory Lab service, as well as to promote the service among Memory Lab non-users. The digital version of this feedback will be collected through the digital collection’s interface, as well as other strategic areas on the SPL website (related to community history or memoir, for example). Both users and non-users will be able to provide useful perspectives relating to the timeframes for ML service, SPL’s Memory Lab locations, potential issues and possible improvements that may not be captured by other measures, but can offer helpful guidance for changes to the service.
The Memory Lab initiative provides SPL the opportunity to continue providing innovative, user-centered service, while also promoting our ongoing commitment to build a collection reflective of the diversity of cultures, backgrounds, voices, and perspectives embodied in our service community. It will enable community members to preserve and share their stories, and weave them into the larger story of Seattle.
The above metrics will be used to evaluate SPL’s Memory Lab service in its initial locations, as well as to point towards expansion to additional locations/regions in the SPL service area. While the three initial locations are meant to provide access to the Memory Lab service across North, Central, and South Seattle, the city’s geography and public transit may create challenges for potential users located in neighborhoods less adjacent to these locations.
There are two potential solutions for expansion of service if such access is found to be desired by these community members/users: 1) a Mobile Memory Lab service, which could provide Memory Lab service to not just library branch locations but even other community gathering hubs such as community centers on a regular basis, and/or 2) additionalMemory Labs at a few more SPL branches, with a second South Seattle location and expansion to one to two West Seattle locations as potential priorities. Such expansion would be informed by the measures above, to identify what would most serve community members eager for the service, as well as a continued focus for expanding access for low-income communities of color.