Boyle library one of seven chosen for grant-funded Memory Lab program

Published 8:58 am Monday, February 12, 2018

Library reps will train in D.C. before implementing locally 


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Boyle County has a story to tell, and now the Boyle County Public Library (BCPL) will be better able to help tell that story. BCPL was one of seven public libraries nationwide selected to take part in the Memory Lab, a grant-funded program that enables people to digitize and preserve their histories.

DC Public Library (DCPL) in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Library of Congress, announced the Memory Lab Network partner libraries last week. In addition to Boyle County Public Library, Broward County Library, Houston Public Library, Karuk Tribal Libraries, Los Angeles Public Library, New Ulm Public Library and Pueblo City-County Library District were also selected to participate in the program.

Partner libraries were selected based on their interest and commitment; community need; and system location, size, and population served. The seven libraries will receive training, mentoring, and financial support to create digitization stations and educational public programs for personal digital archiving.

Why digitize?

In today’s digital world, communities risk massive loss of vernacular history and culture, unless the public is equipped to sustain their digital memories. Public libraries are trusted providers of digital literacy and local history programs and therefore well positioned to offer open access to the digital skills and tools necessary for communities to document and preserve their own histories. In April 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded DCPL and PLA a National Leadership Grant to fund and support Memory Lab digital preservation programs in seven public libraries across the U.S. based on the DCPL Memory Lab model.

When Georgia de Araujo, BCPL director, Mary Girard, assistant reference librarian and Caleb Conover, instructional services librarian, learned of the Memory Lab project in late November, they knew it would be a natural fit for the Library. BCPL currently offers regular instruction on computer, internet and digital device usage.

It also works with local history and genealogy groups to educate on the importance of personal history and to encourage the preservation of local history. BCPL houses the newspaper morgue files from The Advocate-Messenger and, in the past year, they have been working with for online access of the newspaper.

BCPL staff are currently in the process of scanning the Charles A. Thomas Collection. Thomas was photographer for newspaper for 30 years and saved over 50,000 negatives. In addition, BCPL offers open house scanning events and gives lectures on personal collection preservation. Being a Memory Lab partner is a natural next step in growing and serving Danville-Boyle County.

One of the goals of BCPL is to preserve our cultural record through historical document archives, family histories, and genealogies.

“Boyle County’s history is sitting in boxes in people’s attics, barns, garages, and basements,” said de Araujo. “We have seen in our work that when people die, much of their history and knowledge dies with them, sometimes tossed out by unaware family members. Often individuals do not realize that individual stories are important additions to the broader community history.”

In April 2018, ambassadors from each partner library will attend a five-day intensive digital preservation “bootcamp” training in Washington, D.C. to learn from experts at the Library of Congress and DCPL. The libraries will then spend one year creating personal archiving stations and programs for their communities following the DCPL model. The seven partner libraries and DCPL will form the foundation of the Memory Lab Network, an open community of libraries with digital preservation programs that can support, advise, and build on each other’s innovations and challenges.

“This program will expand our capabilities of meeting the Library’s vision of preserving the past, exploring the future, and striving to offer the best in technological ideas,” explained Conover. “As beta testers of the Memory Lab, we will gain access to new technology and training, giving us the ability to update and convert outdated forms of information, thus ensuring its survival into the future. We’ll be able to teach our local community how to follow this process for themselves, as well as become national leaders in perfecting the Memory Lab process for future expansion into other libraries across the country.”

BCPL’s Memory Lab will be mobile, ensuring greater outreach and more educational opportunities throughout the county.

“The Memory Lab program will allow the library to better facilitate the protection of our local history and by doing so, allow that history to be shared with the community and with future generations,” said Girard. The timing for such a project is ideal as the library already has some infrastructure, such as Biblioboard (an online platform for digitized resources), in place.

When Betsy Wilt, president of the Danville Library Inc. Board of Trustees, was asked if she was surprised about BCPL being chosen for the program she said, “Am I surprised? No, because I knew all along that we had the credentials and that we would be a great choice. Multiple kudos to Georgia, Caleb, and Mary. Those three were the best possible ambassadors to make the convincing case that the BCPL was an obvious choice.”

As part of the grant, Conover and Girard will travel to Washington, D.C. in April to receive the intensive training. Upon their return, the necessary equipment will be ordered to create the mobile lab. Initial classes will be taught in June and July, followed by additional testing.

The Memory Lab will be available to the public beginning September 2018.

DCPL has done the work and developed a process they think will be effective for libraries of any size. As beta-testers, the BCPL team, led by Conover and Girard, will put the process into practice to see if it will work for our library. The team will work with the public, teaching them to scan and digitize their own documents, and translate analog data into digital formats using the Memory Lab technology. After the year of beta testing is complete, the project will continue, ensuring an accessible method of preservation to the vibrant communities of Danville-Boyle County.

More information about the DCPL Memory Lab can be found online at