University Libraries digitization lab project gets $43K grant to preserve memories, archival materials

University Libraries digitization lab project gets $43K grant to preserve memories, archival materials

July 1, 2024
VHS and beta video tapes

The Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, awarded University Libraries a $43,240 Library Services and Technology Act grant to support a project which will create a do-it-yourself digitization and preservation lab for campus and community members. The lab is scheduled to open in spring 2025.

Meeting a need, serving the public

Many people who own VHS tapes, audiocassettes, floppy disks, or CDs, CD-Rs, and DVDs don’t have the necessary resources and expertise to rescue and preserve personal digital content. It can be expensive and risky to send materials such as home movies, personal memorabilia, and audio recordings to private vendors to transfer and preserve the content.

Recognizing a pressing community need for accessible digital archiving resources and a growing interest in preserving memorable events, people, and places in our lives and communities, the Libraries proposed a solution.  

The Wildcats Memory Lab Project will provide university campus members and the public with free access to a dedicated library lab space, digitization tools, training resources, and workshops to learn how to preserve invaluable personal, cultural, and historical materials.

“Academic libraries associated with land grant institutions are looking for more opportunities to serve the public,” said Digital Preservation Librarian and Digital Preservation & Production Unit Lead Stacey Erdman. “We want people to know that they can come to their university’s library and access resources they need and want.” 

Discovering inspiration

Erdman, the project’s principal investigator, drew inspiration from the District of Columbia Public Library’s Memory Lab concept that was developed in 2015. 

With experience facilitating training workshops with Digital POWRR (Preserving digital Objects With Restricted Resources) for professionals from public libraries, archives, museums, cultural heritage institutions, historical societies, and community archives, Erdman considered how the lab concept would work in an academic environment. 

In addition to collaborating with the Libraries’ Special CollectionsCATalyst Studios, and Technology Strategy & Services to host events, offer expert support with audiovisual archiving, and provide technical expertise to maintain the lab equipment, the project team will help University of Arizona School of Information (iSchool) graduate students recruited for the project gain practical experience.

Training future archivists

The iSchool graduate education offerings include a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science, Master of Science in Data Science, and Master of Science in Information Science. Graduate certificates include Archival Studies, Digital Curation, and other certificate programs. 

At the same time, there is a growing demand among iSchool graduate students to find experiential learning opportunities in digital preservation and stewardship. 

The iSchool graduate students recruited for the Wildcats Memory Project will develop hands-on technical skills related to digital preservation, as well as design and lead peer-to-peer workshops. Their work will also include supporting library staff with events open to the public. 

According to Erdman, digital devices are ubiquitous these days, and people have largely shifted to documenting their lives digitally. This puts materials at a greater risk of loss due to a variety of factors. “Library and archival professionals can do a lot of good in the community by empowering community members to learn basic digital preservation skills and techniques,” said Erdman.

Project team

  • Stacey Erdman, Digital Preservation Librarian, Collection Services
  • Trent Purdy, Assistant Librarian & Archivist, Special Collections 
  • Francesco Serio, Digital Preservation Analyst, Collection Services 
  • Lauren Washuk, Digitization Services and Lab Manager, Collection Services
Stacey Erdman, Digital Preservation Librarian