DIY Memory Lab
Increasingly, the materials that make up people's lives are becoming more digital, but not everyone has the equipment or knowledge to properly take care of them. Many analog formats, such as VHS, degrade over time and need to be digitized before the recordings are lost. The San Leandro Public Library provides the following services to help individuals on their personal archiving and digital preservation journey.
Interested in volunteering for the DIY Memory Lab?
Become a part of the DIY Memory Lab by being available to Memory Lab users for questions and troubleshooting. Volunteers must enjoy working with the public and be comfortable learning new technology. Check out our the volunteer page to learn more!
This DIY Memory Lab was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.
Email [email protected]
Daily organization. Personal collections are larger than ever, spanning physical things like keepsakes and journals, to digital things like Word documents, photographs, email, and social media accounts. Taking steps to care for your stuff will help you locate, reference, and re-use what you create.
Security. Losing track of your assets and online accounts is a threat to your online identity and personal security. This means that sometimes even deleting is a valuable personal archiving strategy.
Legacy. What you produce purposefully (like a home movie or photograph) and what you produce in daily life (like a calendar appointment or email) could be important for your loved ones and for the cultural record.
What is the DIY Memory Lab?
The DIY Memory Lab is a do-it-yourself space with equipment to digitize home movies, scan photographs and slides, along with other personal/family keepsakes, located in the History Room on second floor of the San Leandro Public Library. It's a DIY model, with step-by-step instructions provided for user reference, and with staff or volunteers on hand for technical support. Get a SLPL library card, attend an orientation, and sign the Memory Lab User Agreement in order to book a reservation to digitize your own materials.
Using professional-grade equipment, patrons can digitize multiple formats, including slides, negatives, photographic prints, and documents. The Memory Lab does not include a printer.
How Can I Use the DIY Memory Lab?
- Watch orientation online or Attend in Person (registration required) →
- Sign User Agreement →
- Make appointment →
- Select items to digitize & check their condition →
- Bring items & storage device to your appointment!
- Be a San Leandro Library Cardholder. CA residents can apply for a free card if you don’t have one - apply here and visit our library to pick up your card!
- Watch or attend a Memory Lab orientation. Check our registration page for orientation dates! If taking the orientation online, you will be prompted to register for a free Niche Academy account.
- Review the Lab Policies and sign the User Agreement (patrons under age 18 will need a parent/guardian signature). A signed user agreement is required to use the equipment. Please print, sign and bring to your appointment or sign when you arrive for your appointment.
- Make an appointment at https://sanleandro.libcal.com/space/137502
- Bring a USB flash drive or external hard drive to store your digitized files
- Follow our DIY instructions during your appointment
- Optional: add your digitized photos/documents to the Library/Museum history collection (informed consent waiver required)
What Should I Do to Prepare?
Prioritize which memories you’d like to digitize. Come prepared with your items and a USB storage device or external hard drive with sufficient space to save your digitization, or an account with an online storage service (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).
Check the Condition
You won’t be able to scan documents or photos with mold, mildew, or dirt, or transfer broken and damaged VHS tapes. Staff will inspect your items at the start of your appointment. Please review our Memory Lab Material Inspection guide before you come in.
Plan Your Time
Digitizing VHS takes at least as long as the running time of the VHS tape. For example, if your video is 90 minutes long, it will take at least 90 minutes to digitize the files, plus time to prepare the equipment and transfer the digitized files to your storage device.
Scanning photos, slides, negatives, and documents take at least 2 minutes per photo, not including the time to prepare the equipment and transfer the digitized photos onto your storage device.
When Can I Use the Memory Lab?
The Memory Lab equipment is located in the San Leandro History room, and available by appointment during History Room hours:
- Mondays 5pm-7pm: Scanning station
- Tuesdays 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm: Scanning station, VHS/Audio Cassette Transfer Station
- Wednesdays 11:30 am- 7:30 pm: Scanning station, VHS/Audio Cassette Transfer Station
- Thursdays 1pm-3pm: Scanning station
- Saturdays 11am-5pm: Scanning station, VHS/Audio Cassette Transfer Station
Once you have confirmed an appointment, please check-in at the San Leandro History Room at your appointment time.
The San Leandro Public Library’s Mobile Memory Lab is a pop-up program designed to collect images from the San Leandro community.
Community members bring keepsakes such as photographs, negatives, letters and diaries to events called "Scanning Days.” Library staff digitize and process these keepsakes, to be featured in the San Leandro Public Library's digital collections.
Why are we doing this?
The project seeks to empower residents from diverse backgrounds to document the myriad histories that together tell a more complete story of life in our city.
So be on the lookout; the Mobile Memory Lab may very well pop up at your branch library next!
Does your organization or non-profit have photos of everyday life in San Leandro? Would your members like a chance to digitize old photos, slides, or negatives? The Library can bring our mobile scanner to your site!
Email [email protected] to request a scanning day.
An essential step before saving digitized files. This will enable your external hard drive to work seamlessly between Windows and iOS.
Can't tell the difference between DVCAM and miniDV? Use this guide to identify what type of media you're dealing with and how to handle it.
The San Leandro History Museum and San Leandro Public Library work together to maintain the City’s historical heritage through exhibits, collections, and community programming that reflects San Leandro’s rich cultural diversity. Many cultures are vastly underrepresented in this preserved history, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Indigenous tribes. If you have physical or digital photos, videos or personal documents related to living or working on San Leandro, please considering sharing those with the Library/Museum to help preserve local history and culture and ensure that our diverse population is clearly represented in our city’s history and present.
If you would like to share an item, please email [email protected]