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San Diego Public Library to expand Digital Memory Lab services with $350K grant

VHS tapes up for bid at San Diego's old central library, June 9, 2016.
Tarryn Mento
VHS tapes are displayed at the San Diego Central Library, June 9, 2016.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation granted the Library Foundation SD $350,000 for the San Diego Public Library to expand Digital Memory Lab services throughout San Diego, it was announced Monday.

The donation is intended to create three additional digital memory labs — which allow patrons to save information and memories stored on antiquated media, including VHS and Betamax tapes, 8mm film, 8-track, reel-to- reel, and other audio tapes, slides and negatives and floppy disks. The funding will also go toward deploying five mobile pop-up labs traveling between library branches in all nine City Council districts in San Diego.

"The library's mission is to inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other," said Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library director. "I am so pleased we will now be able to encourage more of our residents to connect the threads of their personal histories to those of others.


"The library is the place to share stories, and now we can ensure the diverse stories that make San Diego such a vibrant place are preserved and shared," Jones said.

At the labs, library patrons are taught how to convert older resources into an accessible digital format. Before the grant was awarded, only two digital memory labs were available as a public service. Since it opened five years ago, the lab at San Diego's Central Library has hosted more than 1,600 visits and transferred 3,700 hours of media into a usable, digital format.

"Public libraries are perfect places for memory labs, where community members may receive help to care for their personal artifacts in the form of audio and video recordings, for example," said Patricia Hswe, program director for public knowledge at the Mellon Foundation. "We are pleased to support the San Diego Public Library to undertake this important work and highlight the richly diverse communities in its midst through these labs."

According to a statement from the Library Foundation, the grant funding will also upgrade the two existing digital memory labs, create a storytelling initiative with the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, create a workshop series on personal archival preservation and preserve historical resources in the library's special collections microfilm archives.

"We are so grateful for the Mellon Foundation's investment," said Library Foundation SD CEO Patrick Stewart. "Libraries are vital places of meaningful interaction, representation, and inclusion. Our libraries help foster conversations about literature, the arts, and our shared histories. The Mellon Foundation grant means these conversations can be more inclusive."


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation's largest supporter of the arts and humanities. The Library Foundation SD has raised more than $130 million in private funds since its inception in 2002 to "augment and support library programs, collections, expansions and services."