VHS tape in a beaker with bubbles coming out of the tape and "DIY Memory Lab"

DIY Memory Lab at Roberts ~ Opening mid-May 2022

CALS Roberts Library is creating a DIY Memory Lab so patrons can digitize their family photographs, personal VHS/Beta video cassettes, and audio cassettes.


  • The DIY Memory Lab will be located on 3rd floor of CALS Roberts Library (401 President Clinton Ave/River Market).
    • The Memory Lab will be available for patron use Tuesday through Friday 10:15am to 4:30pm and on Saturday by appointment.
    • Appointments are REQUIRED to use the DIY Memory Lab. Time slots are 2-hour in length and back-to-back appointments are allowed.
    • CALS Roberts employees will be able to assist patrons with operating equipment and troubleshooting but we will not digitize materials for you.
    • Patrons will NOT be allowed to digitize copyrighted materials. ​Most of the software won’t work on copyrighted material. No record collections or cassette tape collections or feature films.
    • CALS Library Card NOT required to use the Memory Lab. Patrons will be required to sign-in at the Memory Lab.
    • It is intended to be DO-IT-YOURSELF with a little training. And intended for digitization not editing.

Digitization formats

  • FLATBED SCANNER STATION (Opening Tuesday, May 17, 2022)
    • Photographs up to 11×14
    • Photographic film negative and slides
      • Mounted slides
      • 35mm film strips
      • Medium format film (120/220)
      • 4×5 inch film
      • Non-standard film sizes
    • This is a PC environment using a Windows computer.
  • A/V DIGITIZING STATION (opening mid to late summer 2022)
    • VHS
    • Beta
    • Mini-DV/Mini-HDV
    • audio cassette
    • U-Matic
    • 3.5 in floppy disk
    • DVD/CD
    • This is a Mac environment using an Apple computer.

A/V formats digitize in real time. If the tape has 2 hours of content, then it will take 2 hours to digitize that content. There is no way to speed up the process. Also the condition of material to be digitized may limit the ability to digitize and the quality of the digitization. In some cases, audio, VHS, and beta may need to be rehoused to get a good digital copy.

Before patrons come in to use the DIY Memory Lab, we strongly encourage attending our Personal Archiving class. This class is held on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 3:30 pm (on Zoom) and will walk patrons through organizing their photos and other papers. This is an important step to make the most of their time in the Memory Lab.

Funded by a grant from DC Library Lab and IMLS

The CALS DIY Memory Lab Project is part of the DC Public Library Memory Lab Network and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.




Schedule Memory Lab Appointments