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

DIY Memory Lab at Roberts

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


  • The DIY Memory Lab is located on the 3rd floor of the CALS Roberts Library (401 President Clinton Ave./River Market). To access the Memory Lab, please go to the 2nd floor of Roberts Library and an employee will take you up to the 3rd floor.
    • The Memory Lab is available for patron use Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday by appointment (contact staff to set up a Saturday appointment).
    • Appointments are REQUIRED to use the DIY Memory Lab. Time slots are two hours in length, and back-to-back appointments are allowed.
    • CALS Roberts employees will assist patrons with operating equipment and troubleshooting but will not digitize materials for patrons.
    • 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 can be digitized.
    • CALS Library Card NOT required to use the Memory Lab; patrons will simply be required to sign in at the Memory Lab.
    • It is intended to be DO-IT-YOURSELF with a little training. And the time spent in the Memory Lab is intended for digitization, not editing.

Digitization formats

    • Photographs up to 11×14 inches
    • Photographic film negatives and slides
      • Mounted slides
      • 35mm filmstrips
      • Medium format film (120/220)
      • 4×5 inch film
      • Non-standard film sizes
    • This is a PC environment using a Windows computer.
    • VHS
    • Beta
    • audio cassette
    • This is a Mac environment using an Apple computer.

A/V formats digitize in real time. If the tape has two hours of content, then it will take two 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.

Personal Archiving Classes & Resources

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 p.m. (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 in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.




Working for a library and want to start your own DIY Memory Lab?

We can help. Here is a presentation for libraries to start their own DIY Memory Lab and handout.

Schedule Memory Lab Appointments

Supply List and Vendors

Personal Archiving Resources

Join us on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 3:30pm to 5pm via Zoom!

Register Here