Internal:Library Lab

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A Library Lab (or LibLab) is a hackspace for knowledge demonstration project at the DC Public Library. The lab is designed as a community center for annotation, classification, creation, curation, digitization; education and publication, reading and writing and media production. The LibLab demonstration project is part of the Digital Public Library of America Beta Sprint initiative, demonstrating modular components that could be replicated elsewhere.

LibLab has a modular design, with up to a dozen research and collaboration modules. Each module provides the tools and space needed to work on collaborative knowledge production, research, or learning and teaching. They can support digital public libraries, existing physical workshops, and communities without such spaces at all. Different configurations can be installed in unused storefronts, sheltered outdoor areas, kiosks, and existing public buildings.

The LibLab concept is being prototyped at the DC Public Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library, in downtown Washington, D.C., from September to the end of December 2011.

As of Oct. 2012, the Library Lab project is dormant, as remodeling work is underway in the space we have been using at MLK.


At the MLK Jr. Library, learning about the Library Lab and OpenStreetMap

We will define a Library Lab as a standalone hackspace for people to work collaboratively on knowledge - creating, organizing, and sharing it. This will include digitization, annotation, publishing, and use of existing tools for library research and collection-making, particularly for personal and neighborhood projects.

The lab provides space for community members, educators, and librarians to learn about new tools, to develop personalized workspaces, and to run classes and workshops for others. It will include physical tools such as cameras and scanners and mixers and computers, and software tools for design, automation, mixing, and working with datasets.

This idea is based loosely on the model of FabLabs, which provide similar hackspace in 100+ labs around the world for engineering/hacking physical objects.

We will develop a prototype lab in Washington DC, co-located at the DC Public Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Library. The lab will run through the end of December 2011. Through course of running the lab, we will test various ideas and concepts, and seek feedback from public users and librarians.


The Wiki Society of Washington, DC, together with the DC Public Library, Noll and Tam, Architects, and Boston Wikipedians, is working on this project over the Summer and Fall 2011.

Demonstration : DC Public Library

From the beginning of September until the end of December 2011, a LibLab demonstration is being run at the Martin Luther King Jr. DC Public Library.


These are the hours that the lab is open, and as we have more people to fill other timeslots, the lab hours can be extended. Also on an ad-hoc basis, people are welcome to come in anytime and work in the lab.

  • Monday evening (~5/5:30pm - 9pm) - Katie
  • Tuesday evening (~5/5:30pm - 9pm) - Katie
  • Saturday (all day) - Katie


Note: events can be scheduled every day of the week (except Sundays); in the evening on Mondays and Tuesdays (until 9 pm); during the day Wed - Friday.


  • Saturday, September 3, 2011, 11 am (until ~3 pm) : OpenStreetMap Mapping Party : Chinatown / Penn Quarter; meet at Martin Luther King Jr. DC Public Library
  • Saturday, September 10, 2011, 1pm : DC Wikipedia Meetup #22
  • Saturday, September 17, 10:30am : OpenStreetMap Mapping Party
  • Saturday, September 24 : Hackday
  • Tuesday, September 27 (evening): Copynight DC


  • Saturday, October 1 - Wiki Society of Washington DC Annual Membership Meeting (Tenleytown library)
  • Saturday, October 22 - Accessibility Camp DC
  • Monday, October 31: Format Conversion Workshop in the LibraryLab space


  • November 4-11 - Digital Capital Week
    • Saturday, November 5 : Wikis Love Libraries (1-5pm) RSVP + accessibility hackathon problem identification (3pm)
    • Monday, November 7: Accessibility Hackathon Preparation Session - 6pm to 9pm in room 215 and possibly LibraryLab space
    • Tuesday, November 8: open
  • Saturday, November 12 : Accessibility hackathon 10am to 5:30pm RSVP
  • Monday, November 14: open
  • Tuesday, November 15: open
  • Saturday, November 19 : open
  • Monday, November 21: open
  • Tuesday, November 22: open


  • Saturday, December 3 : International Open Data Hackathon - RSVP
  • Monday, December 5 : Maker Monday in room 215 and the Library Lab space 6pm to 8pm
  • Tuesday, December 6 : open
  • Saturday, December 10 : OpenStreetMap mapping & hacking
  • Monday, December 12 : open
  • Tuesday, December 13 : open
  • Saturday, December 17 : Archives of American Art Edit-a-Thon [1]
  • Monday, December 19 : Maker Monday in room 215 and the Library Lab space 6pm to 8pm
  • Tuesday, December 20 : open


Oral histories : preservation and collection

We can digitize and transcribe oral histories in the special collections and make available online, which would help with preservation and making them more accessible.

If we have capacity, we could also invite community members to come in and record new oral histories and interviews, and if they have video tapes that they want preserved, we might be able to help.

Topics of interest could be civil rights and local DC history.

Washingtonian photos

Main: Internal:Library Lab/Washingtonian photos
  • digitizing photographs -- special collections?
    • Note: The Washington Post holds copyright of all Washington Star photographs
    • Note: Washington, D.C. Historical Image Collection contains 15,000 images, 1880-1940 and some earlier dated


Main: Internal:Library Lab/OSM

The lab will support and help facilitate mapping activities, including contributions to the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project. We will run a series of mapping workshops, the first taking place on Saturday, September 3 at 11 am, to introduce people to OSM, with opportunity to get outside and collect some map data, and then learn how to input it into the map. In addition to general features, public artworks, shops, etc., we're also interested in mapping features important for pedestrian and accessible routing and accessible shops/restaurants. We're also working on ways to more easily extract OSM data in useful ways and integrate it with other sources of information (e.g. historical info in the library collections, Wikipedia content, etc.).

Mapping parties (workshops)
  • September 3, 11 am - OpenStreetMap mapping party, around Chinatown / Penn Quarter; for both beginners and experienced mappers (notes)
  • September 17, 10:30 am - OpenStreetMap mapping party, around Chinatown / Judiciary Square

Video subtitling

Main: Internal:Library Lab/Captioning

The International Amateur Scanning League, as part of the FedFlix project, has digitized several thousand videos from the collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These videos are available on the Internet Archive (and YouTube). WikiProject FedFlix on English Wikipedia is working to transfer relevant videos to Wikimedia Commons, so that they are available for use on Wikipedia. Wikimedia Commons has some experimental features to support new video technology, including Universal Subtitles integration that allows people to caption video. Once videos are captioned, that makes them more accessible, and also opens the possibility for subtitles to be translated to other languages (e.g. Spanish, German...)

  • We need volunteers to help out with captioning videos.
  • If the DCPL has any video that would be useful, we can see about digitizing those as well. For use on Wikimedia Commons, they need to be public domain or be put under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) or Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) licenses. (Not sure if arrangements could be made to grant permission for non-PD or non-CC video, to put them on YouTube or elsewhere?)
  • We could talk with Michael Dale, the Universal Subtitles, and OpenVideo folks and see what technology / hacking / development needs there are to push these features beyond experiment and develop any other tools or features that would be helpful.

Project ideas

Workshops and activity ideas

Propose your idea here
OpenStreetMap mapping parties & workshops Katie F
Wikipedia newbies workshops
Wikipedia editathons
Wikisource Todd Fine, Dominic?
MediaWiki tech hacking, wiki mondays?
Using social tools in the library. (e.g. [2]), privacy settings, etc.
How to build a website
Starting businesses (including for people with disabilities, make materials accessible)
Hackathons - BookShare, DevHouseDC, maps/geo hackathon, GLAM-tech hackathon (?) or others
Innovation space, including for accessibility
Gaming component? ablegamers, come up with accommodations for people to interact
Volunteer projects using computers, scanning, captioning
Library of Congress, digitizing and lib for the blind Ruth Scovil
Project Gutenberg, GB
Art studio
Intro to video CCTV-DC
Please add ideas!

Other ideas (?)

Other ideas and inspiration could come from FabLabs, YOUmedia labs, CCTV centers, hand-on museums, "creation stations", high-throughput scan centers. How could a combination of these work well together? We can learn from people who have done this, or organizations dedicated to this. [see the Association of Science-Technology Centers]

Lab design concepts

The Digital Library needs a physical footprint for the input and output of digital information. Our team has focused upon creating the infrastructure for the input of physical, audio, and visual information into the digital realm, and for the transfer of that digital information back into physical form of various sorts. We have conceived of a number of modules that will serve to support or contain the equipment needed for the transfer of the digital information. These modules are built with a flexible system of components that can be designed digitally, transmitted to any location, and fabricated using simple tools and methodologies. The size of the forms allows them to be fabricated from readily available standard materials such as plywood, MDF, plastics, metal, or composite materials. Our intent is that the design and fabrication techniques will be easily adaptable to individual needs, and that the processes will be open source, part of the creative commons.

We have identified eleven basic types of modules that can serve most of the functions we envision are needed. Each module can vary according to the need, budget, and particulars of the functions intended for it in any given location. For the purposes of this study, we have chosen to represent them in three sizes; ‘minimum’ ‘Standard’ ‘Maximum’. Each ‘size’ is designed to correspond to different levels of financial capability, as well as frequency and quantity of use. In addition, they can be customized to easily to respond to local needs.

Noll & Tam Architects collaborated with Matthew Williams Design to create a sense of identity through bold graphics and signage. Thus, a method of interface for the digital library is introduced to the public in an easily recognizable and accessible manner.

These modules are general concepts that may work in any library—small or large, and not specific to the DC Library Lab. In DC, we are adapting the concepts and making use of existing furniture and equipment that the DC Public Library may have, and seek to borrow or get anything additional donated to the project.



Hanging out (space)

Lounge furniture, comfortable space

Workshops (space)

Reconfigurable Projection / connectors / sound Sound baffling?

Uses: run intro workshops, show multimedia, large-group collaboration

writing/whiteboard (space)

Easels, whiteboards, glass walls & dryerase crayons

Req's open space to pace and work in a group

Activity centers


Simple flatbeds. Camera.


Audio recording (booth)

Mics & mixers, playback, headsets

Video recording (booth)


Camera(s), tripods
Greenscreen, backgrounds

Playback: projection? translucent wall?

Book binding


Analog tools: presses, cutters
Papers, bindings

Cleanup tools


Speedy copiers/printers. (only B/W high-speed, to avoid overuse?)

Plotter (for printing on var. media)

Espresso machine (option)


Software activities

(many interchangeable stations)

multimedia work

---> connected to recording booths

curation, collection management, publication

---> next step after digitization and uploading

naming, classification, organization

---> connected to scan and digitzation centers

script and database development

Set up as a software development testbed.

backups and file storage

A complement to existing library systems - for local backup and storage of any materials generated in the Lab. A station for making and managing backups, and a service to the rest of the lab.

digital design

sketchup. cad/cam.

see HacDC digital design classes


Welcoming, access

Oversight of small common needs: usb keys?

Direct people to first steps/pods

Gear checkout

Hardware: laptop/tablet/reader/recorder, gps/camera checkout

Laptop plugins: webcams, displays, &c.
Disposables (usb keys, dvds)

Coordinate with existing library carts


Steelcase makes some good furniture for multiple people to collaborate on single screens.

The demo space is surrounded by glass walls that could be used to write on

Use cases for a lab

please add to this list!

  • Support for month-long projects, a place to store work in progress.
  • Large-group workshops and community projects, in the library and the community (community mapping, journalism, archiving)
  • Hackathons, bringing together the DC techies and library folks
  • Group reading space, open reconfigurable space for 1-10 people to sit together
  • Reference and discovery and curation work: raw 'content' organization and publishing.
  • Creating you own Wikimedia "books" via the books extension, printing them out, basic binding/drilling
  • Printing/binding PD texts via OpenLibrary or class materials
  • Digital restoration of special collections [not the initial digitization, but the cleanup]
  • Classification of image and map archives
  • Collection bulding: gathering local books and other materials
  • Using a gps and camera / videocamera. mapping, taking geotagged photos; updating OSM and Commons.
  • Recording center (semi-soundproofed) for interviews and other recordings.
  • Recording kits that can be checked out; see StoryCorps kits
  • Multimedia center for media remixing
  • Local news, podcasts, oral histories
  • Arts and crafts station and materials
Digitization, archiving
  • Bulk scanning and OCR of books, uploading the results to wikisource via bot.
  • Digitizing tools for migrating older media, including analog audio
  • Archiving tools for migrating older digital media, including access to a large fileserver [via network?].
  • Work with local museums to digitize and categorize materials
Other Tools
  • Access to a wide variety of hardware tools, to check out and learn to use properly
  • Access to a wide variety of software tools, to use on a few dedicated stations
  • Equipment checkout : making use of carts and local reputation
  • An accessibility center
  • ...

Volunteers needed

Needed: tech / teacher / organizer volunteers!

Libraries and other venues often have space but lack staff to man a potential lab. We have one volunteer to organize the space so far (thank you!), and could use 5-6 more who are free at least part of each week.

We need volunteers to oversee the lab during open hours (at least in the afternoon every day), run introductory sessions for newcomers, and facilitate use of the space by the various projects that may pass through. For example: in DCPL, they have a project working with teens to make and publish news pieces and radio, a neighborhood program to digitize community histories. The people currently running those projects will need introduction into the lab and some initial guidance in using it. Both of those projects might want to learn how to generate and publish wiki materials. There are also community archiving projects run by the Building Museum who might be a good fit.

If you enjoy showing people how things work, people who become interested will need to be shown how to use all of the tools, and how to run their own workshops showing others how to use their favorites. Ex: there are dozens of summer volunteers around the public libraries in the summer, some might choose to work in the lab. A good guide for running such tutorials could become standard for labs across the contry.

Related programs and efforts

  • The Uni Project - an open-air reading-space initiative starting in NYC and Boston. This could define 2-3 of the modules available to a LibLab.


  • September 7-16 :
    • planning and establishing the lab space and project ideas
    • recruiting volunteers and people to come and use the space
  • September 19-23 :
    • get basic modules setup to support projects
  • September 26-30 :
    • open, with projects + volunteers

Other outreach

Further reading

Here is some material about similar (loosely defined) library spaces: