Is a digital media lab right for you?

Erika helping in the DML
From the Skokie Public Library

If you can be in charge/start your/be part of a Digital Media Lab (DML) I highly recommend it… for you.

Now, I think all the community building, etc. aspects of a DML are awesome and one of the futures of libraries – see a Library Journal article I co-authored for that all important aspect.  However, this post is for those of you who are considering starting a DML and wondering if you will enjoy it as an aspect of your job.

This is what my work life looks like being in charge of the Skokie DML ( I have other duties besides the DML, but you aren’t interested in that). Training, training and more training.  Training myself, colleagues, and library members. Oh, and also making sure everything runs smoothly and is positioned for the future.

  • The Software

I am always training myself on software.  I mean always!  In the last 1.5 yrs I have taught myself the rudiments of Photoshop Elements, Motion, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Dreamwearver, iWeb, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Fireworks, Screenflow, and Adobe Premier Pro (ongoing – I think I may try to become more of an expert on this as it is really useful and videos and libraries blah, blah, blah).  I have taught myself to be a relatively advanced user of iMovie and Garageband.   My next ones to study are everything Final Cut X, Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Soundbooth, and Adobe Photoshop. I try to give myself 4 hours a week for self training, but that normally becomes 1-3 as other stuff moves up the to-do list.

  • The Hardware

I prefer learning the software more than the hardware, but maybe you a musician or an engineer type and the hardware will be more fun for you? However, hardware doesn’t really change and I can usually have something down well enough in relatively short time in comparison to software. I have had to learn microphones (gain, patterns, etc.), flat-bed scanners, slide scanners,  Flips (terribly difficult, I know), relatively inexpensive still cameras, tripods, MP3 Recorders, portable hard drives (which need fixing as members often hurt the file structure when ejecting the devices incorrectly on Macs),  digital convertors, midi keyboards, midi recorders, electric drums, and electric guitars (my next week’s project).  Am I awesome with any of these, not really, but I know how to get them to work in our environment, I certainly am not a drummer or guitarist or any type of a musician.

  • Administration

This eats lots of time (it should) as we are figuring out the best way for this space to grow and function, the most important part of the gig.  Being sure we are offering enough training (internal and external), reaching out to local organizations (non and for-profit) for partnerships, presenting, hiring, managing, and training incredibly talented individuals, recruiting amazing volunteers (your normal library volunteer is not going to be useful in a DML), selecting hardware and software, building for the future, dealing with problematic users, running the website, blogging and making sure others are blogging, and all that other leadership stuff.

Does this seem kind of fun? If so, maybe you should be in charge of a DML. No, then I seriously recommend passing on this responsibility. We are constantly getting interns and LIS student volunteers interested in working in the DML, hire them – contact me if you want some names.

I am hoping some other DML manager types will post in the comments or elsewhere explaining what they do.

TTW Contributor: Mick Jacobsen

5 thoughts on “Is a digital media lab right for you?”

  1. Rutgers has a DML in the Douglass campus library, and it was one of my favorite places to work as an MLIS student. From web design (Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, and beautiful huge Apple monitors) to creating video tutorials for User Instruction/Education classes, DMLs are a boon to library education as well as library users.

  2. I have been running the studio at our library for several years. I really love the work. You are right about the training. You must be willing to constantly learn and grow to continue working effectively with customers and you have to put in lots of time training staff and student workers. It’s very exciting. I’m curious what trends others are seeing. For a long time, we didn’t have a lot of audio work going on in our lab – lots of video and graphic design. In the past couple of years, the interest in recording audio has increased dramatically.

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