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