Section One - Event Planning

Section Two - Outreach

Section Three - Event Overview

Section Four - Educational Resources

Section Five - Assessment

Section Six - Resources


At community scanning events, we bring our mobile digitization kit to library branches and invite residents to bring in photos, documents and memorabilia. We scan the materials, which are returned to the donors with a flash drive of digital copies. The digital files are then included in the digital archives of our respective repositories, as well as ingested into the Digital Public Library of America. Our role in this process includes: selecting locations, scheduling events, doing outreach and collaborating with partners, facilitating the events, and doing the post-event cataloging and ingest of materials into our digital repositories.

We hope this toolkit will serve as a valuable resource for individuals and organizations interested in launching community scanning events in their area.

The content in the Community Section of this toolkit was authored by Sarah Quick and Maggie Schreiner, Culture in Transit Mobile Digitization Specialists for Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library, respectively.

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Section One - Event Planning

The planning for a community scanning event should begin 3-4 months in advance of the anticipated event date. Timing considerations include: internal deadlines for promotional materials, needs of any community partners, and availability of staff and equipment. Please see our event planning checklist for more details.

Site Selection and Visit

When selecting a location for a community scanning event, consider the following:

Once a location is selected to host a community scanning event, a site visit is necessary to assess the space and meet the staff. On the day of the event, we’re occupying a portion of their library for several hours, so it’s important the branch staff knows what to expect and what their role will be. Topics that should be covered with the librarian during this initial visit include:

Date Selection


Promotional Materials

Set Up Location

Space Requirements

When selecting a space to set up for a community scanning event, the most important factor is visibility. We’ve found that positioning ourselves in a high traffic area of the library, such as the entrance or checkout kiosk often increases our rate of walk-in participation by allowing us to:

With this increase in interaction we might sacrifice the ability to customize our workspace, making do with very little square footage or access to electrical outlets. The bare minimum requirements to set up a mobile digitization kit is as follows:


Electrical Requirements

Including space for three chairs, at a minimum we need an estimated 60 square feet of space to set up our mobile digitization kit, including space for two mobile digitization specialists and a participant to sit comfortably.

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Section Two - Outreach


Media and Phone Banking Outreach

Many people hear about community scanning events from local community groups or branch librarians. We also get walk-ins, people who just happen to visit the library on the day of event and choose to participate after learning more. In the weeks leading up to the event we attempt to attract additional participation through:

Cold Calls and Emails

Contacting local senior centers, religious organizations and businesses in hopes that their members and customers might be interested. We ask that they support Culture in Transit by displaying or distributing our promotional materials at their location.

Social Media

Providing quality JPEGs of our flier to local business and organizations for them to share on their social media accounts.


Community scanning events make great content for local and community blogs reporting on upcoming activities.


Placing an ad or suggesting an article in a local newspaper can be preferable to social media when attempting to reach a community’s senior population.

Leveraging Library Communities

In planning community scanning events we often find our best resources and advocates at the library. Individuals and groups worth reaching out to include:

Friends Groups

Community members who serve as volunteer advocates for their branch library. These groups may be involved with fundraising and program planning, with close ties to the community.

Staff Members

Librarians and assistants who have existing relationships with library patrons, and are helpful in identifying individuals that might be interested in the project. Staff members should also be encouraged to participate themselves, as they are often members of the communities they serve. People respond positively to an individualized and in-person invitation to a community history event, and branch staff are in the best position to extend invitations.


Patrons who have previously attended library programs, events and activities are likely to attend community scanning events as well. We try to identify related programs such as genealogy workshops, computer classes and older adult meet-ups to hand out fliers and speak for a few minutes about the project.

Community Partnerships

Community groups serve as important liaisons between the library and the community. Creating partnerships for community scanning events can:

School Scanning

We believe partnering with an educational organization is one of the best ways for school-aged children to participate in community scanning projects. For these events there are a few additional details to keep in mind:

Consent Form and Introductory Letter:

The child’s legal guardian is responsible for signing the consent form. This means the form must be sent home, signed and returned to school before we arrive. We found it helpful to include an introductory letter that better explains the project and offers suggestions as what we can and cannot accept as donations.

Metadata Form:

We also send metadata forms home with the child to be filled out with their parent or guardian. Although the child is legally capable of filling out our metadata forms, we receive more accurate information if their parent or guardian assists them. It’s our hope that this assistance will also lead to a larger conversation within the family about their role in the history of the community.

Linking with Oral History Projects

Many of our participants are eager to share not only their physical items, but the stories and memories that come with a lifetime of collecting. It is a natural fit including an oral history component to our community scanning events. Both the Queens Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library have oral history projects:

Queens Memory:

A collaboration of the Archives at Queens Public Library and Queens College Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives. The Queens Memory Project combines historical and contemporary photography with oral history interviews of current residents.

Our Streets Our Stories:

A division of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Outreach Services department, this project is working to collect interviews from a diverse group of Brooklyn residents, creating a neighborhood-specific oral history archive.

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Section Three - Event Overview


A community scanning event requires at least two staff members, although three is ideal. Each should be comfortable assuming the following responsibilities:

Consent, Metadata & Feedback Collection


Interactive Activity Supervision

Please see our full breakdown of staffing responsibilities for more information.

Event Workflow

During community scanning events, the basic flow of materials being digitized is:

Image of Event Overview

For more detailed information please refer to the following documents:

Digitization Standards

We create both master and access files during events and copies of each are given to participants on a flash drive.

  Master Files Access Files
Document Type Reflective Reflective
Bit Depth 24-bit 24-bit
Color Space Adobe RGB Adobe RGB
Resolution 600ppi 300ppi
File Type TIFF JPEG2000

Access files are created through an automated Photoshop action.

Each participant’s folder also contains a separate image of the color target, labeled with the date of capture.

File Name Conventions

We developed a standardized file naming convention that adheres to existing institutional standards. Information to consider when creating your file naming convention includes:

For each event, we used consent forms specific to the project:

Your consent form should be reviewed by your institution’s legal department before being implemented.

The Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library do not own copyright to any of the digital images collected at community scanning events. At the time of donation we ask participants to sign a consent form that assigns a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license to the image:


You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.


You may not use the material for commercial purposes.


If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

We scan each consent form, and include it on the thumb drive provided to the participant.


We use a paper version of our metadata collection form to collect metadata about each item digitized. The information we attempt to collect includes:

Participant Relations

At every community scanning event we want participants to feel valued and to trust that their items will be handled with care and respect.

Steps we take to build trust include:


We make ourselves available to participants at any time leading up to and after each event. It’s important for people to know that they can always contact us with questions.


Rushing through the donation process can feel cold and impersonal. We make sure to leave enough space for participants to take their time and feel comfortable sharing their items with us. If they want to share a story about a particular item, or need a few extra minutes to remember a name, it’s our responsibility to give them the space to do so.

Options for Further Involvement

Presenting an opportunity for participants to give an oral history interview or get involved with a community group is a great way for them to continue sharing their story and working with their community.

Not Turning Anyone Away

For copyright reasons, we can’t include newspaper clippings, books, magazine articles or certain images in our collection. However, it is good practice to provide community members with a digital copy of their items to take home, even if it can’t be used for Culture in Transit.

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Section Four - Educational Resources

Community History Activities

We include interactive public and community history activities to expose event attendees to local history materials and to provide engagement for people while they wait for their material to be scanned. Suggested activities include:

Photograph Slideshow

Digital slideshow of historic photographs and documents from the neighborhood, drawn from institutional archives and material collected at previous scanning events.

Oral History Listening Station

Clips of oral history interviews from the neighborhood.

Community History Mapping Station

A large map of the neighborhood, on which participants are invited to place a dot sticker with their first name where they live, as well as writing brief memories of the neighborhood on a Post-It-Note which can also be stuck to the map.

Photograph Comparison

Printouts of historic photos of a neighborhood, with the location captioned on the back of the image. Participants can use a laptop or tablet to find the corresponding location on Google Street View.

Additional Resources

Interactive outreach models.

Setting up outreach tablets.

Technology Education

Participants with a varying levels of technological knowledge attend community scanning events. We provide two primary resources for understanding our technology:

Preserving Your Digital Memories Brochure

This brochure is given to participants at Queens Public Library community scanning events. The pamphlet discusses why digital files require special care, provides a step-by-step guide to maintaining your personal digital archive, and provides tips for digitizing your own photographs or documents.

What’s On My Thumb Drive? Handout

This small handout explains what is on the thumb drive given to donors, and what each type of file should be used for.

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Section Five - Assessment

For community scanning events, we conduct two primary forms of assessment, gathering separate input from participants and from the event leaders.

Community Participant Feedback Form

This is filled out on paper form by participants, and later entered into a spreadsheet. Through this form we aim to gain metrics about outreach, who is attending our community engagement events, and their experiences in the project. We collect responses using Google Forms, and also have paper copies available at events. It is often difficult to collect participant feedback forms, as we have already asked our donors to complete a lot of paperwork during the event.

Community Event Assessment Form

Through this form we aim to assess our event planning, attendance and realization, and improve problem areas for future events. We submit our responses through a Google Form, which we complete within a week of the event.

Community Partner Feedback Form

This form is distributed to partner organizations who co-organize events or programing series. We use this form to understand the experiences, motivations, and needs of community partners.

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Section Six - Resources

Below is a list of all resources developed and used for community scanning events. These resources are located throughout this section but this list provides a quick-glance locator for the resources.

Community Scanning Blog Posts

We used our blog as a way to track progress and record our experiences throughout the project. Below are a list of posts we have written about our community scanning work that people may find useful/helpful.

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