Submitted by edawson on Tue, 06/13/2023 - 12:51

Playback Memory Lab

The Playback Memory Lab at the History & Genealogy Library is a Do-It-Yourself space for the community to preserve their personal, family, and community histories.

The lab is available to library cardholders by reservation, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 1-4pm. All Sonoma County Library general cardholders age 18 and up are able to reserve a 3-hour session in the Playback Memory Lab.

Lab users have access to tools to digitize analog media to support personal preservation and archiving projects:

  • Documents
  • Photographs
  • Slides
  • Photo negatives
  • VHS, S-VHS, and VHS-C tapes

Playback Memory Lab image

Ready to become a Playback user?

Consult the User Guide and Agreement and reserve a session.

Registration will now open monthly
(ex. March appointments open for registration in early February)

Getting Ready for Your Appointment

  1. Get your materials ready to digitize (locate, organize, curate, prioritize)
  2. Check the condition of your items
  3. Plan your time (digitizing happens in real time)
  4. Consider file storage and organization

Consult pages 5-9 of the User Guide and Agreement for more details.

Contact Playback Memory Lab staff

Email: - Phone: (707) 308-3212

Join the Playback email list to stay informed on updates, newly supported formats, and special events.


  • Are reservations required?
    Yes. Reserve a session for either station through the library’s Event Calendar.
  • How long can I reserve a scanning or VHS station?
    All sessions for the scanning station or the VHS station are 3 hours long, 1-4pm.
  • How many stations and seats does the lab have?
    The lab has two separate stations, one (1) scanning station and one (1) VHS station, each with ergonomic seating. Additional seating can be offered for larger groups, the Lab has a maximum capacity of six.
  • What type of equipment does Playback Memory Lab offer?
  • Does the lab have photo or video editing software?
    The Playback Memory Lab does not currently offer photo editing tools. Please visit Sonoma County Library E Street Studios for more information on editing in the library.
  • Is food or drink allowed in the lab?
    No, food and drink are not allowed.
  • Is library staff available to help me digitize my materials?
    The lab has detailed instruction manuals as you digitize your own materials, however a library staff member will be available to help patrons get started and offer limited assistance.
  • What storage device is recommended to save the digital files?
    An external hard drive, USB drive (recommended 32+ GB), SD card, or cloud service with 32+ GB. You will need a Mac-compatible external drive for the VHS station. External hard drives are available for check out at the Central Santa Rosa Library through the E Street Equipment Checkout program.
  • Can my project be saved to the lab computers?
    No. Projects saved to the computer are deleted after each session, to protect your privacy.
  • I haven’t been able to reserve a session. What do you recommend?
    1. Check the events calendar periodically. We update appointments on a monthly basis.
    2. The History & Genealogy Library has a walk-in scanner available Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm, for a maximum 2-hour session per day. No reservation needed; first come, first served. Photographs, documents, slides, and photographic negatives can be digitized with this 8.5” x 11.7” scanner (allows multiple items at once).
    3. Visit your local Sonoma County Library branch to use the photocopier for quick scans of documents and photographs.
    4. Explore other local memory labs: Napa County Library, San Leandro Library, San Francisco Library (with the respective library card)
    5. If do-it-yourself digitization is not for you, there are professional companies that provide digitization services for a fee.

With the Playback Memory Lab, Sonoma County joins a nationwide network of public libraries offering free DIY digitization. This project was supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by State Librarian Greg Lucas. Additional funds were provided by the Friends of the Santa Rosa Libraries.



Join the Playback email list

Stay informed on updates, newly supported formats, and special events.