4. Success Story: San Diego Public Library

In 2006, the San Diego Public Library (SDPL) in San Diego, California, launched its Digital Story Station (DSS) program in partnership with Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD). MACSD describes DSS this way:

Personal stories, community histories and individual expression are recorded through the use of digital equipment, including computers and camcorders, and shared through DVDs and the Internet.  These short (3-5 minute) videos are bite-sized oral histories capturing a single thought or snapshot of a person’s life.  In many cases, the stories are gathered around themes or events that are important to our partners in an effort to build a virtual album of digital stories that highlight the personal perspective and memories. (MACSD, para. 1)

Over the years, SDPL and MACSD have used the DSS program in partnership with various government and community organizations; namely, the California State Library, the California Council of the Humanities, KPBS Public Broadcasting, the Fetzer Institute, the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego, and the San Diego Foundation. San Diego residents have created hundreds of personal digital stories through the following DSS projects:

  • San Diego Stories (launched in 2006), in which San Diegans “record personalized stories about the people and events that have shaped their lives” (MACSD, para. 4).
  • California of the Past/Coming to California (launched in 2007), a program encouraged by the California State Librarian to replicate the San Diego Stories project on a statewide basis “to gather stories of our historic past, immigration stories, WWII memories, farmland tales, tribal heritage, and sage advice from citizens over 100 years old” (MACSD, para. 8). As of 2009, more than 30 California libraries had joined the program.
  • The People’s Post (launched in 2009), a series of monthly training and networking meetings of community-based videographers to “actively participat[e] in creating newsworthy or news-related digital stories” (MACSD, para. 10).

On its website, SDPL provides comprehensive, step-by-step instructions on how community residents can contribute their digital stories to the DSS program.

SDPL’s DSS program provides an excellent example for West Vancouver Memorial Library’s digital community storytelling endeavour. If WVML’s program is implemented according to the San Diego model, the project will support the following strategic goals, as presented on page 8 of the 2011-2015 Strategic Plan:

  • Strengthen working relationships with elected officials, municipal staff, libraries, media, and community groups.
  • Embrace new technologies that fulfill needs, improve efficiency, and enhance access to information.
  • Promote knowledge of and improve access to our community’s heritage.
  • Increase opportunities for the community to interact with our library and with one another.
  • Improve the in-person and digital experience of our library.
  • Foster 21st century literacies that enable effective use of print and digital resources.
  • Facilitate ways for people to create, share, and contribute their own content.
  • Develop services to meet the unique needs of our community.
  • Collaborate with other service providers.

If WVML chooses to use the digital storytelling program to tell the library’s own story, the strategic goal of “Communicat[ing] the value of our library to our community” would also be achieved. In that case, WMVL can support all five areas of the library’s strategic goals (i.e., Build Community, Tell Our Story, Increase Engagement, Deliver Service Excellence, Manage Resources Wisely) with this one innovative service.


Media Arts Center San Diego. (2011). What is it. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from http://www.mediaartscenter.org/site/c.dfLIJPOvHoE/b.5686477/k.2BEE/What_Is_It.htm

West Vancouver Memorial Library. (2011). 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. Retrieved August 17, 2011, from http://www.westvanlibrary.ca/pdf/2011_2015_strategic_plan.pdf