Saturday, August 9, 2008

Library of Memories = Scrapbooking Inspiration!!!

Once upon a time I had a blog solely devoted to scrapbooking, where I could snark and vent to my heart's content. But now the darn site won't work. It's sporadic and my posts won't load. So I am trying to migrate them all over here....

This is one of them.


Library of Memories = Scrapbooking Inspiration!!!
Posted on Aug. 9, 2008 at 1:26 AM

This is a long post, but it's about something in the scrapbooking arena that actually excites me.

For the past few years at least, I have been intrigued by the Library of Memories scrapbooking system advocated and taught by scrapbooking author and teacher Stacy Julian (her blog). I'd read about it on various blogs, and all I knew was that it involved some form of organization for your photos and layouts. Obviously that inspired a lot of curiosity in me. Sadly, the only way it seemed I could discover what the system involved was to pay almost $90 and spend 4 months taking Stacy's class at Big Picture Scrapbooking (LINK to her class). I looked around online, a lot, but while people mentioned the system, and mentioned parts of it, and referred to it obliquely, no one explained it. My curiosity was killing me, but I can't spend $85 because I am curious.

And then Stacy wrote a book, Photo Freedom (LINK to book) to make her ideas available to everyone. But her books are not carried in regular bookstore, or at my local scrapbooking and craft stores. So I couldn't even look at the book first to see if I was going to be able to use the ideas in it. And I am not one to spend my money blindly, especially when it comes to scrapbooking. Still curious!

A month or so ago I received an Amazon gift card, and while I have an extensive and varied wish list, for some reason I decided to blow most of it on Photo Freedom and see what all the fuss was about. I got the book and dug right in.

OMG. This book is like CRACK for organizing fiends like me. I read it in about 90 minutes. Then I read it again. Then I just looked at the pictures. Then I thought about it constantly for a few days. Then I explained it in detail to my best friend, who does not care the least bit about scrapbooking (to her credit, she listened attentively to the whole thing). Then I read it again. Thought about it some more. Thought about whether it would work for me. Read it again. Noticed how my view of the world around me, my perspective on the world, started changing. Noticed how my ideas about scrapbooking were changing. Read it again. Got really excited. Got really, really nervous. Read it again. I think I've read it close to 9 times by now. It's still on my bedside reading stack. I just like to look at it now and again. It's become a security blanket of sorts.

Obviously, I have not been excited or inspired by scrapbooking in a very long time. In the past year I have used my supplies to create 4 blank brag book albums as gifts and that's it. The thought of actually dragging out some of my own photographs and scrapbooking them seemed like a big waste of time. Even when I got inspired, the moment was fleeting and I was never able to act on it. I have had in my head ideas for topics and specific photos I have wanted to tell a story about, many times for years, but the process of trying to follow through was so cumbersome, it completely drained my energy.

Then came Stacy's book, and her method, Library of Memories. I slowly started trying to follow through on her system. It's hard, because you have to shop. You almost definitely have to spend some money on supplies and equipment. And I don't have a lot of extra money these days (times are hard everywhere). Some of the most vital, non-negotiable supplies are extremely expensive and hard to get.

Now, I was lucky. I got the book and it was not a giant waste of my time and money, as far too many scrapbooking books have been. It was a leap of faith and it paid off. But it won't for everyone. As Stacy says in her book, if you have a scrapbooking method that works for you, if you are actively scrapbooking and are happy with your system, then you should keep doing that. Library of Memories is intended for scrapbookers who are uninspired. Overwhelmed. Guilty at being "behind". For people like me who now think of scrapbooking as a chore.

I was really excited and I wanted to post about it all on here. But I had a choice -- I could write about it, or I could DO it. And I'd rather be DOING it! Implementing the system takes weeks if you are lucky, longer if you are not so lucky. But once I got a breather I felt the need to check in with others who could offer me some support as I moved along in the process. While discussing Library of Memories with some friends online, of course some people would jump in and cry, "But what IS it???" And so I wrote out a brief (yes this is brief) overview for them. And then I decided to flesh it out and post it here.

My intent is NOT to take any money out of Stacy's pocket. Absolutely not. But to give anyone who is curious a chance to find out what Library of Memories IS, and then invest in it, if it speaks to you. If you are the person Stacy is looking for, believe me you'll know it. You'll read this and think, "I have to know more." Thus, you can then choose to purchase the book, read the website, perhaps pay to take the class.

The book offers a lot more than you will get here. It offers Stacy's tips and tricks, which are very important. Everyone who tries to implement Library of Memories ends up with questions, because no one can do it as-is. Everyone must adapt the system to fit their own situation, scrapbooking style, and budget. Everyone. Everyone gets hung up on some part. Everyone. The book offers Stacy's encouragement and cheering you on, and believe me, YOU NEED IT. This is a big, huge upheaval for most people. The book offers specifics on what products Stacy uses and how she uses them. It also offers case studies on over a dozen scrapbookers who took the online class and adapted the system according to their lives and budgets. It also features case studies on various layouts, albums and other projects and how Library of Memories made them possible,

If you want to do Library of Memories, you need Stacy's book. And after you read it and start trying to do it, you will probably discover you really want to take the class next.

But What IS IT??? Here it is -- LIBRARY OF MEMORIES


Stacy uses 4 basic "categories" in her scrapbooking:

All About Us -- includes herself and her immediate family (husband and kids)
People We Love -- everybody else
Places We Go -- covers home and travel
Things We Do -- covers holidays, traditions, everyday life, collections, hobbies, etc

Stacy advocates picking an easily available system of albums to use, with D rings, all the same album but in 4 different colors, which you will use consistently for all your main scrapbooking. This is your basic Library of Memories. You can still do theme albums and other projects in other types of albums, but this is her basic system. I am using American Crafts linen-covered albums, which are available at Archivers and Hobby Lobby. I am using Leaf (green), Sky (blue), Taffy (pink), and black for each of the 4 categories. I don't have husband/kids so instead of "All About Us" I have a different plan in mind for that 4th album. I also bought one in Cardinal (red) which I may use just for Christmas. I lucked out, because Hobby Lobby has had a 50% sale this week on albums, and I also got some on clearance. I could never afford to buy 5 American Crafts albums at full price.

You could use post bound albums but that is more difficult, since the point is to be able to move layouts around at will very easily and quickly. Believe me, I speak from experience when I say while it is possible to move pages around in a post-bound album, it is not as quick and easy as it needs to be for the Library of Memories system to work effectively. Strap hinge or Creative Memories albums would not work for this at all.

Once you have your albums chosen and have at least one album in each of your 4 colors (I believe Stacy uses or used American Crafts Modern albums in Cardinal [red], Chestnut [brown], Raspberry [pink] and Key Lime [green]), you take your layouts and you sort them into those 4 categories and put them into the appropriate album, according to which topic the layout belongs in.

Not by year. No other order. Thus, you remove your finished layouts from any kind of chronological structure (obviously you can still date the layouts or the event the layout is about).

Which sounds like "WHAT???" but I tell you, I did it just a bit and I got such a rush. Once I had 2 albums I decided which 2 topics went in each, and then I took all my loose layouts around that I had never put into albums because it was such a pain to do it, and I put them in. And then, I got such a rush of energy! Many others have said the same. Suddenly I was flipping through my blue album I have designated "People I Love" and all I see is page after page of people I love, layouts of various topics for various times but all the people I love. Same with "Places I Go" -- suddenly I see all the places I have been, all together. My "Things I Do" album has holidays in it, so now I have all my Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving layouts together in one place.

What happens when you do this? Suddenly you are not, cannot be, "BEHIND." Think about this. Say you have a son, Jon, Jon is now 12 years old. And you are thinking about scrapbooking, and you are fretting because you have not finished Jon's baby album. You are "behind." You have a daughter, Mary. Mary is 5. You just celebrated Mary's 5th birthday with a party. You want to scrapbook the party, but you are stuck because you have not scrapbooked her 4th birthday. Or her 3rd. You feel "behind." Or you are stuck on Christmas 2006 photos. Behind, behind, behind.

But instead you create a general "family" album, with 3 rings so you can change how you do this later if you want. And you create a subcategory for Jon. And a subcategory for Mary. And you just move whatever you have scrapbooked already into those sections. In any order. Plop.

And now you can scrapbook whatever photos about Jon and Mary you like! You can stick a layout in about Jon's soccer game last weekend, right next to a layout about his first Halloween! You can do a single page on Mary's favorite summer dress and who cares if there is a 2nd page to match it? You can take that great single photo of Jon and Mary playing together in the pool, the one that makes you think of your own childhood, and you can pluck that picture right out of that set of "Saturday at the Pool" photos and scrapbook it and put it in a subsection on "Siblings" and you DON'T have to recreate the same layout twice for two different albums!

The albums you choose to use are important because, with 5 kids (for one example), Stacy needs more than one album for her immediate family. Even without any children of my own, after 8 years of scrapbooking my pictures I have so many layouts completed, just one "People I Love" album will not be enough to hold them all. The point is to be consistent in this part of the system. You will be buying and using the same albums in these colors, for years, so they must be good quality and you must like them. When you are done your shelf will look a bit like this. Stacy then does the Simple Scrapbooks album structure (as described in her magazine). Once she gets a good collection of layouts going, she sorts them by subtopic and groups layouts in the same subtopic together. Then she creates section pages for subcategories of the main 4 categories.

For example -- In her All About Us (main family) library album, Stacy has 11 subsections. First, 7 subsections for layouts featuring each individual person in her family (herself, husband, each of her 5 children), and then 4 more subsections -- a subsection called "Together Forever" for layouts featuring the whole family together, a subsection called "Oh Brother" for layouts just about her 4 sons, and a subsection called "Just the Girls" for layouts just about her and her daughter. So when one of those All About Us albums gets full, she takes the thickest subsection (meaning she scrapbooks that topic the most) and moves into into another, identical album (so she has numerous volumes). Thus she will have All About Us": Vol 3 -- and it will contain all layouts about one of her children, or all layouts about "brothers", or whatever.

I, for example, have a lot of Christmas layouts. So when my Things I Do album gets full, I might remove just the Christmas layouts and I might move those to another Things I Do album -- the exact same album as all the other Things I Do albums, but it will be called Things I Do: Christmas. Thus, instead of me having a series of chronological albums with one Christmas layout in each, I have all my Christmas layouts together. They are grouped by theme, not by chronology.

(Stacy also does albums for each child with layouts she does not include in her family Library of Memories. She calls these "School of Life" albums, and they include school portraits, school memories, accomplishments, etc, and she intends those albums for each child to take when they leave home.)

Another big benefit of this method is that you can see easily where you maybe could be scrapbooking a little more. If you have 3 children, for example, and the baby has so many layouts he immediately needs his own album, maybe you would want to realize your older children are not getting represented in your family albums, and you might make it a goal to rectify that.

The real big part of Library of Memories is also the process Stacy uses to both scrapbook events as they happen, but also act on the random bits of inspiration she gets which are not tied to a chronological event.

For example, say I do chronological albums and I do a Christmas layout every year. I know where that layout goes -- at the end of my yearly album for each year. But say instead I want to do a layout about how much I love Diet Coke. Or about my grandmother, using photos from the 1960s to the 1980s. Or, I have a great photo of my sisters that I am inspired to scrapbook, and it doesn't have anything to do with a particular place or time. Or, I want to do a layout featuring pictures from all the oceans I have swum in, which includes photos from 1986 to now.

Where do those layouts go? In the Library of Memories, that is easy to figure out because layouts are stored by topic, not by year or date. Diet Coke goes into an album featuring layouts on "me." Layouts on my sisters or grandmother go into People I Love. Ocean layout goes into Places I Go -- or it can go into Things I Do if I prefer.

A large part of the book details how Stacy deals with her digital photos and prints. Stacy emphasizes it is impossible for her to be inspired by photos unless she can hold the prints in her hand when she wants to scrapbook. So she prints out hundreds of photos a year. However, she does not print every picture she takes, so she explains how she decides what to print.

To store these prints so they are available to use, she has 3 levels of storage:

1) Storage Binders -- slip-in photo albums with pictures in a rough chronology (stored seasonally, i.e., "Summer 2008")

2) Category Drawers -- a set of 4 drawers where photos are stored by topic rather than by event or in chronological order

3) Cold Storage -- photo boxes where she puts photos she has printed but is not inspired to scrapbook

Storage Binders -- Stacy has a limited number of Storage Binders, which are 3-ring photo albums with slip-in pages to hold photos. She labels her Storage Binders in numerical order and also temporarily with what season or year of photos each contains (she uses a Dymo labeler so the labels can be removed or new ones put on top). She regularly goes through her most recent digital photos and has them printed out. She then groups like photos together by event (all birthday photos, all camping photos, etc) and puts them in these binders by season (Summer 2007, Spring 2008, etc). This is her collection of current active photos that she goes to when she wants to scrapbook. She flips through these binders first looking for pictures to scrapbook when she has time available.

Because Stacy takes and thus prints so many pictures, she constantly needs to clean the Storage Binders out to make room for more prints. This is why using 3-ring photo albums is so important -- so when you empty a page of prints you can move the empty page to another Storage Binder for more prints. Stacy also intends to only have 4-5 years of photos on hand to look through at one time.

Category Drawers -- These are the most exciting and also most challenging part of her system, IMO. A Category Drawer is like a collection of stock photos. You know what those are? When a magazine or book editor needs an illustration for a topic, they will go to a stock photo company and say "I need a picture of a kid reading a book" and the photo company will have several to choose from. A Category Drawer is like your own stock photo collection. It's used for illustrating topics you may want to scrapbook, rather than events. So if Stacy is inspired to scrapbook a memory of some kind she has a whole file of hundreds of photos to use on hand at any moment.

Stacy has 4 Category Drawers, and they are labelled with the same 4 categories she uses for her albums:

All About Us
People We Love
Places We Go
Things We Do

and she has the same subcategories too. Over the course of years, she has removed certain individual prints from her Storage Binders as she sees them and filed them in the drawers by category or topic. So for example, in her "All About Us" drawer she has a divider tab set up for each of her children. When she sees a great photo of that child in her Storage Binder, she will remove that photo from her event-based photo storage, and put it in the drawer behind her child's name. Or if she has scrapbooked an event -- say a birthday -- and she has photos left over that she printed but did not use, she will then file those away by category.

Within these 4 drawers she has a ton of subcategories. For Places We Go she has divider tabs for photos of each home she's lived in, places around town her family spends time at regularly, places they travel to, nature photos, ocean photos, etc.

Stacy's book includes a fantastic example of how her Category Drawers work that really struck me. She tells how she received an email that included a quote that made her think of her grandmother who had recently passed away. She saved the email with the quote, intending to use it on a layout about her grandmother someday. A few days later, she was looking through her Storage Binders for photos to scrapbook, and she saw a photo of her grandmother that she thought would go great with that quote she'd just saved. The quote was about "grandma's house".

So she took that one picture out of the Storage Binder, and then she went to her Category Drawers, where she had a category for "Grandma's House" in which she had filed a bunch of random shots taken all around her grandmother's home over the course of several years. She went through all of them and selected 4-5 photos she loved. Then she used those images and the picture of her grandmother to do a page featuring that quote. This all happened in about 40 minutes.

I have ideas for pages like this that have been in my head, unscrapped, for years. I even know which photos I want to use and I have many of them scanned on my computer. But when I receive the inspiration...I am not ready to scrapbook. Or I don't have the prints on hand.

Stacy uses the Category Drawers for all kinds of projects like this. If she has some memorabilia she wants to scrapbook, she can look through the drawers for photos to illustrate the story. The book includes several case studies of pages she has done this way. If she has a memory or a topic, she has all these photos on hand and organized to use. Pictures are intended to sit in these drawers for years and years, in case she needs them.

Collecting photos by topic also allows you to see connections and relationships between photos and thus between people, which then makes your scrapbooking far more meaningful than "Christmas 2006". One of the case studies in the book shows a mother who realized she had taken a photo of her child enjoying a popsicle every month of the summer at various events. So she grouped all those pictures together on a page and scrapbooked her child's love of popsicles. That is the kind of meaningful detail that gets lost over the course of years, which scrapbooking is intended to preserve and highlight.

Since Stacy only intends to have 4-5 years of photos in her active storage, and takes thousands of photos a year, the Library of Memories is not just the 4 topics for albums, but an entire system of processes she uses to always have her most inspiring photos on hand and ready to go. She is constantly looking to clear out space in the Storage Binders to make room for more recent prints.

First, she is actively scrapbooking the events she takes pictures of, because the photos she likes best are always printed out and easily accessible when she has time to create a layout. Second, she does what she calls Photo Triage, which is going through the photos she has printed and taking some out of the chronology and putting them into the Category Drawers by topic. And finally, if she is not scrapbooking certain pictures, she removes them altogether.

Cold Storage -- If photos have sat in Storage Binders for 4-5 years and Stacy has not been inspired to either scrapbook them or triage them into a Category Drawer for another use, she removes those prints from her active storage and drops them into a photo storage box, with no organization at all. This is called Cold Storage. She still sometimes does go through those prints and use them, but they are out of the way to make room for more current pictures. And she does frequently throw prints away if she will not ever use them. Keep in mind that she still has her entire digital archive of pictures on her computer in chronological order, so this is how she deals with what she has printed.

That is a very brief overview of the whole system. First she does a digital triage, including uploading pictures from her camera to her computer, sorting and deleting as needed, deciding which photos to print, more sorting and deleting, and then printing and picking up her prints. Then she moves those photos into her active storage, her Storage Binders. Over the next 4-5 years she sees those pictures regularly and either scrapbooks them or moves them into her Category Drawers by topic. Any photos she is no longer inspired to scrapbook are regularly removed from her active system and either thrown away or moved into Cold Storage.


Whew! So now you know. I cannot even tell you what a load off my mind it is to approach scrapbooking this way and I have yet to create a single page. So where am I with Library of Memories?I bought one Storage Binder at WalMart for $4.96. I was able to find a few albums at 50% off and purchase them. I found the loose layouts I'd finished and stuck in with my supplies and put them into albums according to the 4 topics. I have tried finding something to use for Category Drawers that doesn't cost over $100 (i.e., Stacy's option) without buying anything yet. I have gone to 3 office supply stores to find blank card file dividers with no luck. I have slowly moved all of my digital photos into iPhoto, sorted them and organized and tagged most of them (5000!). I have cleaned off my camera and printed out over 150 photos I think I would most like to use for scrapbooking. I have printed out a few enlargements and have used Stacy's ideas to store them in such a way I know I can use them too. I have grouped my prints and put them into the Storage Binder. I have started a challenge thread on 2peas and many people have joined in. I have gotten lots more great ideas, and links to alternatives for the more expensive products Stacy uses herself.

And I have finally, FINALLY, made this post.

The only thing I have yet to do is scrapbook! But that's next.


  1. I love love love this system. As you say, so liberating. I have both the book Photo Freedom and her older one The Big Picture (which is similar, but not specific to the implementation of the system) and love them. I'm mostly a digi scrapper these days and am working on how to make this system work for me in that way...

    As an idea for the category drawers, you might want to consider the creative memories powersort box - or something similar. I don't sell CM or anything, and I'm not one of those "I must have everything of this brand just because it's COOL" people, I swear - I just like the ones I have - partly because they're not too large, and portable - also because they hold up to 5x7 size and since I (for some reason) have a fair number of photos that size, I don't want to store them separately from the 4x6s. I also like that it has smaller sections inside the big box, which makes it easier for me to use.
    ANYWAY - thanks for writing this entry - I'm sure it'll be a wonderful resource for people wondering what this thing is "all about."

  2. Hello! This is the first time I have read your blog and I must say...Great writing!

    I too am loving this system. It has completely changed the way I scrapbook. I too am on a budget with my scrapbooking supplies.

    You might think about checking out the cropper hopper photo 2000 for your category drawers. It is a photo storage box that holds, duh, 2000 photos. It has a side that can hold enlargements and a side that you put dividers in for your regular 4x6 prints. The 4x6 side is split in half, and you add the dividers where you need them on either side. You could buy 2 of them and use half of each 4x6 side as a "drawer." I like them because they are portable and cheap and the enlargements are right there on the other side. Right now I only have one and it is working just fine, but I plan on getting another one so each "drawer" will be exactly half of the box. Who knows, it may work for you! Good luck with your organizing!

  3. I am in aw (do I use the rigth expression/spelling here?). It sounds like THE answer for my almost 3 year old photo glueing "black out". I will read your article once again and will make up my mind then!
    I must say I did start a "vacation album" two years ago. So I am kind of on my way, but got lost. It looks like you are my photo hero


  4. This is SOOO inspiring! And the ironic thing is I already HAVE stacy's book! I was totally into reading it - I was on the 3rd time when we moved. It must still be packed away... I will have to go dig it out!

    I have been "hurting" with my scrapbooking lately because it isn't "fun" or "easy" and I must say this post has gotten me excited again! Thank you!

  5. Hey Tina -- It's spelled awe but I knew what you meant! :-) Yeah I really think this would work for you with your 2 babies and all you'd lke to do and the little time you have. Setting it all up will take quite a bit of time and effort, and you do have to maintain it. But if you can devote some time to that then you will find you are very inspired to create all kinds of wonderful scrapbooking projects.

    Thanks Lauren! Scrapbooking is totally fun and easy for me now. This weekend I had a birthday party to attend for my aunt, who is 70 this month. Well, what the heck do I get her, she is 70 and has all she could want! I emailed my cousins and asked them to email me pics of their kids, and in 2 hrs on Sat, before leaving for the party, I used some envelopes and made a fantastic Grandma mini album for her.

    I have the leftover shots in my drawers under "cousins" and hey, I may use those shots someday. I am glad to have prints of my cousins anyway, and their kids. Voila! And she loved it!

    Best of all, you should have seen her grandchildren's eyes light up when they saw the album and saw THEIR pictures in it, all decorated and highlighted.

  6. Thanks so much for explaining this in depth. I want to embrace it and LOVE the non-chrono idea already BUT I'm a digi scrapper who prefers the sleek gloss of photobooks over printing pages, page protectors, binders, etc. Sounds like this system won't work for me. Phoo!

  7. Hi Kymberly! I tried to reply via email or your blog but no luck. There are digital people who do this -- they set up their categories and storage binders in iPhoto or some such and go from there.

  8. you have one amazing post... I am a LOM alumni re the class, took it two years ago, and joined the class last year as an alum, and this year, I'm back in the class as an alum.. LOVE THIS SYSTEM.. stacy rocks.. and this is such a freeing way to store your photos and scrapbook.. LOVE IT! THIS WEEKEND, I'm gonna be labeling my albums... check my blog here,

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  10. Hey, look what I found! (It's me, Helloheather. Hi!)

    I am starting to try to do category drawers tonight, but I'm slightly dissatisfied with the plastic shoe boxes I got. I can't make the pictures stay up in them without a giant craft project on my hands.

    Still, jumping in!

  11. Hi Heather! I use a combination of things. I have some small jewelry boxes I used, some small candles in heavy candle holders... even a box of checks!

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Oh my gosh, thank heavens for people like you who will actually explain the system! I was getting so frustrated with blog posts that obliquely referred to LOM, without ever saying what it actually WAS! And they are such great ideas! Thank you!

  14. I also love to scrapbook my family history. I just bought some more scrapbooking supplies with the family history theme. Just hope I get time to scrapbook soon.
    scrapbooking suppliesnny