How-To Tuesday: Using MABEL

MABEL, an acronym for Multimedia Archives Based Electronic Library, is a database of collections centered around the past and present of Western Washington University and the Pacific Northwest Region.

There are many different types of digital assets available on the platform, from photos and videos to oral histories and much more; all can be used to enhance research or build campus marketing collateral.

Western employees who work with digital assets on behalf of their organizational units can use MABEL to manage and/or share those assets. Any member of the university, including employees and students, can use MABEL, although the ability to access some types of content on the platform may vary.

Not only is MABEL an acronym, but it is also named to honor Mabel Zoe Wilson, Western’s first full-time librarian. Wilson served as librarian from 1902-1945, and was a strong advocate for the collections and the mission.

MABEL is the product of two separate initiatives, said Tony Kurtz, university archivist and records manager at Western Libraries.

The first initiative was begun in conjunction with colleagues at the Western Libraries to seek a replacement for their digital-collections platform, Kurtz said. The platform they were using at the time was good in some ways, but was not as robust as it needed to be in terms of backend management and digital preservations, and they also needed something more flexible for the needs of their users at Western.

The second initiative was led by a group of marketing and communications professionals at Western. They were hoping to create a centralized system for managing digital assets such as photos and video in a way that allowed for easy sharing of those assets, Kurtz said. Through a lengthy planning process, the two initiatives were brought together to form what would eventually become MABEL.

“MABEL allowed us to centralize the management of assets in a system that can also facilitate long-term preservation of historically valuable university content,” Kurtz said.

It took the members of the design and implementation team years to finish MABEL, and that work was honored with the President's Exceptional Effort Award last year.

Kurtz said that in some ways, the team is still working on it, but that it has been rewarding.

“Everyone on the MABEL team did incredible work to help shape it, improve it, build it, test it, and promote it,” Kurtz said. “One of the best things to come out of it was the collaboration across many university units.”

Some of the most commonly asked questions about MABEL include:

What are the advantages of using MABEL?

MABEL supports the discovery, management and preservation of valuable digital assets. The system will enable:

  • Enhanced collaboration among content creators and content users;
  • Faster, more powerful access to digital content;
  • Support for vibrant marketing, publishing, outreach, and creative works;
  • A reliable, sustainable platform for long-term stewardship of digital assets;
  • More efficient use of institutional resources;
  • Efficiencies in sharing content with internal and external constituencies.


Who can use MABEL?

Western employees who work with digital assets on behalf of their organizational units are able to use MABEL to manage and share those assets. Although access permissions for content in this platform will vary, members of the larger University community (employees, students and beyond) will also be able to use MABEL for searching and discovery of the public-facing collections managed by the Western Libraries or University Archives.


How can I become a user of MABEL?

If you and your organizational unit have an interest in adding and managing assets in MABEL, the MABEL team (see email address at the bottom of the story) would be pleased to hear from you.


What content will I be able to upload and manage in MABEL?

MABEL can accommodate a wide variety of file types and formats, including images, video and sound recordings and textual documents. MABEL content and collections are structured around organizational units of Western. All content in the system must be:

1) Compliant with Rights criteria established in the MABEL Rights Management policy;

2) Shareable (internally and/or externally), with the extent of sharing to be determined by creating units;

3) Managed, in that it conforms to metadata, retention, format and use standards;

4) University-owned or licensed through a written agreement and retained in support of the University’s mission.

5) Unique material that does not duplicate another resource in MABEL, i.e. no duplicate photographs or exact copies of video footage. This is to make the best use of space and increase ease of use for users.


More questions are answered on the MABEL FAQ page at can access MABEL at; questions about how to use MABEL can be sent to