Citizen DJ: a new tool for the creatively inclined from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has a new open-source project called the Citizen DJ project. Developed by Innovator-in-Residence Brian Foo, this project provides a simple interface for exploring the Library’s extensive audio collections, as well as a platform for combining these samples with hip-hop beats. Creators can also download “sample packs” containing an array of sound clips that can be uploaded into their music production programs of choice. 

The audio clips, drawn from over a century of live music, theatrical performances, speeches, interviews, and ambient sound recordings, have no copyright restrictions. So creators can freely use these clips to create songs for personal or commercial purposes.

“My goal is to develop a simple way to discover and use public domain audio and video material for music making so that generations of artists and producers can use it to maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures and sonic history that might otherwise go unremembered,” Foo shared in a press release. “That’s what Citizen DJ is all about—an easy to use tool that unlocks the amazing treasures in the Library of Congress for music makers and their audiences.”

The project will fully launch this summer, but the Library of Congress is encouraging members of the public to try out a demo version and share user feedback through May 15. Give it a try!

Mask-Up Chester County Challenge

The Center for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health have advised residents to wear masks when performing essential tasks in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In the interest of saving surgical masks and N95 respirators for health care workers and first responders, members of the public are encouraged to wear homemade cloth or fabric masks. In support of this health promoting effort, State Senator Andy Dinniman has launched a homemade mask challenge.

This online challenge invites all PA residents to submit photos of their homemade masks. At the end of the week, Senator Dinniman’s office will pick out the most creative masks, and the masks which best fit the theme of “My Mask Protects You, Your Mask Protects Me.” Then, they will open it up to a community vote. Winners from both categories will receive a senatorial citation!

Voting will begin today, so submit your photos between now and Friday to become part of the fun. For more information on the challenge and to submit photos, visit

For guidance on how you can make your masks at home, you can find instruction for both no-sew and sewn masks at the Center for Disease Control website at: Additional guidance and resources are available from the PA Department of Health website at You also might want to check out this New York Times article for a step-by-step tutorial:

Good luck with your mask-making, and remember, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home. Be safe and well!

Backyard bird watching

As the temperatures warm and you spend more time outdoors in your yard or
walking the neighborhood, you may be more acutely aware of the birdsongs in the air as spring gets into full swing. If you have the time, this may be a great opportunity to begin identifying some of the birds creating these beautiful (or possibly annoying) sounds.

There are several free apps available for either iOS or Android phones that can help you in this endeavor.  Two of the more reputable ones are the Merlin Bird ID app (created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and the Audubon Bird Guide app (from the National Audubon Society).  Learn which birds are most common in your neighborhood at this time of year, look at their photos, listen to their different songs and cries, and find out more about their migration and nesting habits.

Slowing down our pace of life can certainly open up whole new worlds to explore in nature, and free apps like these can help you take the first steps.  Happy Birding!