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3 Ideas for Cool Library Videos

By Brian Egan on August 6, 2009 3:43 PM | Permalink

The word "cool" might be dangerous, but that's what makes it so fun! I'm not sure if this is widely known or not, but a few months back the Libraries purchased a Flash Media Streaming Server. What that means is that we now have the ability to stream high quality Flash video and sound, a huge improvement over our previous Real Media setup. Generally speaking, roughly 98% of people have the Flash Player, under 50% have Real Media Player. Furthermore, the quality and delivery methods are superior with Flash (think YouTube).

Now that we have this fantastic piece of technology in place, it's time to brainstorm cool ways to use it. I have three ideas I think could be a lot of fun and that could really help our patrons out.

30 Second Reference Screencasts

I basically pass out while watching 5+ minute screencasts. And as I watch most library screencasts, I think I could maybe last for 30 seconds. My Web 2.0 riddled brain just can't handle a monotone voice on top of a library website, and I'm guessing many our patrons may be on a similar wavelength.

30 Second Reference videos would be extremely short, concise tips on how to find different materials in the library. They would be sortable and searchable, covering generic topics like "How to find a particular Journal" or "Selecting the database that's right for you!" We could build out a database of these screencasts, and then incorporated them throughout our website in helpful places.

Get Inspired! Series

The highest quality work happens when people feel inspired in some way or another about the project they're working on. That feeling of inspiration is so difficult to replicate for students in Academia because most of the assignments handed out are B-O-R-I-N-G. However, what if we could turn that boredom into excitement? How, you ask? Engaging their imagination by showing them really interesting stuff in their field!

For example, check out this video from NYPL:

 

I know I'm a designer, and that this video appeals directly to my senses, but how many cool things are going on in this video? They talk to successful people in the field from the local community. They show off great & exciting parts of their collections. They highlight how badass and helpful reference librarians can be. They inspired me to want to hit up the NYPL and stare at typography books! Wood typography, nonetheless!

I've been thinking about how our Library can be really helpful to students, more than just a useful place to find information. If we provide interesting videos highlighting cool collections, perhaps we can awaken some students out of the essay coma they're normally in. If we could show history students studying Nevada the awesome pictures we have in the Boomtown collection, or design students the amazing outfits the Showgirls used to wear, or Architecture students the swank old buildings around Vegas, or science students the types of sustainable building that's taking place around Vegas. Those materials really could act as sources of inspiration to get ideas flowing, rather than simply filling in 750 words to complete the assignment.

We have some this stuff on the web already, but a video could quickly engage patrons in a way a link to the information can't.

UNLV Students Rock! Series

Have you ever gone to a University Website which has a "Spotlight on a student" part? When I attended the University of Montana I used to look through the "Faces of UM" all the time. People are naturally voyeurs, and we like to see what others are up to, especially those in our community who we see around campus.

There are some amazing students who produce incredible works of art, poetry, music, design, dance, etc. We could create a "Spotlight" series, where either a librarian or Peer Coach goes out and shoots a bit of film highlighting outstanding student activity, such as a concert or art show, and do a quick video expose on that person. Young people seeing other young people in their community doing cool stuff might inspire our students to become more active and engaged themselves.

Conclusion

Whatever the case, we should really be thinking about different types of videos we can make. Videos that engage and inspire students. Some that are perhaps a bit less fun to watch, but very useful and to the point. There are a ton of ways we can use this technology, and these are just three ideas I've come up with. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts as well!

Comments

Submitted by pfinley on
There is nothing I'd like more than to be able to make 30 second reference screencasts. If the systems we used were uncomplicated enough to explain in 30 seconds or less, we wouldn't need to explain them at all, and that would be a good thing. In fact, many times they are - Encore doesn't require a lot of guidance to use effectively for someone who already understands what kinds of materials to expect from an academic library. For brief "how-to" screencasts, how can we make them available at the point of need? For example, a screencast that shows how to make Academic Search Premier make a citation in APA style for you would be valuable and could be done in 30 seconds. But explaining how to get to the right screen in ASP to do it takes much more than 30 seconds. If we could work out a way to have context sensitive options to retrieve relevant screencasts, we could offer help when it was needed without all the overhead of "click here - then choose this - then click over here." However, we would also need to decide that our goal was only to show them where to click and not to try to lay some librarian wisdom on them about when it is appropriate to use citations and what purpose they serve. The library's mission and vision are pretty clear about advocating a teaching role for librarians. This may fly in the face of user-centered theory, I'm not sure - my sense is that when users want technical help they're not always looking for a lesson, but our role on campus is to sometimes supply those lessons anyway, as I understand it. The library tutorials are expected to address (and ideally assess) a number of learning outcomes related to understanding and thinking critically about the larger information environment. Sometimes the "how-to" stuff is just bait to draw students in to a big-picture conversation about information literacy. Screencasts may not be the ideal mode of delivery for this agenda - if you have other suggestions, I'm all ears!
Submitted by began on
Thanks for the response! Once again a short vacation delayed my response, but you provide some good food for thought... "If the systems we used were uncomplicated enough to explain in 30 seconds or less, we wouldn't need to explain them at all, and that would be a good thing." I completely agree. I hate to say this, but the long-term goal is definitely to create a library website which makes reference less necessary - our tools should be good enough to empower users to be self-sufficient. However, given the fractured status of our various systems, and the many challenges at becoming a good researcher, I think reference and tutorials will still be necessary well into the future. "Encore doesn't require a lot of guidance to use effectively for someone who already understands what kinds of materials to expect from an academic library." From the testing we've done it seems that many of our patrons don't know exactly what to go for up front, or which tool to choose. It's at those junctures I would like to provide helpful videos. "If we could work out a way to have context sensitive options to retrieve relevant screencasts, we could offer help when it was needed without all the overhead of 'click here - then choose this - then click over here.'" Context-sensitivity would be huge. I'm not sure I emphasized that enough in the post, but what I envision is building up a database of these screencasts, and then doing something like tagging them. We could then tag our web pages, and related materials could then be linked together via similar tags. We could also have the option to associate certain videos with certain web pages. Unfortunately, with something like Academic Search Premier, it may be a bit harder. We really can't inject ourselves into that page unless we do some pretty ugly stuff. For stuff that lies outside the library, we may have to do longer videos, but the "30 Second" part was really just a rule of thumb, or something to aim for. "The library's mission and vision are pretty clear about advocating a teaching role for librarians. This may fly in the face of user-centered theory, I'm not sure - my sense is that when users want technical help they're not always looking for a lesson, but our role on campus is to sometimes supply those lessons anyway, as I understand it." This may be something we have to consider. I think in addition to showing the video, it would be helpful (like YouTube does) to have a "Related Videos" panel, and once a video ends to have some "Related Videos" pop up in the player. That way we could give them the quick-tip up front while providing access to more in-depth videos, or even web pages, if they're interested. I'm not sure whether videos would be the best delivery mechanism for that type of information, but providing these materials in a number of formats would allow our patrons to choose the learning device most effective for them, be it a video or text.

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