Presentation completed by Elizabeth Stucki, Siobhan Devore, Jennifer Wood, and Terezita Overduin
In this age of technology, libraries are constantly struggling to remain viable to their users. In an effort to meet this challenge, more and more libraries have begun using videos and screencasting as a way of providing support to their patrons. Screencasts are a video screen capture that can be used as a tutorial for performing online tasks. Through videos, libraries embrace the digital age by creating their own videos and sharing them through websites that broadcast them to people all over the world. The Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library (http://wiltonlibrarynh.org/) is a library that could benefit from such a service. A video tour of the facility would help make potential new users feel welcome. It would also introduce them to the services available at this particular library. The library could also benefit from adding two screencasts to their website via YouTube. The first screencast would be an introduction to the library website and the second screencast would be a tutorial on how to use the online database Ebsco. Through videoblogging, Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library would be able to provide a unique service that will encourage patrons to rely on the library for their information needs.
In order to make this service a reality, the library will rely on free online tools to create and broadcast their video and screencasts. Screencasts are recordings of computer screens that can be used to instruct patrons on how different computer and web services work. There are many free tools that can record high quality screencasts, but the one used for this service will be Screenr (www.screenr.com). Screenr is a free web-based screen recorder that does not require an installation or download of the product. Once the screencasts and video tour are made, the library will need a tool that will broadcast them on the internet. For this part of the service the library will use YouTube (www.youtube.com). YouTube will make the videos available to visitors of the library website as well as people browsing the YouTube site. YouTube is the preferred tool for this service because it is the world’s largest video-sharing community and through it users can upload, view, rate and comment on videos for free.
The goal of this service is to introduce users to the library facility, website and one of its online databases. It will consist of two screencasts and a video tour of the library. All of these videos will be readily accessible through the library website.
The first feature of the service will be a video tour of the library. The tour will show the collection, various parts of the library, such as the computer stations and the quiet study area, as well as the array of services available to patrons (i.e. self-checkout, access to the reference desk, copiers and printers, etc.).
The next part of the service involves the two screencasts. The first screencast will instruct users on how to navigate their way through the library website. Some of the tasks performed on the tutorial will include logging into a patron account, searching the OPAC and requesting materials.
The second screencast will teach the user how to search the online database Ebsco. This can be used as an aid while the patron is using Ebsco in the library, or it can offer visual step-by-step instruction for users at home. The tutorial will include how to log in from outside the library and how to obtain optimal results by using certain search features.
Benefits of Service
Users of the library will experience many advantages as a result of adding this service to the library website. First, for new library uses, it acts as an introduction and acquaints them with the physical and virtual aspects of the library. Also, some patrons may not be experienced users of the internet, which can deter them from visiting the library website. Or, they may not understand the purpose of the library having its own website. As a result, they will miss out on important updates and the opportunity to search the collection and databases from anywhere outside of the library. The screencasts are ways for these users to sit back and learn how the library website can help them. They can pause and repeat sections whenever needed and they can revisit the tutorials as often as they like. For some users, asking the library staff for help with the same task over and over again may be embarrassing. With screencast tutorials, this is not an issue.
Secondly, a patron may be interested in checking out the branch before their visit. In this case, the video tour can give them a clear picture of the size of the library. It can also show them the amenities and condition of the facility. Furthermore, by experiencing a video tour, the user may feel more comfortable coming to that library because they know what to expect.
A third benefit of this service is that it can encourage more patrons to use the website. For example, a patron might have visited the website just to check the library’s hours. Then, they stumble across the screencast tour of the website and learn that it has a lot of other helpful features they can use.
The Ebsco screencast will benefit patrons that are not familiar with using online databases. It will provide them with basic online search skills that will enable them to use other online databases as well. This screencast could also encourage users that may not have otherwise thought to use Ebsco for their research. After viewing the screencast they might realize it would help them find the right information.
These screencasts are helpful to both the patrons and library staff because they give patrons tools that they can access independently of the library. If they are having trouble searching Ebsco or do not know how to login to a patron account, they can depend on the screencasts for guidance instead of inquiring for help at the front desk. This gives staff additional time to focus on other tasks. It also helps staff because they are now equipped with tools that they can refer patrons to when they have questions or concerns. Brochures with links to the website’s screencasts and video could be available at the circulation desk. If a user is apprehensive about using the library website or Ebsco, the staff could recommend the brochure to the patron.
Evidence of Success
Online instruction of how to search a database can be quite difficult. Without the ability to look over a user’s shoulder and guide them in the right direction, it can be a challenge to teach the correct way to perform a search. Reading step-by-step instructions can become confusing when the search requires navigating through multiple pages within the database. Library users depend on their librarians for assistance and using screencasts can offer a solution to this dilemma. The Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library’s use of the screencast on Ebsco allows librarians to instruct users in a way that demonstrates each step visually and auditorily, rather than relying on written words only. The article, “More Than Words: screencasting as a reference tool”, by Carr & Ly (2009) explores how libraries can support students by using images and videos of search strategies. Based on chat transcripts and anecdotal evidence in their study, Carr & Ly (2009) determined that students found libraries’ use of screencasting helpful in illustrating complex search strategies.
Another piece of evidence that supports the use of screencasts by libraries is the collection of tutorials offered by the Orange County Library System of Orlando, Florida (http://www.ocls.info/programs/computerclasses/tutorials.asp). Some examples of tasks covered in the tutorials in their collection are finding music within a specific genre, creating a preferred search, subscribing to an RSS feed, reserving a meeting room in the library and connecting to the library’s wireless network. By viewing the videos created by the Orange County Library System, one can witness the creative ways a library can use videos and screencasts to assist their patrons.
A third example of evidence supporting this service can be found in the blogpost, “More Things a Library Can Do with Blogposts” by David Lee King (http://www.davidleeking.com/2006/07/19/more-things-libraries-can-do-with-videoblogs/). King (2009) takes a list of videoblog genres from Wikipedia and adds creative ways they can be applied to libraries. For example, the genre of Personal videoblogs can be a book talk by a local author. Or the News genre could involve interviewing local patrons on their opinions about recent news events. Also, a library could make a videoblog from the Third Party Collections genre by having book trailers on new books in their collection. These are just a few examples of how libraries can implement videoblogs into their services.
Lastly, Harper Collins Library demonstrates how a video tour of their facility can be informative and fun to watch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHljR4LymOA). This video uses humor and the personalities of the library staff to show viewers what their library has to offer. The video describes such services as reserving group study rooms, checking out books and receiving help with research from the reference desk.
Roadblocks and How to Overcome Them
There are some obstacles that could prevent the successful implementation of these screencasts in the library. The first concern is lack of employee training on the new software. If employees are not familiar or comfortable with the software used to create the screencasts, new or updated screencasts will not be made and thus, the proposed introduction of this software will soon be forgotten. In order for screencasts to become a regular part of our service to patrons, it is imperative that staff members are properly trained and become comfortable with the software used. In order to overcome this roadblock, we must assure that employees are properly trained by providing tutorials and reinforcing learning at staff meetings. Especially helpful would be screencasts about screencasts, which employees can watch over and over at their own pace of learning. Lastly, a great way to make this training stick is to have staff members make screencasts on their own after watching tutorials and present them at staff meetings. These practice screencasts would be on whatever the staff member feels most comfortable with, such as how to check your email or make a Word document.
A second concern is lack of patron use of the screencasts after they are created and posted to the library’s website. It is obvious that the program would also be rendered useless if the people the screencasts are made for don’t use them. However, simply promoting the screencasts by the library’s usual means of communication would solve this. This would mean promoting the screencasts by distributing brochures with appropriate links, announcing the screencasts on other library social media like Facebook and Twitter, and telling patrons in person at the reference desk. This would work especially well since patrons who need help with using the library usually ask the reference librarians. Another useful strategy is to place the brochures near the library’s computers so that the patrons may view the screencasts before they forget about them.
Lastly, it is important that there be a clear division of responsibility for this program. If the staff are not aware of who is responsible for creating the screencasts, who is responsible for uploading them, or who is responsible for making general decisions about what screencasts to create, then nothing will be done at all. It should be the responsibility of the technical librarian to oversee the creation, uploading, and general maintenance of the website and the screencasts. However, the involvement of other staff members is important in creating a responsive and engaged work environment that is receptive to these types of social media initiatives. It is also important that the librarians who promote and explain these screencasts are involved in their creation so that they are better able to help patrons understand them. Therefore, it should be the technical librarian that decides if a screencast should be made, a librarian who creates the screencast, and the technical librarian who uploads the video. Of course, librarians can suggest screencasts be made if there are changes or if the screencasts become outdated.
The software we suggest to implement this program is Screenr and YouTube. The Screenr software can be found at http://www.screenr.com/ and is usable on any computer platform. Also, because this tool does not require any downloading of software, it can be used at any computer at any time. While this software only allows five minutes of recording at a time, longer screencasts can be posted in two parts. Additionally, this tool allows for direct, one-click loading onto YouTube immediately after the recording of the screencast.
We recommend YouTube to host the screencasts since it is a widely used video site that is already familiar to our patrons. YouTube also facilitates easy sharing of your videos by providing embed links and easy sharing to sites like Facebook.
The screencasts should always be kept up-to-date and accessible on the library’s website. Screencasts should be updated as changes occur to Ebsco or to the library’s layout. For example, when changes to Ebsco’s interface or user commands take place, it should be reflected in the library’s screencasts. Also, as the library adds other databases to their collection, screencasts for their use should be created. Renovations or additions to the physical library should additionally be showed on the library’s screencasts. Since the entire staff are participants in the screencasting program, any staff member can suggest changes to the screencasts, and these changes will be made after the technical librarian approves it.
YouTube’s format includes comment and rating features, which are very useful in assessing how useful patrons think the videos are. Page views are also counted on the site, which allows staff to instantly see how many times the video has been viewed. The ability to rate the screencast, comment on the screencast, and ascertain how many people have viewed the screencast will give staff a very good idea of how much the patrons are using the screencasts and if they find them useful. Also, in order to encourage more feedback, the screencasts themselves can ask the viewer to comment on the YouTube page at the end of the screencast. This feedback can then be used to make positive changes in the service.
Full Videos of the Prototypes