Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


Videomaking Tips for Libraries

Submitted by John J. Roe, Bookmobile Staff Member Bookmobile and Outreach Services Department Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library

“Show, don’t tell” is advice from which any writer can profit, and in the age of digital video and YouTube, that advice can be applied to showing off your library’s programs with ease. With the right software, you can add polish to your productions with minimal impact to your library’s budget.

The following highlights, from start to finish, the lessons we learned while making our first YouTube video, which featured our children’s bookmobile program.

Step One: You’ll Feel a Slight Pinch...

There is one unavoidable expense when it comes to making amateur video: Barring a grant or a gift, you have to buy the camera. The Flip Ultra Camcorder, a popular choice that features a USB port for direct connection to a computer, a tripod mount point, and its own onboard video editing software, has a listed price of about US$149.00. For our own YouTube project, we went with its cousin, the Flip UltraHD, which records in high-resolution format and retails at about US$199.00.

Most modern cell phones also record video, and the frugally-minded might find that to be a “two birds with one stone” solution. Be advised that you might also need to buy a special cable in order to transfer your video files from your phone to your computer in order to work with them. They usually also require that extra memory be purchased in order to match the storage capacity of comparably-priced camcorders. Picture quality in jack-of-all-trades phones tends to suffer in comparison to the specialized camcorders as well, but again, the phone is considered something of a compromise solution.

If you’re having trouble deciding which camera is the one for you, Consumer Reports has a full breakdown of camcorder features on its website, http://consumerreports.org, though they require you to subscribe for product ratings. Of course, you could always take a mosey on down to your Periodicals section...

Another sound investment is a tripod. This will keep the camera steady and avoid unnecessary movements (and thus a seasick viewer) that come with holding the device in your hand. If there’s one thing the experience of making our first video has taught me, it’s this: No matter how steadily you think you’re holding the camera in your hand, the slightest motion will be seen onscreen. If you went the cell phone route, there are in fact tripod mounts available for them as well, and Lifehacker has posted a do-it-yourself mounting solution on their website (see Addendum).

So that’s the hardware acquired. Now on to the fun part...

Step Two: I’m Ready for My Close-Up, Mister DeMille.

Before we start rolling, a few words about the law: While an argument can be made for not needing permission to film someone in a public place where he or she would have no reasonable expectation of privacy, nothing keeps your proverbial bacon out of the fire quite like a signed release form. A stack of these forms, a pen, and a clipboard can go a long way toward helping you avoid potential hassles when you go out on your “shoots.”

Permission to film is especially important to bear in mind when it comes to filming minors, who must have a parent or guardian sign for them. When we made our video, which required visits to a couple of the preschools taking part in the Books-Go-Round program, we relied upon that old stand-by, the parental permission slip.

When it comes to filming, it pays to follow another old adage: “It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” Whether following your bookmobile around on its day, or recording a book talk in the common room, the luxury of having a variety of shots from which to pick and choose will be a great asset. A later viewing of what you’ve shot will often suggest new ways to present your point.

Or to put it another way: YouTube videos have a maximum length of about ten minutes. A Flip has the storage capacity for about two hours of footage. Don’t be afraid to shoot more than you need to fill that ten minutes.

Speaking of that ten minutes, it’s time to pick and choose...

Step Three: The Cutting Room Floor

When it comes to no-cost video editing software, there is a wide range of possibilities. Microsoft Movie Maker comes free with Windows Vista and later operating systems. The same goes with Apple’s iMovie, which is bundled with the free iLife suite of applications for the Macintosh. As mentioned before, the Flip comes with its own simple editing software (FlipShare) that can be installed to any PC. On the open source front, there are applications such as VirtualDub (available for Windows) and Kino (an application for the Linux operating system). Each has their own particular advantages and disadvantages, and the prospective videographer is encouraged to try a wide variety of software to see what makes for the best fit for your taste.

There is one software combination that I would like to recommend, regardless of your final choice for your main editor, and that’s the effective one-two punch of Avidemux and Audacity. Early on in the production of our debut YouTube video, it was decided that we would include voiceovers and background music, both of which were incorporated thanks to the applied combination of these two programs.

Avidemux is a video processing application. While it is capable of editing video, that is not where the program’s strong points lie. Where Avidemux shines is in its ability to copy out the audio track of a video and then mix it back in from a file, saving the results in a variety of formats.

Once you’ve pulled the audio track, that’s where the sound editor Audacity comes in. With it, you can add music tracks and dub in dialogue. Audacity also has a number of built-in features, such as the ability to remove the hiss of a microphone via audio sampling. Another feature is the ability to “split cut” or “split delete,” both of which insert blank space into where portions of a track have been removed, preserving synchronization with the video.

Of course, whenever you add music or splice other footage into your production, always be mindful of proper copyright protocol. Your slick new video won’t seem like such a feather in your cap if it brings a letter from Time Warner's legal department to your director’s “in" box.

After the final audio file is created, it can be mixed back into Avidemux to create your production.

Step Four: Show the World What You’ve Got

You’re done and ready to show off your video to the world, which in this day and age means you’re ready to upload it to YouTube. As of this writing the service is still free and there’s little I can say to illuminate the process, as YouTube guides you through it quite effectively themselves.

That said, the only thing that I can add is that the video isn’t immediately available to the whole wide world upon upload. YouTube needs a certain amount of time to “process” a video, so your best bet would be to give it about a day before sending out links.

But after that, you're done! Go ahead and send links far and wide to show off your new video!

We had a lot of fun making ours, but more importantly, we felt we had found a tool that would let us continue to promote the importance of our Outreach and Bookmobile services through today's relevant media.

Happy film making!

Addendum: I’d Like to Thank the Academy...

Some additional resources:

Avidemux - available at http://avidemux.sourceforge.net

Audacity - available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net VirtualDub - available at http://www.virtualdub.org

Lifehacker’s Do-It-Yourself Cameraphone Tripod Mount - http://lifehacker.com/5346020/diy-cameraphone-tripod-mount

Sample video/photo release form, courtesy of the American Library Association - http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/Video-Photo_release_form2.pdf.

Our video, “Getting Started: A Children’s Travelling Library and the Love of Books” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o3OQjbLIzk

YouTube’s own YouTube channel, including the useful and often entertaining “YouTube 101“ series - http://www.youtube.com/user/YouTube

Dan-O, a talented musician who makes his work publicly available through a Creative Commons license and provider of our video’s background music - http://danosongs.com

The Internet Archive Moving Images Archive, an excellent source for stock footage and public domain movies - http://www.archive.org/details/movies

130 Projects to Get You Into Film Making by Elliot Grove,2009, Quarto Publishing - A title I wish I’d found closer to the beginning of the project rather than at the end.


Selling Outreach – Internal Advocacy for your patrons and services

By Rachel A. Gut, Outreach Services Manager, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, OH 

As amazing as it is to those of us in the field, not everyone in our profession understands the importance of Outreach; while it seems most important that the directors and boards of trustees be aware of our value, each member of the library team needs to know how Outreach services are building the future of the library every day. City councils, library boards, directors and staff need to know why what we do matters for them; too many times we advocate for our patrons and services, but don’t show what we are doing for the library as a whole. Outreach is expensive, and sometimes seen as an unnecessary indulgence. How are we relevant to the overall library, the overall community? Outreach provides 3 major commodities that all libraries need: great PR, new patrons, and high visibility in the community.

Great Public Relations

Outreach typically serves those who would not get library service any other way and are a wonderfully endless source of feel good stories. Who wants to read an article about how many items the North branch checked out? People will read a story about the bookmobile staff building early literacy skills in at risk children in head start centers, and the amazing increase in local KRAL scores. No matter how big or small a library’s outreach services department, there are plenty of heart warming stories about lives being changed because of the services offered. Even the demographics of Outreach are becoming more impressive; currently 15% of the US population is disabled, 12.5% (and rising!) are over the age of 65, 11% are new immigrants, and 6.5% are under the age of 5. That’s a lot of people, many of whom can and will vote in every election. There aren’t many directors who can ignore a ready pool of dedicated voters. Collect both the stories and the statistics, and keep them both in front of the director and board as often as you can. If they will let you, give a monthly report in any format about the Outreach services. This shows your accountability for the resources allotted to you, and makes them see the value to the community and library. Continually evaluate your services for efficiency; are you doing the most you can with what you have been given for the community you have been directed to serve? Are there ways you could do it better with new or different technology? Directors and boards know they have to be as lean as possible; by showing the value you provide for the money, you are telling them the need for Outreach Services in a language they understand.

New Patrons

Outreach is designed to bring in new patrons; it’s right there in the name. Reach out and bring them in. No matter what type of program, Outreach brings the library to people who had no previous service. In some programs, Outreach creates new patrons that can eventually be filtered to a stationary library; in others it provides for those who could never use a typical library. Either way, more people are using the library services and more items are being checked out. Both of those are quantifiable ways to show worth, especially to governing agencies charged with dividing the public money for public benefit. We are outgoing people, both literally and in personality; outreach staff can suggest ways additional ways to advocate for the library as a whole. Gently remind your director and board that you have the easy means to reach these patrons; instead of waiting and hoping that they will come to a library and pick up literature about your funding and the upcoming ballot issue, you can take that information directly to them. Just make sure you do it within the guidelines of the law!

High Visibility in the Community

If the library is going to compete with the police, fire and schools for public dollars, it better be very visible in the community. Outreach provides the booth at the county fair, the bookmobile in the summer festival parade, and the daily recognition of a rolling billboard on Main Street. Outreach brings program flyers, material lists and a sampling of library services where the community is, and directs the community back to the stationary library for more. Spend a little time figuring out what it would cost for the kind of publicity you provide and give that information to your director. Look for ways to track the number of people who come to the library in response to an outreach initiative. This is not easy to do; Dayton Metro Library offers an incentive program, paid for with grant money, in which a child who attends a bookmobile program gets a coupon for new, free books when they bring it into a branch. This has encouraged new patronage at DML libraries, which is one of the goals of the bookmobile program, and has provided a way to track the quantity of new patrons brought in by Outreach. Communicate these realities to your board, director and staff frequently and in as many different ways as you can. Invite them and other staff to spend time in Outreach; offer to do a job exchange or job shadow program if possible. Ask to speak to staff at department and branch staff meetings, and tell them all that Outreach is doing. Present both the numbers and the feel good stories; together they present an accurate and comprehensive picture of Outreach’s value to the library and community. Every library has different ways of communicating with staff and patrons; use your website and intranet, newsletter, bulletin board, and whatever else you have to advertise for Outreach. Each time circulation hits a new high or patron numbers are up, publicly celebrate, and include the staff, director and board in the invitation. Although those outside of the Outreach department will never fully understand what we do or how we do it, they can know how very valuable we are to the library, and what we provide beyond basic library services.