Launching the Boise Public Library YouTube Channel

by Jim Jatkevicius

photo by Justine Ezarik

In June of 2011 the Boise Public Library launched its YouTube channel with a modest number of videos and screencasts. As of this writing (September 2011) there are nearly 25 items and several more awaiting approval. Collectively they cover a wide range of promotional and instructional content and include patron testimonials, interviews with library and civic leaders, musical performances, and screencasts demonstrating library databases and self-check machines.

The library had been storing a dormant channel for over a year but it wasn’t until the involvement of the Library’s 2011 Innovation Table, a special committee charged with generating and implementing an innovation within the library during its one-year term, that the Boise Public Library made the leap to launch the channel.

The germ of the idea grew from a proposal to film patron testimonials. Committee members felt that more could be done to promote the library with technology while also providing instructional content. A very modest beginning involved a library-owned Flip Cam and $14.95 for a Jing Pro license. With these tools Innovation Table members produced and edited several videos and a screencast to present to the Library’s Management Team in the form of a proposal, which netted enthusiastic response.

Reassessing, it was quickly obvious to the group that the Flip HD would not provide adequate audio quality so we received authorization to purchase a Canon Vixia HFS 20 as well as an Audio-Technica ATR 6550 external condenser microphone. In addition, editing software was acquired in the form of an Adobe Premier Elements license It should be understood that the Innovation Table did not consist of a hand-selected staff of technology experts but merely a cross-section of managers, librarians, library assistants, and department specialists who were eager to learn and contribute.

The first group of videos produced fell into two categories. The first consisted of patron testimonials where random patrons were approached in the library and asked if they would be willing to answer a few questions about their use of the library on camera for the Library’s newly-launched YouTube channel. A surprising percentage were amenable to the idea and Innovation Table members became adept at developing leading questions and drawing out informative answers as well as utilizing the camera and handling the microphone unobtrusively (as well as learning to hold it toward ones own mouth when one is asking a questions and towards the patrons when they are answering said question).

The first list of patron testimonial questions asked went something like this:

  • What brings you to the Library today?
  • What is your favorite thing about the Library?
  • What are you currently reading or listening to?
  • What is your favorite book/movie/CD and why do you like it?
  • What else could the Library offer?
  • Are you an E-book reader? If so, do you prefer E-books to traditional books?
  • How important do you think the Library is to the community? Why?
  • Tell us about your best customer service experience at the Library?
  • What is your favorite area of the main Library?
  • What improvements would you suggest for our library?
  • How does the Boise Public Library compare to other libraries youve visited?
  • How would you describe Boise Public Library?

The second category of initial Media projects were promotional and determined based on monthly library events and activity calendars. Summer Reading was just getting started and so we arranged to interview a staff member about the features, events, and important dates pertaining to the event.

Here is a list of ideas generated for promoting library services and events:

  • Interview staff on Staff Picks
  • Interview Flying Pie Pizza owner about the origin of the Boise Public Library Exclamation point
  • Interview Library volunteers on why they volunteer at the Library
  • Create a BOOKMYNE feature
  • Tour of Bookmobile
  • Highlight music offerings, links to local music
  • Highlight DVD collections
  • Tour of revised 2nd floor
  • Highlight ATS (Technical Services)
  • Interview Library Board Member
  • Highlight First Thursday music performances in the Library
  • Highlight Resource Open House partnership with the Idaho Nonprofit Center
  • Highlight Idaho Room collection
  • Highlight information on magazine collection
  • Interview relevant staff members on programs related to early literacy

An Innovation Table member eventually developed a calendar of monthly events to monitor for possible media promotion, either through videos or screencasts.

In order to maintain quality for published material we had a handy and effective gatekeeper for posting videos live the Library’s Community Relations Coordinator. She either signed off or made constructive comments after videos were edited. Instructional screencasts, being outside of her bailiwick, were simply posted after Innovation Table review.

It should be noted that there is a healthy by-product of this Innovation Table idea: development of unconventional skills of video recording, editing, interviewing, and screencast by the library staff members who participated.

Clearly this endeavor, while satisfying to launch could not possibly be sustained or evolve without committed and skilled staff members. Perhaps the most important ongoing contribution made by the Innovation Table was the proposal of a Media Production Team for the library to consist of three individuals, ideally people who were available, enthusiastic about the assignment, and skilled on some level with tools such as Adobe Premier, Jing/Camtasia and the like. The library director agreed to this proposal and a Library Media Production Team will be selected and functioning by mid-November 2011 to guide the Channel and grow its contents for the next generation of scalable library content. Ultimately, the number of gatekeepers for content, beyond Community Relations Coordinator, needs to be reviewed as it will also be necessary (indeed, already has been necessary) to swap out stale content and revise screencasts when database interfaces change or new features of technology are implemented library-wide, as is the case with our self-checks. Constant maintenance is required of the channel. If we avoid this maintenance our customers will quickly ignore the Potemkin village we created.

Here is a view of the How to Use the Self-Check Outs at the Boise Public Library video:

In the 2nd video, local author Katy Robinson is being interviewed amount writing, libraries, and growing up in two cultures.

Jim Jatkevicius was a long time Adult Services Librarian and now Branch Supervisor at the Boise Public Library’s Library! at Collister and has written about library topics in Online Magazine, EContent, College & Undergraduate Libraries, Public Libraries, Public Library Quarterly, and Library Administration & Management (now Library Leadership & Management).

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