3 Oct 2012

T-shaped people in the library – academic libraries and streamed video

Information technology rapidly evolves and students, particularly young Net Gen undergraduates, demand appropriate media they feel comfortable with. Libraries are aware and tuned in. They offer services that deploy web-based media, such as digitised images, screencasts and podcasts with the objective to capture the attention of tech savvy students, thus enhancing their learning experience. However, the development of these services requires skills that are frequently outside libraries’ traditional remit, which broadly revolves around reference, instruction, collections, acquisitions, cataloguing, preservation and access services.

Copyright: simpleglee
In essence, the realisation of digital learning materials (DLMs) requires T-shaped people. Bell and Shank (2007: 10) point out that T-shaped library staff possess principle skill, i.e. a body of traditional competences (the vertical leg of the T), but they are so sensitive of their users’ broader educational needs, that they cultivate other skills (the top horizontal leg of the T) and do them as well, to varying degrees that is. In other words, T-shaped people are inquisitive and try to integrate the skills of what others do in their own work.

A prominent example is streamed video. In August of this year alone, 188 million U.S Internet users watched 37.7 billion online content videos with YouTube.com ranking as the top streamed-video provider (comCore). It makes sense for academic libraries to exploit this fact and utilise video as a means to appeal to a broader audience.

Videos in academic libraries can be deployed for marketing, advertising of resources and services, locations and instruction. A crafty example is the University of Idaho Library’s instructional video featuring Joe Vandal, the school mascot, as an information seeker. The Youtube-hosted video combines library promotion with instructions on how to locate a book. It demonstrates the cognitive and affective domains, as well as the physical skills required in navigating the library space. However, it also combines instruction with humour as an attention-getting device. The library realised this ambitious project in partnership with the university’s Video Production Centre.

The valuable thing about instructional library videos is that they have the ability to bridge the gap between in-person instruction and static web-based tutorials. They can free up time for library staff by directing students to videos that contain relevant and real examples, such as navigating the physical library space (where is what) and how to go about finding library materials.

Creating decent instructional videos requires expertise. The University of Idaho Library had the good fortune of being able to tap into an existing campus department with the necessary technical skill. But what if specialist in-house support is not available and external services cannot be drafted in?

It is possible to pull it off yourself. Here’re two resources that will help you get started:
  1. Wevideo: an online video production platform in the cloud with a full-featured video editor. See here for full overview. Wevideo offers a free Lite version.
  2. Video Production Handbook for short educational videos (Colorado State University): covers basic necessities such as equipment and software requirements, script writing, storyboarding and how to prepare for the video shoot and editing.
Henrich, K. J., & Prorak, D. (2010). A school mascot walks into the library: tapping school spirit for library instruction videos. Reference Services Review, 38(4), 663-675. doi:10.1108/00907321011090791


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