I love YouTube beauty tutorials. Pithy, product-heavy, and to the point, I quickly learn a new skill and/or product; typically one I had never previously considered.
While I feel a bit self-indulgent enjoying them so much, in my professional life, these cosmetic–DIY YouTube tutorials have also greatly (and wonderfully unexpectedly) improved my library instruction. As a consumer of tutorials I want short, precise, to the point information that I need in that moment (sound familiar)?
As a result of realizing this from a consumer/patron lens, my library instruction has been adapted in this mold. While I haven’t yet paired down a 60-minute “how to find the perfect topic, Wikipedia vs. reference, digital newspaper archives, primary source hunt, scholarly-as-opposed –to-popular, don’t –forget-about-Noodlebib,” run-on library lecture to 5 minutes of pith, there are key YouTube perfection-like elements I like to keep in mind.
- The obvious: Keep it short. Address precisely the most important element(s) of the lecture. Avoid search fatigue: show one database of a given source type (i.e., digital reference, newspapers, journals) and simply point out and provide links within an overarching research guide to the others. What are the one, or two, thing(s) I really want people to remember?
- Be likeable (no pressure!): As much as possible, be friendly, likeable, approachable and informative; humble yet knowledgeable. Transparency is charming. Faculty, students, patrons are all consumers, and I want them coming back for more. There’s a higher chance of repeat business with a higher likability quotient.
- Tell the truth: If there’s something quirky about a database, or unlikable about an interface, I share this. It’s appealing to know that not everything is perfect. Flaw is believable.
- Don’t disclose all your secrets: there simply isn’t time. This is a not a train-the-trainer session, nor are we providing an MLS in one class. Focus on mission-critical resources. Most importantly, I do try to make it clear how/why a given resource is being recommended.
- Be on-demand: Go to them. Nobody likes to be taken out of their comfort zone. Whenever possible, I go to them. While I may not have a ‘play’ button like the YouTube app on the iPhones in their pocket, I can at least visit classes in their own space. Faculty lose no “commute” time trekking classes to the library, no students forget their class is in a different location, and all the patrons are in their existing comfort zone. As the library moves ever more into digital products, this makes going to teach in other spaces ever more possible, as well as conveniently reinforcing to students that the library’s digital collections are available anytime, anywhere.
- Be available: the comments section. How sweet is it when a YouTube guru responds to your comment? Clearly, I offer to respond, both during the class, and after. This is another obvious one: provide office hours, professional twitter handles, text, email, any communication your institution offers.
This year, short, breezy, compact yet information-filled lectures, have netted me more faculty compliments than any prior year (looking at almost 10 now) and student-initiated spontaneous rounds of applause (goodness!). The number of follow up emails from students is up, while walk-in visits to my office follow the 3-year running trend of slightly fewer in-person drop-ins.
Most importantly, my counts of repeat customers are up. Several faculty that in prior years requested one class, this year requested two or three, sometimes having me as a repeat visitor to one course over the year, or as a presenter in more than one of their classes. I think this has something to do with the fact that I am no longer eating up an entire class period. Faculty can count on preserving a good 20-minutes of a one-hour class for their own needs.
In sum: Texting has impacted print conversation, to reflect the barest marrow of what is being communicated. In a similar manner, video tutorials cleanly teach the core nucleus of a concept. This same model can successfully be applied to library instruction.
Lighter, yet value-dense library lectures, following the best of YouTube styling (see example below), improved this librarian’s instruction program.
Lura D. Sanborn is an instruction & reference librarian at St. Paul’s School
in Concord, New Hampshire