April 26, 2017

Streaming Story Times | Field Reports

Chris MoodyDo you want to web stream your story times? The Youth Services Department at the Fayetteville Public Library, AR, hoped to make these events available to parents and children who couldn’t get to the library, and our patrons’ response has been fantastic!

We chose story times intended for three different age groups and started streaming them three times per week in 2014. We promoted the live stream option to parents as a way for their children to participate in story time if they are visiting grandma’s house or staying home owing to illness.

Viewership has grown steadily. In 2014, there were 317 views; in 2015, 461 views; and last year, 678 views. We currently have 107 followers of our web stream page, who are notified by email every time we stream. Because of the increase in the number of viewers, with no decrease in story time attendance, we are increasing the number of web streams in 2017 to six per week, representing all of our currently scheduled story times.

Where do you start?

First, decide whether you will host your own streaming server or subscribe to a cloud-based service such as Livestream, UStream, YouTube Live, Wowza, Twitch, Facebook Live, etc. Our library initially hosted our own Adobe Media streaming server but quickly moved to Livestream because we didn’t want the additional bandwidth consumed by the viewers to slow down our network. Other benefits include ease of use for both library staff and viewers, as well as fewer servers to maintain.

Next, you need equipment, and your institution can decide where your streaming content fits in the continuum of cost vs. production quality.

The simplest solution works with a tablet or smartphone on a stand and the app from your streaming service to encode the video and audio. A step up from using the device’s built-in microphone would involve a tablet audio interface (Tascam iXZ, IK Multimedia iRig) and an external microphone such as a lavaliere (Polsen CAM-2W, Sennheiser AVX, Audio Technica Pro 70) or a shotgun microphone (Rode NTG-2, Polsen SCL 1075, Sennheiser MKE 600). The story time presenter would wear the lavaliere mic; the shotgun version can be pointed at the presenter.

The next scenario involves a video camera and a small encoder (Teredek VidiU, Livestream Broadcaster, etc.), which takes the HDMI signal out of the camera and encodes it for the stream. The camera’s built-in mic will do, or connect the camera to an external mic, such as the shotgun or lavaliere. An improvement from this scenario involves adding an audio mixer (Behringer XR12, Mackie ProFX8v2, Alto ZMX862). This lets you take multiple microphones and/or other audio sources, such as a CD player or audio from a phone, and add it to the stream. This is helpful for introductory music or for streaming sing-a-longs clearly. A mixer also enables the sound quality to be improved by adjusting equalization and adding compression. A set of headphones is necessary.

Building on the option above includes the addition of a video switcher (BlackMagic ATEM, Roland V1-HD, DataVideo SE-650 HD, etc.) or perhaps a second or third camera. Video switchers allow the mixing of video from cameras and computer graphics into your video stream. You can also add titles and artfully transition from one camera to another using fades and wipes.

For a minimal investment, you, too, can make your library’s programs available to a wider audience. Your patrons will love it!

Chris Moody is the IT Manager, Fayetteville Public Library, AR.

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  1. Hi Chris. How were you able to navigate through the Copyright issues with broadcasting Story Times? I have heard of several Story Time streams being shut down due to copyright claims by rights holders. Is this an issue you have faced? And if so, how did you resolve this? Much thanks.

  2. Not to be a negative nelson, but if you had those numbers doing 6 streams a week, and only streamed for 26 weeks a year, you got fewer than 5 viewers per stream. Considering the likelihood that there is a LOT of repeat business here, you could be serving a handful of people.

    Do you collect feedback from online viewers? Do you have analytics showing that they are your patrons (not sure it matters, but your funding source might think it does)?

    I guess it’s a sunken cost in the setup and experiment. If you’ve already got the tech, why not just use the bandwidth to send the signal out- but it seems like it could be a lot of work for not much return.

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