April 24, 2017

Live from the Library

Book BabiesAt Pennsylvania’s Peters Township Public Library (PTPL), the lobby is a light-filled atrium often occupied by special events. We know this because it’s a frequent setting for PTPL’s Facebook Live videos, often hosted by library director Myra Oleynik. During a poster session, “six students from a Forensic Science Club spoke about their exhibits [on topics like] fingerprinting and forensic anthropology. They had lots of props so it was very easy to shoot. Plus the students…were very relaxed in front of the camera,” Oleynik said. With the participants of Preschool-a-Palooza, a preschool provider fair for parents, Oleynik had to be more encouraging. “I visited each table and asked the director to say hello and introduce the preschool, then personally invited viewers to come to the library because [the providers would] be there for the rest of the afternoon.”

Video where the viewers are

Facebook Live is video streamed over Facebook and archived there afterwards. All you need to get started is a smartphone/tablet and the Facebook app, or a webcam attached to a computer running the Google Chrome browser. (You can’t create a Facebook Live video using a mobile web interface or other browsers.) Click into the “What’s on your mind?” field, choose Live Video, choose your audience/privacy level, then point the camera, and go. Carrie Weaver, Public Relations Coordinator at PTPL, admits it’s a little nerve-wracking the first time. “To get up the courage to try Live, I first shot some video of my dog at home using the ‘Only Me’ privacy setting. Once I saw how easy it was, I was all in.”

There are other live video options–Snapchat, Periscope on Twitter, Instagram Stories, UStream and more traditional streaming platforms, of course. The primary advantage to Facebook Live is an existing audience. Hailey Roberts, Digital Services Librarian at Idaho’s Meridian Library District (MLD), explains, “[MLD] has a steady following on Facebook, and we market through this tool frequently, so it made sense to take advantage of the Live video feature. We offer two weekly virtual reference sessions [that used to be static posts; now] we can interact more with patrons.”

Live at the improv

Austin Public Library Facebook LiveUnlike a more traditional video, Facebook Live broadcasts are improvisational, with no editing afterwards. At Texas’s Austin Public Library (APL), the popular Facebook Live series Q&APL has been running without a script since last August. Meg Holle, reference librarian and Q&APL host, says that they draft an outline of important points and then dive in. She adds, “Facebook Live is one-and-done. While that may seem terrifying, the anti-perfectionism of the medium is liberating for us and refreshing for customers who can see us make mistakes and run into technical difficulties that they themselves have experienced. It’s staged but not scripted, and feels authentic because it is.”

Amy Mullin, electronic resources librarian at APL, agrees: “We have fun with our bloopers…It brings levity to potentially dry tech demos [and] shows our users that no one is really an expert and that tapping the wrong button won’t blow up your tablet.” Mackie Welch, Community Librarian at MLD, and the other host of

MLD’s virtual reference sessions #TechyTuesday and #WhatToReadWednesday, adds, “I think people respond when you’re a little less polished, and they feel like you’re someone they could approach in or out of the library.”

Lights, camera, interaction

Viewers can comment during the broadcast (or afterwards) and the library can respond immediately, answering questions in real-time and offering additional information. The Boston Public Library (BPL) used Facebook Live last fall to give a tour of its Shakespeare Unauthorized exhibition; Kendall Miller, Senior Marketing Associate at BPL, was on her laptop monitoring comments during the broadcast. “Since we were breezing by a lot of the collection pieces, [it was important] to be able to post links to the online…collection as Jay [Moschella, Curator of Rare Books] & Beth [Prindle, Head of Special Collections] were talking about each piece,” she says.

The ability to interact live goes the other way, too. At MLD, Welch shares a story: “Recently we were doing a live demonstration of fact-checking apps. As Hailey was showing a feature on Countable that displays your representatives’ contact info, I asked if clicking on the phone number would dial it (as it does in most iPhone apps). Sure enough, we ended up calling our Congressman Mike Crapo in the middle of the video!”

Close, quick, and accessible

With only a smartphone to handle, it’s easy to get up close and personal, and that feeling of intimacy is another benefit. Says Oleynik at PTPL, “It’s a way to give potential attendees [the feeling of attending our] children’s and adult programs. They may be curious about a particular group but not sure what to expect…this gives them a sneak peek before signing up for book clubs, toddler sessions, or special interest clubs.”

With so little prep needed, libraries can respond quickly to community needs. Colleen Theisen, Outreach and Engagement Librarian at the University of Iowa Special Collections & University Archives, tells this story: “After Gene Wilder passed away, there was such a public outpouring of grief that we decided to pull out selections from his personal papers and have them on hand in our Reading Room for anyone who wanted to come in and browse. Livestreaming a tour around the table was a way to bring that experience to people who couldn’t [visit in person]. Seemed like a way to connect people to some of their favorite memories of this public figure while they were grieving.”

Meridian Library District Facebook LiveIf you start broadcasting live, don’t look for huge numbers, especially right out of the gate. At MLD, the first videos averaged only two live viewers, 100 views overall, and a reach of 200-300; now they average 14 live viewers, 500 views overall, and a reach of 2,000-3,000. Says Welch, “I can’t count the number of times people have said, ‘I love your videos!’…Systematic growth was the goal, and it’s working!”  Roberts adds, “We love that the videos are archived and accessible [right] after we stop recording,” with lists of items mentioned in the video added to comments later.

At APL, Mullin sees another benefit: brand awareness and “general #librarylove.” She says, “Staff on camera often wear library-branded t-shirts. [Viewers often] want to know, ‘Where can I get one of those shirts?’, eager to show off their APL pride.”

What’s next?

At U Iowa, Theisen has been expanding the offerings, and her next steps are strategic. “If we make a video, where should its home be? How can we cut a snippet that can be shared to other channels as a promo, driving traffic to where the video lives? What should be live vs. pre-recorded? What content works best in 10 second snippets? Figuring out video across channels is the next frontier.”

For other libraries, expanding the content is what’s next. At BPL, Melina Schuler, Chief of Communications and camera operator, let drop that Neil Gaiman’s recent Author Talk would be broadcast live, as will many of the library’s summer Concerts in the Courtyard. “We’re also hoping to work with Reader Services and youth services staff to feature them for book recommendations and program ideas.” Holle at APL describes the “farewell tour for the current Faulk Central Library and then a sneak peek of our stunning new building,” opening later in 2017. Roberts and Welch at MLD want to “start bringing the community into virtual reference…a police chief in the area will share his favorite leadership resources and we’ve had requests from the Mayor and other officials to be interviewed.”

And in that entryway at Peters Township? Weaver shares her bubbling list of ideas—“livestreaming of speakers, library staff promoting upcoming programs, instructions on downloading ebooks or using the 3-D printer, author visits, showing families as they register for summer reading, during a fundraising campaign”—and Oleynik adds that she might broadcast kids reading to visiting therapy dogs, or “our upcoming Animal Fair [for] animal shelters, pet owners, trainers and the public.”

Upping Your Video Game

While minimal equipment and authentic rough edges are part of the appeal of Facebook Live as a medium, if you want more sophisticated-looking video, consider these tools and tips:

A tripod mount adapter

Video recording tips:

Share
Social Media Made Simple
Coding Program WorkshopLearn the tools and tactics to help you use social media to build your outreach to current and future patrons. In this 4-week online course beginning on May 17, you’ll learn how to use social media as an outreach and engagement tool, and receive one-on-one guidance from an experienced social media library luminary.

Comments

  1. As a follow up since being interviewed by Jennifer…Last week we successfully streamed using Facebook LIVE an author visit by Niki Kamsambelis with two members of the DeMoe family, Robin and Jessica McIntyre, who are receiving national attention (Today show last week) because of their family’s participation in extensive studies about Alzheimer’s here in Pittsburgh. The video was shared the following morning on Simon & Schusters FB page. We received a lot of positive comments about streaming the program from our patrons and friends/family of Niki, Robin and Jessica who watched the presentation and the Q & A following. We even had a patron call in to see if she could purchase a copy of Niki’s book after the program – she had been watching at home on Facebook. We are so pleased we tried LIVE and will continue to use it at our library!

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*