I’ve been thinking a lot about videos and libraries over the last year. During the Spring of 2015 I was able to take a “Writing with Video” course in the School of Art and Design. It was a fantastic course that focused on video as a medium for communication. There was definitely a steep learning curve – much of the hardware (digital cameras! different kinds of microphones! the bulkiest of tripods!) and software (iMovie and I became the best of friends) were new to me. Some of the mindsets were new too – I had to get used to working in a time-based medium and the endless cycle of planning, shooting, editing, re-shooting, and more editing that goes along with it. The class was graduate level and had about a dozen people, of which only a few were art students (and they were all art education majors); the rest of us were from a variety of programs. This really enhanced the experience for me because (1) it had been years since I was in a course with so many people outside my discipline and (2) the professor encouraged us to really engage with our own interests and critically engage with the creative output of our classmates. Therefore I was able to really tailor my final project towards a library focus – I made a series of instructional and promotional videos for the library where I worked at the time. This was fantastic and absolutely why I joined the class – it fit right in with my CAS focus on library marketing and outreach. I wanted to explore video as a medium for library promotion and instruction. While my finished products still weren’t at the level of professionalism that I aspire to I really improved over the course of the semester and felt like I gained a lot from the feedback I received in the class.
Video as a means of library marketing, outreach, and engagement was something I studied and wrote about during my CAS and is still one of my primary LIS interests. I collect interesting examples of libraries using videos for everything from general interest promotion (like this Libraries Change Lives video promoting libraries in the European Union) to news releases and specific event promotion (like this video about the Clue at Wilson Library event). It’s also great to see libraries using video as a means of engagement with patrons (e.g. the Rare Book and Manuscript Library answering patron questions in their Mailbag series).
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries, video, and policy. My library has a fairly firm no-photography/video policy (without permission) which seems to preclude even informal/candid photos and videos by patrons. I’ve been thinking about what that looks like in practice (I’ve never seen someone ask a patron to not use a camera but I have heard about times when employees were reprimanded for not enforcing the policy), how this policy makes us look to our patrons, and how the policy can (unfortunately) inhibit engagement. There are many academic libraries and librarians that are doing great things with photos, video, and user engagement (e.g. Twitter #shelfies and archival photo recreation). And I feel like there is so much potential for even more! But what are we saying to users when we couple these awesome outreach activities with stifling policies? That isn’t to say that I don’t understand why the current policy is the way it is – issues of patron privacy, patron safety, copyright, and building security were, I’m sure, all part of the current decision. However, part of me wishes that our policy was more flexible/realistic and incorporated exceptions for personal photography and video (for reference see the University of Oregon and University of California at Berkeley’s policies). Part of the reason that library marketing and outreach professionals are incorporating visual media into their communication and engagement channels is that our users are increasingly consuming information in visual and video formats. Thus, hopefully our policies can evolve to reflect these changing information and communication behaviors.