Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video Booktalks!

In previous years, we've been able to visit our local schools frequently for booktalks, but since our staffing level was cut we've had to rethink our approach. For the past several months, my staff members have been hard at work on creating video booktalks and we were able to send out links to our first batch this week!

Here's the full playlist if you want to check them out:

We decided to make separate videos for each age group that we would typically booktalk to. So for this first round, we have videos for 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th/6th grade, and 7th/8th grade. We made five videos total, each under 15 minutes long. Each video features five great books that kids and teachers can check out from our library. This is patterned after our monthly class visits where we would spend about 15 minutes per group and feature 5-6 titles each time.

We started getting organized several weeks before we planned to send them out. I asked my staff to sign up with titles that they would like to booktalk for whichever grades. Once everyone had a chance to submit titles, I went through and narrowed each list down to five titles, making sure to keep a balance between formats, genres, and to include diverse titles.

Then we all recorded the videos for our assigned books. We used our flip camera propped up on a book truck and the microphone on the flip camera was sufficient. I asked everyone to record a brief intro, which we showed at the very beginning of each video, and I recorded a brief ending message to encourage kids to stop by and check out these books from the library.

We recorded each booktalk as a separate video and then two of my staff members edited them together, so we were able to repeat some of the books for multiple videos without a whole lot of extra work. For example, Funny Bones appears in both our second grade video and our third grade video. This is helpful, too, if we ever wanted to put together booktalk videos on a certain genre. We could edit all our our scary booktalks into one video, for example.

To edit the videos, my staff members used Filmora, a video editing software that we purchased. The music in the intro comes from Filmora's library of music. The software allowed us to insert images and the titles of the books. There's a lot more it can do; we're excited to play around with it more.

Once the videos were edited, we uploaded them to our library's YouTube channel and sent out the link to our teachers. I sent the videos to each of the teachers we had been visiting with regular booktalks and gave them first shot at sharing the videos and requesting the books. Then a couple of days later, I sent out the video links to staff at each of our elementary and middle schools and asked our Marketing person to put them on our website and Facebook page, as well.

We're still waiting to see what the overall response will be, but so far they've each been viewed a couple dozen times. The real test will be to see if the books get checked out!

We're planning on sending out another round of booktalk videos before Winter Break and there are a few things we'll do differently:

1. After speaking with our Marketing person, he volunteered to film the next round with the library's HD camera, which may provide a better and more consistent quality of video. We also may look at purchasing an external microphone for better and more consistent sound.

2. We recorded this round in our teen office with the blank wood wall background, but I'd love to look into recording videos in our teen and children's rooms so that kids can see the areas of the library they'd be using.

3. We talked about making our presentations a little more uniform - each starting the same way, maybe making our intros more consistent.

4. We talked about adding a title screen with the season and grade on it to differentiate once we have a more extensive library of videos.

I'm not sure if it will be possible to offer these videos monthly at some point. We're going to start out attempting them quarterly and see what the response is. Compared to the hours and hours we spent driving to and visiting schools, repeating booktalks over and over to reach all the classes at a school, this is MUCH less time-consuming. I think we'll get better at it (recording videos, editing, etc.) as we get more experience, so it's possible it will take even less time as we continue.

So the question will be: are the videos decently effective at reaching our teachers and students? And time will just have to tell on that one. We'll keep an eye on how many times the videos are viewed and how the books check out, plus consider any feedback we get from teachers. Ideally, I'd love to also be able to visit the schools in person at least once a year and that might give our videos more impact. We'll see!

Have you ever recorded video booktalks? What tips and tricks do you have to share? Or what questions do you have about how we did ours?