Sharing local knowledge

How one program generated content, training, and programming
Escondido, CA
Donna Feddern (in photo at the farmer's market to promote LibraryYOU: Joanna Axelrod, Donna, and Viktor Sjöberg from EPL)

LibraryYOU is a project by the Escondido Public Library to share local knowledge through videos and podcasts. It consists of a recording studio to help patrons create content, a website to showcase the content, and training classes to help our community learn how to communicate with these popular online multimedia formats. Funded by an LSTA grant, we are halfway through our wonderful experiment and have been pleased by the positive reception from both our community and the larger international library community.

LibraryYOU vs. YouTube

The focus for the videos and podcasts is on tutorials, so the argument could be made that YouTube is full of How To videos. However, we wanted to focus on connecting our local experts to the people in their own community. Contributors must live, work, or play in Escondido. When I was planning the project it dawned on me that if we were to do this as a library, the content would need to formally become part of our digital collection.  We would need to come up with a collection development policy to guard the quality and authoritativeness of submissions and every video and podcast would need to be cataloged. These two pieces also differentiated us from the content found on YouTube because as we all know, librarians are the pros when it comes to curating content and creating quality metadata. As a public library we are also very aware of the needs of those caught in the digital divide. Sure, everyone can post a video to YouTube, but not everyone knows how or has access to the equipment needed to do so. Our training classes and recording studio solved these problems.

With technology came training

We used grant funds to purchase an iMac, a couple HD digital video cameras, microphones, lighting, and backdrops. Luckily we had an office we could use as a recording studio where some of the audio and video recording could take place and LibraryYOU staff could sit and do the editing. While we are open to having people submit videos they have already created, every contributor so far has taken advantage of our staff and equipment to create their content. One of the goals is to encourage and teach people how to make their own online multimedia content. In April, we offered introductory classes on podcasting and online video and got a sense of the level of interest in our community. The number of attendees grew each week, especially after the local newspaper picked up our press release and announced the classes on their home page. I loved hearing about why people were taking the classes. We had a museum employee, a local non-profit employee, and individuals with their own knowledge and stories to share who were eager to learn about podcasting and online video. We are considering doing basic video and audio editing classes next since the students in our first classes are anxious to move to the next level.

Programming gets a lift

We also discovered a symbiotic relationship between LibraryYOU and our library events. An unforeseen but welcome development is that library presenters are becoming LibraryYOU contributors. This helps us promote their upcoming programs by posting the videos and podcasts on our website and social networking sites. We also get to keep a bit of their expertise even after their one hour in-person presentation is over. For example, a local woman who spoke about being a Holocaust survivor also sat down in our recording studio to create a podcast. Now, every time a student is looking for information in our catalog for information about Holocaust survivors, they may come across this resource the library itself has created. How cool is that? Also, LibraryYOU contributors have expressed an interest in doing an event at the library. A farmer who created a video about starting a vegetable garden said he would love to do a program at the library for children.

Community inspires the collection

What’s new about this collection is how content is procured. Adding new titles does not require pouring over lists of newly published materials. This time, we are the publishers, so we are taking on the role of talent scouting. This is really my favorite part. I have been doing a lot of outreach and networking in order to identify our community’s local experts. And it’s working. My biggest fear was that we would not be able to convince people to give us their time to create a video or podcast, but luckily people have seen the value to themselves and to their community. Since a lot of local experts have their own business, they get exposure from being on the LibraryYOU website and get to share their content on their own sites. Many of our contributors have experience teaching or training and are always happy to share their talents with others.

The best part of all of this is that the community has been very receptive. I have not talked to a single person who has not been excited about the project. We have not had any problem recruiting contributors and local reporters have been happy to write articles promoting LibraryYOU. Some library futurists have said that libraries should start allowing patrons to create their own content. I was not so sure how our community would feel about it at first, but I’m here to tell you that they just cannot seem to get enough of the access to our recording studio, free training classes, and the chance to become part of the library’s digital collection. As word spreads, we are really feeling the love. This has become an incredible way to show everyone that we are tech savvy and that we are here to help the community improve their tech skills.

Every community is full of interesting and inspiring people. If any library out there is considering starting a similar project, I’m happy to give advice and share how we set up LibraryYOU. Also, check out the LibraryYOU Project blog where I am tracking our progress.

Donna Feddern

Digital Services Manager

Escondido Public Library, Escondido, CA