Sunday, November 4, 2012

Skokie Public Library Screencast

tag= blogposting week 11

I'm trying to get away from always looking at New York Public Library on my blog, so this week I've decided to take a look at a screencast done at the Skokie Public library in Skokie, IL.

I decided to comment on the library's screencast on finding obituaries precisely because it was their shortest video -- best practice dictates that a screencast ought to be short.  (In fact, 4 and 1/2 minutes is pushing it a little bit.)  I felt that looking at a shorter video would provide me with a better list of best practices. 

The video definitely starts off well.  The opening screen has a clear logo for the library and features both the name of the narrator/librarian and his email address.  This is an appropriate way to begin because it clearly shows the librarian's enthusiasm about following up with patrons.  The narrator/librarian Toby Greenwalt also has a clear and pleasing voice.  This is important not just for understandability, but also approachability.  If the narrator sounds bored or speaks too quietly, it sends the message that s/he is not really that interested in the topic.  (Greenwalt does clip somewhat on his plosives -- especially "p"s and "t"s.  I don't know what kind of microphone he had access to, but perhaps a pop guard would have helped eliminate those brief moments of harsh sound.)

The tutorial begins at the library homepage.    It's interesting (and I choose this word precisely for its ambiguity) that the homepage is so colorful.  This doesn't seem like an aesthetic choice on the part of Greenwalt; he's clearly using the page as it existed at the time he shot his video.  It has many colorful rectangles for navigation and a happy looking ginger bread man peeking out of the lower right hand corner.  The choice may seem overly positive to some looking for obituaries or it might set a welcome uplifting tone. Either way, it's a good choice to begin at the homepage; it's important to start your screencast somewhere your patrons can easily navigate to.  Also, starting at the homepage can give a user who's not familiar with the library's web presence a sense of where else they might be able to go once on the homepage (in the case that perhaps the video has been emailed to a patron using email or text reference).

I also applaud the choice to make the video real time as opposed to a narrated series of screen shots.  In this way the video can serve a dual purpose as a bit of information literacy for patrons not familiar with web tools.

As Greenwalt navigates, he is careful to point out the other options available on the website.  This may be an unnecessary tangent for the patron desperate to get to the obituaries, but for the casual patron a brief explanation of the other genealogical resources is likely welcome -- perhaps their obituary search is merely the beginning of an exploration of an entire family genealogy.  Knowing what other resources the library site offers may bring them back to the site later.  Greenwalt discusses icons showing three main types of resources outlined on the site: web resources available to anyone with an Internet connection, resources that require a library card (but which can be accessed remotely), and sources available only in the library.  Again, this is important for giving patrons a sense of what the library provides and possibly drawing them into the physical location.

Greenwalt's choice of search term is masterful.  He selects a former mayor long dead.  This connects the library to the local community and to local history.  It also makes the process less emotionally charged than it could be (using a recent death could have been seen as too macabre or insensitive).  It highlights the library's collections of local Skokie newspapers.  Finally, because the newspapers are held on microfilm, it highlights a library resource, welcomes patrons into the library, and allows Greenwalt to show off the fact that, via the Ask a Librarian link, patrons can request items on microfilm and have them emailed to them.  This is a wonderful service that some patrons may not be familiar with.

Greenwalt also shows off a resource that has an electronic version of the obituary, which is useful for patrons not willing to wait for an email or a trip to the library.

The presentation ends with Greenwalt's email again.  This is the best way to end the screencast -- as it reaffirms Greenwalt's interest in following up with patrons.

It's hard to fault any aspect of the library's screencast.  There appears to be a rather long list of resources, so a person might be disappointed that Greenwalt doesn't cover more sources, discussing strengths and weaknesses.  But, the video is already 4 minutes long and provides a hurried or impatient patron with enough information to get started.  Also, because it encourages emails, the video can get away with not explaining every single source; interested or lost patrons can email Greenwalt.

Greenwalt is clear, concise, and hits all the right notes.  His is a fine model for any screencast.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you liked it, Nathan. Thanks for the very thorough review of the screencast.

    Toby Greenwalt, Skokie Public Library