If libraries want to remain relevant in this age of multimedia, they have to incorporate screencasts, other video, or media interactivity to some degree. This may be a pretty strong statement given some of the drawbacks of these mediums. However, as the web becomes more visually stunning, allowing us to absorb information in various ways (aurally, visually, verbally) users are beginning to demand more from their libraries than just words on a page (or web page).
Of the video formats listed here, screencasting seems to be the most well suited to a library environment. As proponents of information literacy, librarians can use screencasts to reach and educate users where they are and when the want to learn (instead of requiring users to meet librarians at the library or during library hours). Meredith Farkas also states that screencasts can be helpful for patrons who are too embarrassed to ask for help. They can watch instructional screencasts without anyone knowing they are doing so. There are a number of fantastic screencasts that have been produced by libraries teaching users how to select resources to match their needs, walk users through the steps of a basic search, and demonstrate various software products. Farkas points to the Blake Library at the University of Maine as an example of a library using screencasts to better explain searching the library catalog. I particularly like the tutorials that have been created as part of the ANTS (ANimated Tutorial Sharing Project) project that are uploaded to the LION site (Library Information Literacy Online Network) on blip.tv. These videos provide a wealth of information including how to use various databases found in libraries, how to use multiple web based tools, and how to find copyright free images and formulate good research questions.
Other videos, or vodcasts produced by libraries, can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to usefulness and quality. Some libraries are using vodcasts to broadcast readings or lectures held in their libraries, adding a visual component to similar programs in podcast form. I have highlighted a few videos previously on this blog that I found to be worthwhile uses of library video. The first is a library orientation video for California College of the Arts that is creative and fun–just as an art library video should be. The second is a series of videos created by the New York Public Library in collaboration with the popular design blog design*sponge. These videos reach out to the design community in an attempt to show the usefulness of the library in their creative projects. Based on some of the projects completed by artists using library materials as their inspiration, I would say this particular video venture was a success.
But using screencasts or video in libraries is not without a few drawbacks, as Farkas points out. Videos are very large files and take up a lot of server space. Some libraries may not be prepared to host such large files. Farkas also reminds us that a few users are still connecting to the Internet via dial-up, making video files prohibitively slow to download. Yet these things will change over time. Users are flocking to broadband in larger numbers every year. Libraries are investing in the technological infrastructure needed to house files as large as screencasts or other videos. My prediction is that screencasting and vodcasting are going to become bigger and bigger components of the library experience. At least I hope they will.