Digital instructional and reference content on your library website will expand the service area of your library and maximize the use of library resources available to your patrons. These objects can guide at-home and onsite users through use of the library resources including the library’s catalog, collections, and e-government services. Library computers can prompt users to visit tutorials and digital reference materials, and they can be prioritized on library websites through use of tabs or icons that link directly to a FAQ with these digital objects as responses.
Digital and online instructional videos, tutorials, presentations, and reference guides are an extension of services already offered to patrons. One-shot digital reference and instructional objects such as these can be used to supplement reference services and, in some cases, fill in where reference services aren’t an option. The visual and audio components of these online modules can appeal to many of the same sensibilities that patrons seek from interaction with a reference librarian. These tools can be used by patrons who would not otherwise approach the reference desk. They can also answer questions or address concerns that can be answered simply and without the need for more in-depth guidance or service interaction.
Consider what you know about your library resources and your patrons’ needs. Are there repeated reference interactions that could be easily answered with a short tutorial? Is there anything you would like your patrons to know about your library that you can highlight with a reference guide or video? Start with the basics: finding books and movies on the library’s online catalog, checking patron accounts and renewing items, tours of the library space and collections, and Ready Reference guides.
Creating Digital Tutorials and Guides
Practically anyone can hone the skills to create online reference or instructional content. The technology required to make these objects varies in cost and, in many cases, can be made using free downloadable software. Screencasting or video-creating software can be used individually or can be used in conjunction with audio software or presentation tools and can be uploaded to sites like Youtube or Vimeo. The following are some websites that offer screencasting and video-creation tools:
- Jing is a free software downloadable at http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html
- Slidecast on the Slideshare site is a free tool that can be upgraded by a paid subscription at http://www.slideshare.net/.
- Camtasia offers a free 30-day downloadable software trial at http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html
- Adobe Captivate offers a free 30-day downloadable software trial for users who sign up for a free Adobe user account at http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html
The following are free downloadable tools that you can use to create audio tracks or podcasts:
- Audacity is a free audio recording software that can be downloaded at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
- The downloadable LAME Encoder can modify files created on Audacity and other audio recording software into MP3 files at http://lame.sourceforge.net/
Once presentations are created they can be uploaded to screencasting sites and used as content for tutorials or instructional videos. Learn about the presentation software at the following sites:
- Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) includes presentation software. You can get started with Google Drive at https://www.google.com/intl/en_US/drive/start/
- Prezi is a presentation tool that creates dynamic presentations that stray from the linear one-dimensional look of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Visit the Prezi site to learn more about it at http://prezi.com/
There is no end to the kinds of software available for free download on the Internet and there is no limit to the amount of creativity that a librarian can bring to digital instructional tutorials. For a list of downloadable software visit CNET at http://download.cnet.com/windows/.