Last week, a poet was in my office. We had planned a poetry reading, but she was pitching me a new idea focusing on a book she was writing about her birth father. Before that, a geography faculty member was describing a lecture about how hedgehogs can be used to explain key concepts in geography. Before that, I was at our marketing department proofing publicity for our upcoming One Book series. Before that, I was in a meeting about training staff members to run our HD cameras.
When I was in library school, no one told me that one of my primary jobs would be producer, but lately I’ve been feeling like a mini-mogul. Eat your heart out, hollywood! Our library is one of the hottest venues around (on campus) for public events partly because we have a nice facility and partly because we help record and distribute events. Over the years, I’ve “produced” over 100 cultural events in our library that have included invited speakers, our faculty members, community members, and students.
Of course, public events in libraries are nothing new. Most libraries offer a range of programming that engages and even challenges local communities to think in new ways. One difference that I increasingly notice as someone who offers programming is the focus on capturing events for distribution. This is one reason why faculty and student groups come to me. They know that I will at least make an audio recording of their event which I will post online and put in iTunes. This is very popular on a community college (commuter) campus where a vast majority of students have jobs and families. Most faculty members feel that it is unfair to require students to attend lectures outside of class time, but they feel just fine about requiring students to listen to an event as their schedule permits.
Recently, I’ve been noting a more conscious effort on my part and the part of speakers to mold presentations for distribution. We are taking pains to ensure that presentations look good on video or come across well on audio. The recording of programs has changed from a nice, residual bonus to co-equal with the live event. The live event is molded to meet the needs of the virtual event that will be available at a later date.
When planning for a program, I consider the following:
- Content: The subject matter remains king. Topics should be timely. I don’t fear controversy, but I also keep in my mind the my reputation and the library’s reputation are tied to our events.
- Audience: As we plan events, it is my job to keep our audience in mind. When we invite outside researchers or writers to speak, I have to remind them that this is not a seminar for graduate students. I also have to remind them that this is not aimed at 7th graders. Speakers sometimes need guidance in finding the appropriate approach for first and second year college students. Additionally, I try to help aim events at particular classes so that programs can fit in with topics covered in the curriculum.
- Format: The format shapes the content as much as audience. The length of the program and the type of event (lecture, discussion, panel, etc) dictates what content will be covered and how the content will be approached.
- Budget: Since I don’t have much of a budget, most of my speakers donate their time. But, I am able to provide a small travel stipend for some outside speakers. The rest of the budget goes toward publicity. As an event schedule unfolds, one eye should watch the budget.
- Publicity & Marketing: There is no audience without publicity. We create posters, send emails, write blogs posts, and send out press releases. I also go out of my way to find faculty members with classes who may attend.
- Production: Making the event happen is a matter of logistics. Chairs, podium, projectors, computers, sound systems, cameras, microphones, presenters, and audience all have to come together at the same time in the same place. I generally plan events a semester (or more) in advance to ensure that there is time for promotion and managing the logistics. After the event, video, MP3s, powerpoints, and digital images all have to come together in a timely fashion. I anticipate 1.5 hours of work to produce a podcast following an event, and significantly longer time for anything with video (3-5 hours).
- Distribution: After the event, I spend time emailing links to podcasts and videos to people who will have interest. I post links to social media, and we catalog events in our collection.
I definitely try to use our public programming and my role as producer to fulfill R. David Lankes’ conceptualization of librarians as “Publisher of Community,”
“I foresee the day in the near future when librarians spend the majority of their time working with community members and community organizations making their content accessible: where acquisitions is a matter of production, not purchasing. The future of libraries (and librarians) is in becoming publishers of the community.” (The Atlas of New Librarianship, p. 67)
If you are interested in some of our past events, here is a link to our event podcast:
-Post by Troy Swanson, Tame the Web Contributor
Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair & Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the upcoming book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.