Screencasting Patron POVs, a TTW Guest Post by Mick Jacobsen 11

I am currently developing screencasts for an exciting new project mpowwill roll out in the near future.

While looking at a stupidly designed, but very useful database, I thought “Why would any patron watch a tutorial on how to navigate this mess?  They want an answer to a question, not a walk through of a resource.” This idea was quickly followed by “I am going to design screencasts that answer common, representative questions.”  For example, using LegalForms by Thomas Gale (not the database I referred to as stupidly designed) I can show how to find a customizable job application in one screencast and an easily adaptable home renovation construction contract in another.  These screencasts will demonstrate different means of finding valuable resources, but not be about using LegalForms… overtly.

Carrying the idea of what I call patron-point-of-view (PPOV) screencasts a step further, why not narrate from the patron’s viewpoint?  I rewrote the introduction from “Hi, I’m Mick Jacobsen an Adult Services blah, blah, blah,” to “Hi, I’m Mick, the owner of Mick’s Pizza and I want to get the word out about my great…”.

Lets go even further, why not use the question as the title?  Which video do you think would be viewed more: Learn How to Search LegalForms or Find a Customizable Contract for Your Business? I think the latter.

While multiple screencasts of each database will be necessary, I believe they will provide a better means of showing the real value of library resources.  An added benefit is PPOV screencasts will be short. The PPOV screencasts answer questions. They don’t plod through each and every nuance of a resource.  Seriously, what patron will sit down to watch a 10 minute demonstration of a database?  I try to keep mine at a max of 3 minutes and even that is pushing it.

The shift from a sage on the stage librarian teaching databases to the PPOV has changed everything in regards to my idea of screencasting.  Try it, I think you will find it liberating.

Here is a recent screencast:

How to Find New Businesses from Skokie Public Library on Vimeo.

Click on these links for some good library orientated resources on getting started with screencasting.

Creation, Management, and Assessment of Library Screencasts: The Regis Libraries Animated Tutorials Project by Paul Betty

Paul Pival speaking doing a podcast for the SirsiDynix Institute

Ellyssa Kronski writing for the School Library Journal

Mick Jacobsen is Adult Services Librarian at the Skokie Public Library.

11 thoughts on “Screencasting Patron POVs, a TTW Guest Post by Mick Jacobsen

  • Jennifer Roach

    This is exactly what I have been exploring lately. Nice to see you express the concept so well. By making your screencasts answer a specific question, they are relevant to the viewer. If you need to make a few more videos, no problem. Better to make several videos that are meaningful, than to make one all encompassing video that well, gets turned off at the 3 minute mark anyway.

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Hi Jennifer,
    Glad you liked it. You are exactly correct. Patrons generally don’t want to learn boolean logic they want to find articles about their mom’s upcoming surgery! So how can we really help?

    This may be different in an academic library setting…


  • Jennifer

    Patrons want answers at the point of need. In that respect we’re the same, academic and public.

  • Linda

    Hi Mick,
    I am happy I read this post. This summer, I will be starting a project writing tutorials. I would have given the basic “walk through” some of our databases, until I read your post. Thank you!

    I am in an academic institution, a community college in eastern Iowa. Since this is my first attemp at writing tutorials, I would love to hear how you decided what the tutorials should be about and any other information and tips that would be helpful for a newbie. I have worked here since 1993, but just graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison SLIS. Thank you in advance for your advice and expertise!

  • Jeff

    That’s a great idea. We definitely need to start providing tutorials on the specific aspects of our databases. Instead of saying, here is how to use Ebsco Masterfile Premier, we should be saying, here is how to find consumer reports on the library’s webpage.

  • mick

    Hi Linda,
    I would ask the reference librarians what are the resources most used.

    My limited experience in academic librarianship would suggest CQ Researcher. That is a perfect database to do PPOV tutorials. Instead of how to search CQ Researcher you can do a few questions such as finding information on abortion, immigration, legalization of drugs, racism, etc (the normal topics for undergrads). You could conceivable do just one tutorial and then say at the beginning/title by the way this will work for other questions too. Instead of touring your OPAC do a title search, do a keyword search, do a author search, etc.

    Talk to the professors. What papers do they receive most? Talk to the students. What would help them. Do not consider these tutorials as a one semester job, but an evolving document. It would be cool if you could get students to help write/design them?

    The PPOV works for me. I think it could work for you as well.


  • Jeff Karlsen

    I think it’s important, though, to provide both, and there’s no reason we can’t do so. Quick screencasts demonstrating how to solve particular problems, and more methodical demonstrations of database features (as an alternative to what are usually poor materials supplied by the vendor). A key question, though, is making sure users can easily find the tutorial they need.

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Hi Jeff,

    Yes we can provide both. But will both be watched? If so, by all means do both.

    Having screencasts at the point of need is a big issue. A zero return search in an OPAC could perhaps bring up a list of tutorials along with a chat widget? Databases are more difficult. We are not extensively mentioning the databases at all, just the questions the databases answer.

    As I mentioned in a previous comment academic libraries may have a different view on this than public.


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