Screencasting to an Audience of One 21

screenjellyFor a patron to learn that our library has just the resource they were looking for, followed by a helpful tutorial by a librarian, only to realize a day later that they can’t remember exactly how to access it worries me. Many patrons quickly forget the title of a recommended resource, let alone how to find it on a library’s website. This is very true when I am on the customer side of service desks.  Perhaps they will recall the name of the resource and even how to find it, but will not be able to replicate the search.  Worst case scenario my patrons will feel stupid and I will have lost them forever.  Isn’t this the same fear now causing many librarians to walk patrons to items on the shelf and not just pointing? Is it sufficient pointing our patrons to an online resource, walking them through it and hoping that they will remember everything? I think not.  Handing out easily lost, misunderstood, or forgotten step by step directions to databases on paper/bookmarks is a step in the right direction, but can’t more be done?

Why not create screencasts designed to answer a patron’s specific question at the same moment you are showing them the resource at the reference desk?  While researching screencasting, I stumbled across a video of a community college librarian discussing screencasts for individual patrons using Camtasia (I don’t have a link to this video and have not been able to find it again.  Please comment with a link.).  A great idea, I thought, but a bit cumbersome.  Camtasia, or Captivate for that matter, is powerful but takes more than a few minutes to create a screencast and upload it to a video hosting service.   It could work for email reference or distance students where time is less of an issue.  Camtasia is also somewhat expensive and to have a copy of it on each patron touch point is unfeasible for most libraries. A different tool was needed.

To make individualized screencasts functional, I wanted an application that was easy to master and had blazing fast upload time.  Enter Screenjelly.  It requires nothing more than a Twitter account and is completely free.  To use it go to and click on record.  Screenjelly stores the videos on its own server, just email the link to the patron.  It doesn’t provide any editing tools, but for quick and dirty “how to get there” and “how to use” screencasts, editing is unnecessary.  You get 3 minutes of recording time with optional sound.  Go try Screenjelly.   It takes longer to explain how to use it than to figure it out by playing with it. Screenjelly even provides statistics on how many times the screencast has been watched, making it simple to check to see if the patron has viewed it.  Many other screencasting tools exist, such as Screentoaster, and would also work.

I have been producing these screencasts for an audience of one for three weeks now.  Every time I make one the patron looks from me to the computer screen and says “Cool!”   Most times they had no idea such a technology even existed.  I plan on asking for inexpensive microphones for each service desk to add audio to the screencasts after training our public service staff on how and when to use it.

I think these individualized screencasts are a valuable tool that all public service desk workers should learn and use.  Embedded below is my most recent Screenjelly screencast.  It was designed for a patron wanting online tutorials on using Excel 2007 because of an upcoming job interview.

TTW Contributor
Mick Jacobsen

21 thoughts on “Screencasting to an Audience of One

  • Aaron

    Love the idea. But I think it takes a lot of confidence on the part of the librarian doing this as everything will be recorded including mistakes, slips etc.

  • Jennifer

    Once again, Mick we are on the same page. I’ve been using Jing from Techsmith in a similar way. It goes right along with the concept of using Patron Point of View to provide meaningful explanations. The short demonstrations answer a patrons question, but the link lets them refer back to your show-and-tell – Bonus!

    With respect to mistakes: just let the videos be real, that’s okay, it’s for an audience of one.

  • Cynthia

    With regard to why not just send the URL… “give a man a fish…; teach a man to fish…”
    Even more than being in the information finding business, we are in the information literacy business.

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Aaron: I agree with Jennifer, it is fine to commit mistakes especially when dealing with an audience of one. It makes us real. We are not the “sage on the stage,” lets shoot “for guide on the side.”

    Judith: Screencasts teach while links don’t. Also it takes no extra time to create a screencast with Screenjelly if you are planning on showing the patron how to get to and about the resource while talking with them. I also have my face and twitter account connected to the screencasts, I am now their librarian. A link is fine but a screencast is better.

    Cynthia: Agreed, and we can be both! These screencasts for an audience of one allows us to find the information for and show/teach our patrons how we did so.

    Jennifer: I am excited to see what you are creating!


  • Mary P

    There was a great free hour-long tutorial geared toward librarians on Screencasting a few weeks ago. It has been archived at

    It looks at the advantages and disadvantages of screencasting and the different programs that can be used- by librarians who screencast . I recommend watching it.


  • Batarang

    I’ve been working on trying the same thing at my library. I find that Screencast-O-Matic is the best for me, although the annotations are a little too small. I created a couple screencasts after the customer left and then uploaded them to Youtube, but I’m going to try recording one in-the-moment soon.

  • Emily

    I thinkt his is a really great idea. I am going to look at this a little closer and see if this approach is something that can help me as I train librarians. Thanks!

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Peta and Teresa: YES! I like screenjelly but whatever you think is good for your library is good. I used Screenjelly because it was easy 2.

    Emily: I would love to know about how you go about training your staff on it. I am considering how best to roll this out to my coworkers.


  • pollyalida

    Great idea! Are you recording them as you show the patron the resource? Or doing it right afterwards and emailing them the link? I use Screentoaster quite a bit for similar types of interactions with clients. But love the idea of twitter connection with screenjelly when working with patrons. As you said, great way to connect in yet another way.

    Aaron has a good point about the confidence levels. I’ve been teaching screencasting classes for librarians for a couple of years now and it’s hard to convince people that perfection isn’t necessary. I keep trying! Nevertheless, the more of these one creates, the easier it gets.

  • Lee

    Really like this approach Mick.

    “I have been producing these screencasts for an audience of one for three weeks now.”

    Find a tool to fill a niche. We need more “rapid implementation” of the new tools out there. Waiting for things to be ready or right or perfect is a waste of precious time. Perfection, (it if ever was alive), is dead. Better to work at being exceptional.

    Being exceptional means finding unique uses for the tools already out there and then constantly working towards improving what you’re implementing -like this. Beats “perfect” every time because everything is always changing so how could something ever be “perfect”?

    These screencasts seem kinda like “patron quickfire challenges” (borrowing a phrase from Top Chef) that meet the need at the moment, delivering a winning result.

    Let’s close with this as it’s a great statement from Mick:
    “Worst case scenario my patrons will feel stupid and I will have lost them forever. Isn’t this the same fear now causing many librarians to walk patrons to items on the shelf and not just pointing?”

    ~TTW Contributor~

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Pollyalida: I usually do the screencast on the second walk through, following showing the patron the resource I think will help them most and gauging their interest level.

    Lee: Exactly and very well put. Look at everything through, especially technology, the lens of librarianship, and most importantly do something with it.

  • amelia

    i think it is a brilliant idea to use screencasts. Anything which is making the digital world less stressful to those people who don’t find it second nature is great. It is a compassionate and educational tool that will build confidence in the user also which is great for them. we all need a bit of confidence….

  • Mary Beth

    I hope those who are testing out this approach will consider trying to get some data, any data, on the helpfulness of these – does a patron access it again when they’ve forgotten the resource or how to find it; does this kind of visual enhance learning in a way you can demonstrate, in any small way? I think this would be so very helpful to all if this can be shown. I can see that it’s good for PR, connecting, showing patrons that we’re savvy technologically, but I (as someone who works with video and screencasts for teaching/learning) wonder if these are actually beneficial, and if we can show that in some way.

  • Mick Jacobsen

    Hi Mary Beth,
    Would love to have more concrete evidence that these are being used and by whom. One I made has been viewed 20 times when I have only shared it with one person. A few of those viewing were by me and few are probably by bots, but the rest? Another older screencast has been viewed 24 times… So they are being viewed.

    Since these are designed for one, the stats. on the resources being recommended are likely to not going to go up in any measurable amount.

    What would prove that these are useful besides the viewing stats.? Are you imagining a laboratory experiment of some sort?

    Whenever I mention these types of screencasts to librarians that work with the public they see the use immediately.

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