Your Questions, Answered
What platforms are you using?
I’m using a mix of YouTube and Zoom, primarily. I’d never even heard of Zoom until about two months ago, but now it’s all I hear about. The library got a Pro account ($15/mo) last week. If you’ve used Skype or webinar platforms, it’s pretty straight forward, but there are lots of interesting things to find once you start digging through all the possible settings. I am only using Zoom for programs that are interactive.
Should I do all of my programs live? Or should I avoid live programs?
This is dependent on what programs you want to offer. I’m using live programs for things that are interactive, like Great Decisions or a book club meeting. Everything else I’m asking staff or outside speakers to send me pre-recorded content I can edit and upload to the library’s YouTube channel. Why? The laws of time no longer exist. Or at least work and school schedules don’t. If the audience doesn’t need to be present, there’s no reason to tie it to a specific time. I want the content to be available to patrons whenever they have time to access it. Plus, that content will still exist after the library reopens. I already have plans to get some of our technology and makerspace video tutorials we’re making now onto library computers going forward.
How are you handling registration?
We’re only doing registration for live events and only doing them through Zoom. I’ve set a password for every program we do, to give some added security and prevent “zoombombing” during our programs. When patrons register for the program, they’re sent an email with the link and password to access the event, which feels safer than to post them publicly on our website or social media.
If it’s not live, the video is available for anyone to watch at any time, no passwords or logins necessary.
How do I let patrons know what we’re doing?
Create a page on your website specific to your virtual programs and make that page easy to find. Share the videos on social media. Make a schedule and advertise a week’s worth of programs in your eNews (same as you would if the library were open). Email patrons directly, when possible. If you are moving an existing program online, contact anyone who was registered for the original event. Explicitly ask your followers to share on their own pages or invite people who may be interested.
**Just a note not to overload your patrons. I follow a library that has sent out an eNews every. single. day. I have stopped opening their emails because it’s just too much, too often.
Have a question I didn’t answer? Read my tips below and if you still need help, please reply to this email or contact me through my website. I want to help as much as I can!
Tips for Moving Your Programs Online
Before I get too TL;DR with these answers, I want to start with the most important thing I’ve learned—something I will continue using after the library reopens. My department (Marketing) head helped me come up with a litmus test of sorts to determine which programs we should do and which we shouldn’t.
1. What value does this have for our patrons? (For the record, socializing is very valuable)
2. Why should the library be the one to do this? This is the important one. There are so many other organizations and businesses out there pushing similar content. So think about what you’re doing. Is it something someone else is already doing? What is it the library can offer that others can’t? Something I said no to was a Netflix Party, because people are already doing that; they don’t need the library to coordinate it for them. But book/movie/tv recommendations? Libraries do that better than anyone.
Set Some Boundaries
Keep in mind that virtual programming—especially right now—is not the same as the programs we do in the library. It may feel like anyone can do anything because we’re not tied to a specific location or time. You’ll avoid having two Zoom meetings at the same time, but time and space aren’t your deciding factors here: Marketing is. You can’t rely on your newsletter, in-library signage, or speaking directly to patrons right now. Everything will need to go through social media and your website, but the library needs to promote more than just programs right now. And, contrary to popular belief, we can’t create an infinite number of posts every day. The more you post, the less your patrons will see. Did you know Facebook actually stops pushing your updates to someone’s feed if you post a lot in one day? Not to mention the library isn’t the only one ramping up their online presence. Your patrons have digital fatigue. Let’s do what we can to cut down on that.
Be Kind to Your Marketer
As I mentioned above, everything goes through marketing right now. Anyone who has access to your library’s social media or website is completely overloaded right now. Every staff member has sent them at least one (or a dozen) emails making suggestions on things to share or promote online.
Make a Schedule
My goal is to have one program a day, Monday-Saturday, and no more than two programs a day. There are already days where we will have more than that, unfortunately. My best advice is to put one person in charge of making the schedule—for all departments. That way you don’t have four different staff members move forward with their plans and then you can’t facilitate or market all of them.
Something my library has done that I really like is we’re making a mini schedule to post each week. We’re also keeping all of our programs and other efforts in a single place. To do this, especially with the weekly schedule, we need to have the week planned in advance. This is not easy when the rules are changing every hour, but do your best.
Make Recurring Events or Theme Days
For me, I’m (unofficially) making Tuesdays DIY and crafts and I have two (official) series: What We’re Enjoying Wednesday and New Skill Saturday. Other libraries are doing “Fun Fridays” or something similar. Having a specific idea for each day (Mondays are catch-all but mostly Technology, Thursdays is youth) has really helped me plan things out and space out similarly themed programs so we get a good variety on our feeds.
Involve Staff from Other Departments
Libraries have a bad habit of making departments into silos, but staff is the library’s greatest resource right now (and always). When I started this new program initiative, I put out a call to any library worker to send me a short clip about what media they’re enjoying while we’re closed, show off a skill they have, or send me a program idea—and not holding them to actually doing that idea themselves, if they didn’t want to. I wasn’t sure I’d get any responses, but everyone has been very supportive and right now especially, people want to do something to help, in whatever way they can. And honestly, the best content I received was from a part-time circulation clerk I’m not sure I’ve ever even met.
Whenever possible, pass something on to someone else. If you’re handling a lot of programs with very little prep time, there will be quite a bit of your to-do list that can’t be done. It’s okay to ask for help. All of our jobs were affected differently and the workload is likely to be a bit unbalanced, which means some of your coworkers don’t feel like they’re doing enough or are being asked by management to “fill their hours.” Are there some items you can put on someone else’s plate? I’m someone who likes to be involved and have a lot of control, so I’ve worked for a long time to learn that when someone offers help, it’s okay to take it. In the last week, some of the things I’ve let others handle (at least in part) are: canceling programs on the online calendar, troubleshooting a video issue, hosting our Great Decisions group on Zoom, and contacting local businesses to see if there is interest in partnering with us for a future video. All of those things have saved me time that I can dedicate to video editing and coordinating with speakers and other staff. That last one is something I’ll need to take over soon, but I didn’t have to spend time getting the ball rolling and playing phone tag with businesses. I can start at the point when I’m needed, and not before.