When restrictions on public gatherings, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that in-person library events were no longer possible, Moreton Bay Region Libraries adapted their programming to deliver their author events online.
Moreton Bay Region Libraries delivers a program of regular author events. When the COVID-19 restrictions were announced, they had already booked popular Australian author, Nick Earls, for an event. Facing an event cancellation, Nick mentioned that he could possibly do something online instead. And so, the library approached Nick to prepare an online event, which became the first in their ‘Yes, you can ask that’ series.
A week prior to the event, the library put out a call to its community on social media, to send in their questions for Nick Earls could respond to. The library team then worked with Nick to record a 35-minute video, answering the questions.
This video was edited by library staff, uploaded to YouTube, with captions and transcripts edited manually to ensure that they were correct and as accessible as possible. On Friday evening the link to the video was promoted via social media.
The first challenge was to conceptualise how the event would take place, and to communicate it with the author. There was a significant learning curve on the parts of both the organisers and the author. It required the author to have a good digital recording set up at home and know how to use it. The quality of the video varies depending on their technical ability so there is a bit of work to do.
Once Nick had recorded his answers, the library team brought everything together using video editing software. There were a number of challenges with this: whilst there were many commercial video editing platforms available, technical resources were limited, especially with staff working from home, and so they needed to make the best of what was readily available.
It was an opportunity for one of the staff members to build their knowledge of video editing, and though it was still time consuming, they were happy with the end product. The continuing challenge remained to make this model sustainable, by securing the right hardware and software and upskilling the wider team of staff in video editing.
The community responded positively, with over 200 views in the first couple of weeks, which was an excellent outcome, particularly for a half hour video.
Positive comments received included:
Thank you to Nick Earls for answering our questions with such enthusiasm. And really appreciate Moreton Bay Region libraries for giving us this opportunity.
Thank you Nick Earls! I found the answers to be engaging, generous and insightful. Watching this was a great way to spend a Friday night while socially isolating. I really enjoyed it! Congratulations to the fantastic Libraries staff too, well done team!
The library has continued to use this model, on the success of the initial online event, with further interviews featuring authors Isobelle Carmody and Natasha Lester.
To help identify authors who were available and happy to take on this kind of work online, publishers have started sending our weekly emails to organisations holding events. Similarly, the list on the ALIA website was helpful, as it lists authors who have the capability to work online.
Library staff with long-standing connections with the literary sector were also able to make introductions and gauge the capacity of an author to participate in this kind of program.
Whilst authors were keen for work, many didn’t exactly know what to do or how. What was vital was that the author was able and willing to record at home and follow instructions. To these ends, it was the library’s responsibility to convey their idea for the event, and provide instructions, making it as easy as possible for the author to participate.
James Nicholson from Moreton Bay Region Libraries offered the following tips based on his experience coordinating this project:
· Don’t assume, ever.
· Give yourself as much time as possible to record the content and edit it.
· Promote the event in a way that brings your patrons along with you. These are often new experiences or ideas, and patrons need to understand what you are doing and why.
· Talk to your authors about what happens to the created content after the pandemic.
· YouTube is a good place to host videos as you can customise content with branding and create playlists.
The Nick Earls interview: https://bit.ly/2x3LmCA
Moreton Bay Region Library’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2KquGs4
Moreton Bay Region Library’s online event calendar: https://bit.ly/3buJlOI
For more questions on these programs, contact James at: firstname.lastname@example.org