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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Quick Video Book Talks and the [Unintended] Benefits of Highlighting Staff

I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

I have heard from a few libraries that you are using these posts to get your staff motivated to provide RA Service more easily in a virtual environment. In fact, a few have already begun to take my previous advice a step further, and have begun collecting videos of their staff talking about a book they love.

This is not as hard to do as you may think, and in fact, many library workers may be more comfortable speaking about a book they love rather than writing about it, as these posts have been more focused on.

And anyone on staff can do this. Again, we don't want to limit who on staff can help with RA ever, but especially right now. When we honor the different ways our staff feel most comfortable sharing their own good reads, we are also honoring the different ways our patrons may prefer to take in information.

So considering allowing staff to record themselves talking about books they have enjoyed, on their phone or home computer. 2-3 minutes is a good length. If they do not have the book with them, they can show a printout or online image of the cover. Encourage them to talk about WHY they enjoy the book, not what it is about. 

You should create a shared Google drive where staff can upload the video from their device. This will make it easier for you to upload it to your YourTube channel. In the comments, you can add links to digital copies of the title and even readalikes. Make it as easy as possible for staff and have your more official RA team do the uploading and annotating parts.

Once the video is on YouTube you can easily share it with patrons throughout a variety of platforms.

And, here's the "stock your pantry" part of the post, these don't go away when our "stay at home" orders end. If you can stock up and build a great playlist of staff suggestion videos, by encouraging all staff to help, they will be there to help you going forward. The videos themselves will be there in perpetuity. You can use them in your RA work in the future, to make suggestions, to build displays, to start RA conversations, and more. They will be an outpost on the interwebs where new patrons may find you. 

Working together you can make many more videos than just you, the staff member reading this, can do alone. Also with more voices, you also get a more varied range of title suggestions, thus reaching a wider audience of patrons looking for a good read. And, you might find a few staff members from unlikely corners of the organization who end up catching the booktalking bug-- a condition that can lead you to becoming the "Friendliest Library in Town."

But these videos also serve as a way to merchandise your staff. Show them all off, even those who work behind the scenes. Do not underestimate how much this will help you in your efforts to keep everyone employed. Your staff are your greatest asset. We know that, but our patrons do not.

I am hearing from a lot of libraries where the community and leadership are laying off library staff because the building is closed. Yes our buildings are closed, but the library itself is open. That is because the library IS its staff and the work they do. But we have always done a terrible job communicating this key fact to our patrons and communities, and now, we are paying the price of focusing on our place as a community space. We have allowed our patrons to lose sight of the fact that the library is still functioning when the physical space is closed. 

Show your community how great your staff is, even those many may think have "nothing to do" with the building closed. Of course, I know these staff have projects and jobs, many of which are going to help the organization more toward a better future, but the public can't understand that.

Seeing staff members, as many as possible, sharing a good read, will go a long way toward showing your community that the library more than the building. It will show your community the importance of the people who fill that building that they miss. Those people who are the library.

Here is an example of a library who has taken the quarantine leap into the world of video book talking. I wanted to highlight a library who did NOT do this before our current situation to show you how you don't need to have access to any special equipment or training in order to begin.

Just give it a try. And click here for more ideas on the Stock Your RA Pantry Archive page.


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