When A STEM Librarian Cuts Loose On YouTube: Information Outreach

Carolyn Bishoff, Librarian | 7 min read
Carolyn Bishoff, Librarian | 7 min read


Library liaison outreach is a tough and often unrewarding enterprise. I ask myself: "Are my emails actually landing in front of interested eyes? How many people recognize me when I walk by their office?" So, video is another tool I use to help folks put a face with my name. Videos have a surprising longevity if the scripts are written to be timeless.

If you have ever thought of making videos here are a few pieces of advice and some experiences to help. I've been making videos as part of my job for a few years. It started with some cheerful training videos I made when my library's file management system was transitioning to the Google Apps suite. The videos were easy to do, and the staff liked them, so I made a few to share with students in my liaison departments. I like videos because I feel that they create a personal connection. One day, I was feeling punchy, so I shot a short introduction video and posted it on my staff page.



During editing, the bloopers made me laugh so much, that I cut together an outtakes reel and quietly uploaded that to my YouTube channel, too.

While attending my weekly office hours in the department last semester, a group of undergrads came by. I wasn't expecting them, and I definitely wasn't expecting them to tell me that they found my blooper video on YouTube. I still have no idea how they found it, but they liked it so much that they wanted to talk to me. Turns out, they were part of a physics methods class that was learning how to write a scientific manuscript. They talked to me about their assignment, and a month later I was invited to speak to the whole class.



People often have to make themselves vulnerable to get help from me, and I want to have a reputation for being approachable. I know from experience that it's hard to get a feel for someone through their emails and staff bio alone.

I get my inspiration from YouTube vloggers. The vlogbrothers are a major influence on how I imagined my videos would look. If you've seen any of their videos, you'll notice how heavily I borrowed their style:

  1. Keep videos to four minutes or less,
  2. Use jump cuts to keep the video moving fast, remove pauses, and weave together the best takes
  3. And don't take it too seriously!

I'm able to do these videos on the cheap without a lot of production equipment. Our library has video cameras that students (and staff like me) can check out for video projects, so when I have my script ready, I reserve a camera and a tripod, and de-clutter my office for filming.



I never do the script in one take, so I end up with a hilarious 20-30 minute clip full of swears, oh-nos, and let-me-try-that-agains. We perform in front of classrooms all the time, so talking to a camera alone in a quiet room should be easier, right? (Narrator: It wasn't.)

Once the script is finally recorded, I head down to the public media editing computers to stitch together the good takes and eliminate the pauses and awkward silences. I know I'm done when my inner voice is shouting "Perfect is the enemy of the good, Carolyn! EXPORT! EXPORT!"

And as with anything, they get easier with practice. Heck, maybe one day I'll even be able to read through my script without messing up. Sorry, I couldn't write that without laughing.

Related Posts