A Quick Guide to Making Online Tutorial Videos

The demand from patrons in the Sonoma County Library (SCL) system for e-reader assistance was high — and something needed to be done. At the time, I was working as a part-time circulation technician, and I was aware of the need for something that could help people at home, or that nonprofessional staff like myself could direct people to during busier times at the reference desk.

Sonoma sealTo meet this need and plan for future changes in providing library service, we wrote a grant to create tutorial videos on how to download e-books from the library's website.

Goals for the Project

I came up with a series of goals, put them forward into a LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) grant, and was given the go-ahead to:

  • Create screencast tutorial videos, showing a recording of a desktop in action to guide people through the basics of where to find e-books and how to download them.
  • Create videos for three of the most common e-reader devices found in the library: Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Apple products such as the iPad or iPhone.
  • Create videos that are bilingual, in English and Spanish, as well as subtitled.
  • Create materials to consult outside of library operating hours and to reach individuals in our community who might not have easy access to a library in person.

How We Did It

Though our library decided to purchase new software for this project, there are a variety of free options. Wikipedia has a chart of program comparisons, and other blogs provide similar analyses.

Most of the grant funding went to cover staff time.

The steps you would take in either case are roughly the same. Here's what we did:

  • Storyboarding and scripting: The first step was to develop storyboards and scripts for the three devices we chose to highlight. Storyboarding serves as a way to practice the actions that would be recorded for the videos. In the future, I might skip this step to save time, but creating a script ahead of time is a definite must for easy, flowing narrative action.
  • Recording: We used Camtasia Studio, but there are many free programs (see above) that include the ability to record sound and audio, as well as add subtitles and do limited editing.
  • Translation: Once we had recorded the footage for the videos, bilingual staff translated the scripts into Spanish, and a volunteer recorded the Spanish audio.
  • Editing: We synced audio recordings with recorded footage, and added still slides at the beginning and end of each video for the introduction and conclusion. We embedded subtitles in the video, and enabled subtitles on YouTube.
  • Staff review: We made the videos available to staff so they could review them and suggest changes.
  • Public launch: We then made the videos available to the public, advertised them on the library's website, and promoted them through a Facebook advertisement.

The Tech

We purchased a Blue Microphones Yeti USB microphone with a pop filter to try and reduce ambient noise. The built-in microphones in a computer are not likely to produce a decent enough sound. This microphone was so good that I actually had some trouble finding a quiet place inside our very active little library to do the recording.

We acquired the incidental music from the Free Music Archive, and stored the project files on a dedicated external hard drive specially purchased for the project. The resulting videos were very small in size, so a backup hard drive wasn't absolutely necessary, but having a backup is always recommended with a tech project!

You can find and watch all of the tutorial videos on the Sonoma County Library YouTube channel.

As things continue to change — like getting a brand new website and catalog — we'll need to create new videos and update them to keep up!

This project was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the state librarian.