Lights, Camera, Advocacy to Action: Digital Storytelling for Libraries

How can you tell your library's story in a way that will increase public support? Digital stories can be used for advocacy efforts, from raising awareness to fundraising campaigns to taking political action. Libraries can develop a compelling story using video and can leverage that story to show the impact they have in their communities.

During our April webinar, we identified ways to use digital storytelling for advocacy, as well as good practices for video production and digital storytelling. We were joined by two presenters. Ale Bezdikian from TechSoup shared good practices for video production from TechSoup's Storymakers initiative. Michael Dunn from the Daviess County Public Library (Owensboro, Kentucky) spoke about his library's experience developing a video for library advocacy, as well as his personal experience as a videographer.

Setting an Advocacy Goal

To start things off, we went over three types of advocacy that are seen in libraries. General advocacy drives awareness of the library on a day-to-day basis. Action-driven advocacy includes a specific call to action, such as raising funds or signing up to participate in an event. Political advocacy is a specific type of action-driven advocacy that typically involves a ballot-measure campaign where the community is being asked to vote yes to support library funding.

When you start off on a video or digital storytelling advocacy project, it is helfpul to identify the type of advocacy and an advocacy goal. When you set an advocacy goal, consider what you are trying to accomplish and how your target audience can help.

Tips for Digital Storytelling

Ale shared many tips about how to develop and draft a digital story. She recommended asking around to mine stories from library patrons and community members. Conducting interviews is one way to find out how people are using the library and how it is making a change in their lives. Ale also suggested that you "just do it." In other words, the best way to tell a story is to start telling it. Once you have it drafted, you can make revisions and fine-tune all the details.

Audio Production infographic - Using Microphones, Controlling Noise

Ale also shared some tips for getting organized around the three stages of video creation: preproduction, production, and postproduction. She referred to TechSoup's free Storymakers Curriculum for checklists and more that can help you through each stage of the process.

Ale also talked about the equipment needed, pointing out that a smartphone is a great tool for filming basic video, especially if you're just getting started. She also outlined equipment and sample budgets for more advanced video and audio recording equipment.

Creating a Libraries Transform Documentary

Michael shared his experience as a full-time videographer and photographer for the Daviess County Public Library in Owensboro, Kentucky. When he started his job, he focused on capturing oral histories to be included in the genealogy department and library archives. Over time, his role evolved into helping support local filmmakers, offering filmmaking programs for teens and adults, and creating advocacy videos for the library.

When the American Library Association launched the Libraries Transform campaign, the Daviess County Public Library saw it as an opportunity to create a documentary to tell the story of the community. They hit the road to do interviews at eight locations, taking a kit of good-quality video and audio equipment to capture the footage. In addition to the documentary, they also created a short trailer, which they submitted to the TechSoup Storymakers challenge. The trailer won a prize for Best Library Story in 2016.

One of the biggest challenges they faced was the amount of time it took to get set up with a quiet and good location. It also took much longer to capture the interviews, and they wound up with too much content, which they had to edit down later. But in the end, they learned from their challenges and were able to come up with a professional-quality video entirely created with in-house production.

Youtube sreenshot of a video trailer created by the American Library Association

Are you interested in creating a digital story for library advocacy? Join in the fun with the 2017 Storymakers contest, which starts September 5! Details coming soon on our Storymakers page.

Many more valuable tips and examples were shared during the webinar. Watch the full recording here.

Image 01: TechSoup

Image 02: Daviess County Public Library