The Case for Video Booths at Public Libraries

Video booth at the UT Library
Public libraries could strongly benefit from having one or more "video booths," which are small, sound-insulated rooms for community members to perform various video- and multimedia-related tasks. 
The following tasks could be included:
  1. Creating screencasts, narrated explanations of activity on the computer screen.
  2. Engaging in Skype job interviews.
  3. Creating video book reviews for (see some examples).
  4. Participating in Google Hangouts.
  5. Recording spoken voice for digital storytelling projects using the free Audacity sound recording and editing software. (See my review of The Book of Audacity.)
  6. Recording of singing and other musical performances for YouTube or other purposes.
  7. Creating free multimedia educational content, such as animated children's stories.
  8. Recording "passion talk" videos, where community members speak directly to a webcam about a topic that stirs them — in the style of a TED talk.

Regulating Access to Video Booths

Usage of the video booths would be open to community members who have completed a basic training on use and care of the equipment in the booth. Access to the video booths could be available beyond regular library hours by having the booths in a separate section of the library accessible via an exterior door. To pay for the building and operation of the video booths, the video booths would be fee-based, but with some scholarships available for community members who are unemployed and who have a track record of civic involvement in the community.
Video booth access could also be made available gratis to community members who donate their professional services to the library community, such as professional voice narrators, animators, graphic designers, video producers, music teachers, dance teachers, sound recording specialists, computer programmers, and yes — writers. The idea here is that the library is ready to go to bat for any talented individuals willing to share their professional talents with the larger community. 

Incentives for Using Video Booths

As an incentive for raising their competences in using the video booths, community members could receive certifications from the library for having produced a given number of multimedia works in the booth. For example, if a person has created more than 5 video book reviews for, that individual would be classified "Amazon Video Book Review Bronze." If the person completed more than 10 video book reviews, that individual would be classified "Amazon Video Book Review Silver," and so on. 
As an added incentive, every successful completion of a video book review, screencast, audio recording, and so forth could earn a coupon (perhaps $3) toward the payment of overdue library fines. Naturally, the best video book reviews created at the library would be featured on the library's website. Community members might choose to donate their multimedia creations to the Internet Archive under either a Creative Commons license or an entire donation to the public domain. Trainings on how to upload media to the Internet Archive would be provided in the library. 

Multimedia Guidance and Training

The library would also provide guidance and trainings on open resources to use in multimedia projects, including the public domain clip art at, the public domain audio books at, the public domain recorded music at, and so on. The ultimate goal of the video booths would be to increase the skills and capacity of community members to be producers of information in a library setting. These skills would also increase employability of community members.
Community members can learn to use excellent quality, free screencasting software, such as SimpleScreenRecorder for Linux. Here is a sample video recently made using SimpleScreenRecorder. On the Windows side of things, CamStudio Open Source works very well. Here is an outstanding video created by some of my graduate students using CamStudio Open Source. 
Community members can also learn to use commercial screencasting programs. My two favorites are ScreenFlow (Mac) and Camtasia Studio (for Windows). Keep in mind that screencasts do not necessarily need to be explanatory. Here is a Mother's Day video greeting I created using Screenflow — I sent that video to my mother on a DVD. Screencasting software can also be very useful in making commentary videos. Here is a commentary video I created using Camtasia Studio.
Additionally, screencasts can be used for creating short satires or spoofs. We could use a lot more of those in this world, right? Here is a taste of some satires I've made:
Perhaps the most useful use of video booths at a public library would be to create free open content learning materials. Here is a reading passage, Walt Disney's Barber, I recently wrote that I distributed as a narrated screencast in English and Spanish. I've donated this learning resource to the public domain. I'd love for it to travel far and wide. 
Imagine if hundreds of these kinds of multimedia reading passages were made at public libraries every week. The hosting of these videos is free on YouTube or on the Internet Archive (or both). These videos could potentially be viewed using a $5 Raspberry Pi computer, using free or very low-cost Internet delivered from the sky. I like that idea. Let's make it happen.
The author works as the Public Geek at a public library in the Washington, DC area. His other library writings can be found at Reach him at or on Twitter at @philshapiro. 
Image: UTS Library / CC: BY-NC-ND