In week 12 we read about the use of screencast videos in libraries. Screencast videos blend screen capture technology, narration, and (sometimes) slides to create informative online tutorials. The tutorials typically demonstrate how to use software to complete a task. Since every move and keystroke is recorded in a screencast, patrons can easily follow along and learn how to do various tasks, such as accessing a database or searching through a library catalog.
Benefits of screencasts include expanding the hours of service for library reference departments. Including screencast content on a library Website can create a virtual reference tool available 24/7 and to out of area patrons. Additionally, Farkas (2007) argues that visually demonstrating a program, action, or idea makes screencasting very similar to a synchronous class (p. 202). She concludes that when patrons can read, see, hear, and practice what they are learning, they are more likely to retain the material (Farkas, 2007, p. 202).
Library Website Envy
I found the Wisconsin State Law Library (Law Library) Website a few months ago while at work. I do not live in Wisconsin, nor do I find myself doing much legal research on Wisconsin law, but the Law Library has put together a really wonderful resource worth gawking over. I’m definitely suffering from a little state law library Website envy.
One of the crown jewels of the Website is an A-Z Legal Topics index, composed of hundreds of informative guides that direct patrons to agencies, laws/policies/rules, records, forms, and articles relevant to their legal issue. These guides are full of topic-specific resources to help patrons learn more about the law. In addition to Legal Topics, the Law Library has created a Learning Center tab that includes FAQs, CLE class schedules, Legal Research guides, and Tutorials. Within the Tutorials Index, I found several video screencasts. For the purpose of further defining what a video screencast is, I reviewed the tutorial entitled “Finding Forms.”
Review of Video Screencast
Pro se litigants commonly seek fill-in-the-blank and/or sample forms to aid them in legal matters. The Law Library has recognized this population’s need and created “Finding Forms.” Leeder (2009) states that “[w]hen beginning a new video tutorial, the most critical elements are the most basic ones: (i) identifying the audience, (ii) determining the goal or goals, and (ii) breaking down the task into its most basic elements.” Here, the Law Library clearly knows its audience is pro se litigants unfamiliar with legal materials. They structure the video using a ground up approach, first informing patrons of the complex structure of rules and laws that go into creating a legal forms, then suggesting they always seek professional legal guidance before filing a form with a court, and finally moving on to a discussion of the various resources available for obtaining forms.
“Finding Forms” mixes narration, text slides, and screencasting. The material it presents is informative and helpful for locating forms on any topic. The narrator navigates to a few resources for forms, but makes it clear that forms specific to a given topic are best accessed through the site’s Legal Topics index. The narrator also refers users to scan through the bulleted guide located below the video for more specific direction. This general approach results in an easy to digest presentation lasting just under three minutes. The Law Library’s method appears to agree with Leeder’s (2009) conclusion that the simpler a video is, the more users will be able to process and make sense of the information being provided.
Other screencast videos on the Law Library Website present information in a fashion similar to “Finding Forms.” The Law Library obviously uses video for general guidance, whereas text content below the videos and throughout the Website provides more detailed direction.
If there is any area that the screencast videos could be improved, I believe it is in how The Law Library demonstrates its technology. Most videos highlight portions of actual screens on the Law Library Website, however they do not always access the links they are directing patrons to. This may not seem like a big deal, however navigating the pages located within these links may not be easy for all patrons. For example, clicking the “Federal Law” link within the Legal Topics tab reveals a list of a hundred or more links. This extensive list of links, without further explanation, would only serve to confuse the average patron. The Law Library could avoid the potential for confusion by providing more in depth technology demonstrations, where the layout of its pages are explained in greater detail.
Farkas, M.G. (2007). Social software in libraries: Building collaboration, communication, and community online. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.