Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee

Statewide Virtual Performer Showcase: Lessons Learned

When school is dismissed for the summer, and excitement around library Summer Reading Programs (SRP) begin, library traffic increases dramatically. Here in Kansas that means staff at approximately 323 public libraries have been planning a schedule for months. This schedule includes challenges for a reading program, educational or entertaining performers, and crafts or hands-on activities.

This winter, two regional youth consultants designed and offered a virtual showcase of performers to help meet social distancing guidelines and other changing needs librarians face, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The showcase is now available via the state’s regional library system webpage. This showcase helps staff make informed decisions when scheduling performers.

The showcase used an existing Statewide Performer’s Directory to contact performers and gauge interest. Then, youth consultants divided the performers expressing interest into categories and scheduled recording dates and times.

Reception from the performers was overwhelmingly positive. Consultants recorded ten minute segments using Zoom. Breaks between performances allowed for technical and time issues. Uploaded and linked video is now available on the existing Statewide Performer’s Directory page at https://systems.mykansaslibrary.org/.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned during this project concerned video editing.  Originally, it was believed that Zoom video was sufficient for completion of the project. When editing video became necessary, this belief was proven false. To avoid the necessity of additional software to edit the project, consider stopping each video at the conclusion of each performance. This strategy creates short videos, as opposed to one long video to edit, and saves time. Additional considerations are experience and comfort level in editing video, and available software.

Vetting Performers

Samples of performers who provided virtual content are now available, yet good vetting of performers remains necessary. Therefore, suggested considerations when looking for good, quality programming are:

  • Experience with the intended audience.  Is this act designed for children? Is the person performing addressing the audience?  Do they need help with crowd control?
  • What is the performer’s availability?  Do they have a good idea of attention spans related to the age group?
  • Will the performer make a post recording available for patrons who could not attend at the specified time?  How long will the video be available?  Are there additional costs?
  • Are the costs reasonable for the services provided?
  • What platform will the performer use?  Will the library provide the platform or does the performer have their own account?
  • Is the preferred platform COPPA compliant?  Is the performer aware of the need for child protection in an online environment?
  • Does the performer have an understandable, interesting, and entertaining take on the theme (especially for summer)?
  • Is the performer willing to compromise or modify the program to suit the library?
  • Will the performer supply their own marketing materials?
  • Will the performer allow you to share access or recordings between branches or with other libraries?  For how long?
  • Does the performer provide a multi-show discount?
  • Is there a cost difference between live and recorded shows?  
  • Is there a limit on the number of registrants?
  • Could the library incur additional costs, either knowingly or unknowingly?

InfoPeople has developed and recorded a free webinar on evaluating virtual programs, which can be found here: https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=951

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and libraries began to close their doors, professionals turned to digital platforms to provide programming services.   Today there are many lists of performances to choose from, including authors promoting their books. However, local talent offering virtual performances can, and should, remain a viable option for libraries. Even as we return to a more familiar mode of conducting library business, some virtual services may continue to be a consideration for public libraries who find that individuals never seen inside the library now attend virtual programming options. 

By recording and making a performer’s showcase accessible, we hoping to offer options to libraries and better equip them to make informed decisions on how best to serve their patrons.

Competencies Addressed

This blog post addresses the following ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Libraries, available here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/edcareeers/alsccorecomps: I. Commitment to Client Group; III. Programming Skills; V. Outreach and Advocacy.

Tammie Benham
Today’s blog post was written by Tammie Benham, Youth Services Consultant at Southeast Kansas Library System in Iola, Kansas.  on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at tbenham@sekls.org.

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