Informed Librarian Online -- A Bit of Bytes --


by Jenna Kammer

I have just started a new job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Missouri in their Library Science program. At the time I am writing this, my online classes start tomorrow so I have had one thing on my mind as I prepare to get ready for the first day: screencasting.

I am thinking about screencasting because I want a way to communicate with my online students about the syllabus, course materials and to start getting them excited about what we will be learning this semester. While I can do this in an email and through lesson planning, I need another way to connect with them that also shows them that I am a live person behind the computer screen and internet. Ideally, I would love for the students to be able to share screencasts with me as well--as a way of building community and getting to know each other in online environments.

While I use screencasting as a great deal for teaching online, this article is actually about the art of screencasting as a library reference tool. Librarians have the same needs as I do when I teach online: connecting with library users who are not present in the library. Screencasting is a technique that librarians can use to teach users to be self-sufficient and learn to search, use library resources, or simply to introduce the librarian as a person who is available if one needs assistance.

First, let me define what I mean by “screencasting”. I referenced screencasting in an earlier article on eLearning Tools as the technique for recording what is happening on your computer screen. For example, if I had my screencasting tool running while I was typing this, it would record every letter typed, any mouse movement, all the pages and files on my desktop, any email notifications that popped up, and also my voice. A really nice example of screencasting can be found by the Dallas Library here: Click a link on that page to learn how to search their catalog, renew materials online, or use the booklist feature that comes with a library account.

There is one free tool that I primarily use for screencasting called Screencast-o-matic, It allows you to record 15 minutes of free video, then save a video file to your computer, or upload it straight to YouTube or the Screencast-o-matic website. You can pay for the service to get more recording time if you wish. There are other tools for screencasting and many universities or schools may actually provide a tool to the faculty for use, like Tegrity or Panopto. I mention these tools because they are often available for use free on large campuses (purchased with a campus license), though not everyone knows they are available. If you are an academic librarian who is lucky enough to have access to Tegrity or Panopto, you can also use these tools to record the computer screen (powerpoints or live demos) from your in-person instruction sessions to share with students later (or those who miss), or simply to just review yourself for self-critiquing. I also like Camtasia. This tool is about $100 on an education license and allows you to edit your video (Screencast-o-matic, Tegrity and Panopto have no or minimal editing features--you get one shot or have to delete the full video) and add interactive elements (though that puts flash into the video which may not work for all computer systems).

Earlier in this article, I describe screencasting as a reference service. This idea comes from the mission of librarians to provide instruction as part of reference work. In a virtual world, we may not always have the user next to us to show them how to find their own resources, or to even interact with them in a reference interview. The screencast gives us a chance to be proactive about the information needs of a user, and guide them through the steps for completing a transaction or learning to do something new. Screencasts can also be done “as needed” too--say you have received an email or virtual chat question that is better answered by showing the user how to do something. Pull up your screencast software and quickly record a demo, post it to YouTube (set up a private channel if you are uncomfortable about sharing it out to the world), and send them a link. One idea that I have heard is that if you receive the same question twice, it may be worth creating a video and posting it online for users to find, or to be easily shared with a link to the next person who asks.

In 2012, Greg Notess wrote a book on screencasting for libraries. Five years later, the tools may have changed slightly, but the concepts are still the same (review of the book here: This book looks deeply at the art of screencasting for librarians, and provides some instruction for doing so. If you want to try it on your own, I suggest starting with Screencast-o-matic, and watching some of their help videos: Michigan State Libraries also has a libguide on the topic with helpful resources and other tool ideas (as well as steps and tips for using them:

Copyright 2017 by Jenna Kammer.

About the author:
My name is Jenna Kammer,, and I am the author of this column. I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Missouri in the Library Science program. I have an MLS from the University of Arizona and a MA in Education from New Mexico State University. My PhD is from the University of Missouri where I studied information policy and technology in academic environments.