Seen Ridley Scott’s Napoleon and you want to make a library video? What could go wrong? It could be an epic tale of eBooks and eBook worms. The library video is a niche genre of not much explored content. If you must contribute, then here are ten tips on what to do and what not to do based entirely on my own experience and many continuing failures.

  1. The Library Video...

The genres and sub-genres of the library video … is the title of a PhD. that will never be written. Were it to see the light of day it might include chapters on …

The welcome video – all about the library services. The video that sits on your webpage to welcome your virtual visitors and users.

The induction video – aimed at specific groups that will stand in for you because you must be elsewhere.

The how-to video – how to create an NHS OpenAthens account, use the new Library Catalogue, recent changes to BMJ Best Practice.

The instructional video – the talks and lectures you would like to give in person but for various reasons you can’t, so you record them instead. Perhaps on how to search, critical appraisal and so on.

The library podcast – This is a new addition to the library media universe. It can be recorded with or without moving images although audio, a much-underrated medium, can be as effective as the moving image. More about this later.

Do feel free to add to this list if you want or to apply for the PhD. The broader point is that deciding on the type of video will provide context and approach. How to videos are nearly always screen capture and narrative. Instructional videos are usually a talk to camera with examples and illustrations and so on.

  1. The science bit…

Get yourself some editing software. I recommend WeVideo as it works on the web and it isn’t that expensive. It’s easy to use and you can edit clips together and cut out the bad bits. WeVideo does screen capture and you can record a narrative over the top and add in text, title, graphics and transitions. You will also need a YouTube account to load your content on the web and link and embed your videos on your website. Be aware of course that some NHS networks block YouTube so you can also look at Vimeo. Then you need a camera which in most cases can be your mobile phone. Low resolution videos are fine for the web and use less bandwidth. A warning though they usually don’t have great microphones or at least my Chinese made cheap as chips phone doesn’t so with an ear to narrations and podcasts, I have invested in a proper microphone.

  1. Write a script!

Do you need a script, you most certainly do. Until you’ve tried it you won’t know how hard it is to ad lib anything on camera in one take. So, try it first to find out how hard it is and then write the script. If you are interviewing someone, give them a detailed prompt and get them to rehearse their reply to make sure you know what you are getting. If it’s just you then you can read the script either teleprompt style or, if you are narrating slides or images, record the audio and add it to your video using the editing software.

  1. Leave lots of space in your recording!

Remember that you can edit your videos so leave lots of space to make it easier. Count to ten in your head once the record button is pressed then speak. Don’t start immediately as you won’t be able to edit it later. If you fluff your lines then stop, count to ten and go again. You can then do the whole thing in one take, import the audio or video into your editing software and remove the bad bits. That way the tone will be even, which is hard to do if you record different bits at different times.

  1. Don’t make yourself the focus of the video...

I have seen some truly terrible library videos. The worst I ever saw was a librarian talking about the library looking over a desk, a bit like politicians used to talk on television in the 1950’s before they invented media training. Your role in the video if you have one is to facilitate the narrative or the message you want to convey. So, you can have a bright and breezy welcome message or introduction to frame the message or put a face to a name but that is about as far as you need to go. 

  1. Get other people to tell your story…

This is as true of videos as it is of any library publicity or journalism. Put your words into the mouths of your users. This can of course be a hard road to travel, but if you can find a user to say what a wonderful thing the new catalogue is and what new features it has, that will have more impact than if you tell other users about it. It’s legitimate to provide prompts or may discuss what they might say beforehand but try not to kill the spontaneity if you can.   

  1. Something is better than nothing…

I can remember back in the noughties asking a colleague in the Media School, I worked in a university then, what people would use YouTube for? Putting your own videos on the web, what was that all about? How naive that sounds now. Anyway, for better or worse your users will be used to badly produced moving images and sound, so you need not fear if your production values are basic. Have a go and every attempt you make will be better than the last one. Keep in mind the richness of video will convey much more than the written word or another .pdf guide with screenshots.

  1. Keep it short…

It’s hard to make a bad short video because you must think a bit harder about what goes in it, but it’s Holland’s Law that the longer a video is the worse it gets. So as a rule of thumb never exceed three minutes, try for one and half. If you can’t do it in three minutes or less, then break down what you want to say into two three-minute videos and so on. The caveat is that some instructional videos might be in the form of an online seminar or lecture and then different rules might apply. Even then it must be good to break the 10 minute or even 20-minute barrier.

  1. The forgotten art of audio…

If you don’t want to do a video, why not consider audio. Audio files are low bandwidth easy to send by eMail[1] and if you use Spotify or Google Podcasts you can host them online. Maybe go the whole way and create your own Podcast - although this is a whole other story. Audio is easier for your users to access and can convey any message or announcement that you could put out as text. Some users may prefer audio as we all have different preferences for getting information, but we don’t always have a choice.

  1. Keep your original masters...

Just a last word on the argument that videos are too hard because you must remake them every time something changes. I will confess I made a video on registering for Athens just before it changed, same for HDAS before it was closed and so on. There are risks, but if you keep the masters, you do have the option to re-edit and drop in new screen captures or screen shots.


Matt Holland
Library & Knowledge Service for NHS Ambulance Services in England
Library Manager


Holland, M. (2022). Audio Feedback Project: A Project to Increase Social Presence in a Virtual Library and Knowledge Service. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 17(2), 48–60.