Learn More: YouTube

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

We’ve already looked at Flickr, a photo sharing site. Now we’ll try YouTube, a video sharing site. Anyone with a digital camera can record and upload whatever they want to share with friends (or the world). Some clips are short — just a few seconds. Others are 20 minutes or longer. Some YouTube videos attempt to demonstrate or dramatize something; others convey no meaning at all. Some people post daily diary-like ramblings recorded into their laptop-mounted video camera; others use scripts, choreography, and sophisticated video editing. Some are professionally made; most are amateur. And yes, some are pirated and unauthorized. It’s a broad mix and it’s all there for the viewing.

Choose a random video and there’s a good chance you won’t like it. That’s okay. Few people care for many of the shows on television, too. YouTube’s strength, however, is the variety. It’s like TV with unlimited channels. You can find comedy, drama, documentaries, music, family activities, parties, people making fools of themselves, and practically anything else you can imagine.

A social site like YouTube also democratizes film making. People no longer simply search for and watch videos that interest them; they can create and distribute what interests them, too. If something is good, it gets talked about and more people watch. An imaginative clip becomes famous for a while, or it gets mimicked or answered by others. It can become part of pop culture. Celebrities, catch phrases, and memes are increasingly coming from amateur video.

Meaning for libraries

Here are four ideas to consider.

  • Entertainment. Some of our patrons just want to be entertained. Libraries try to meet that need by providing CDs and DVDs. Before that it was LPs, 16mm, and VHS. Digital online video — even amateur video — is just another in a long run of entertainment formats. Some established media producers (CBS, for example) provide video on YouTube, but some YouTube fans find that the latest amateur clips — even simple glimpses of everyday life like a dwarf bunny or a laughing baby — are often just as entertaining as the fare available on TV.
  • Pop culture. OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” song (danced on treadmills), was viewed 25 million times. Chris Crocker’s recent “Leave Britney Alone” video led to a long list of remakes and spoofs. The fictional vlogger (i.e., video blogger) Lonelygirl15 morphed into an online serial drama. Pop journalists like The Resident may attract large and dedicated followings. Clips and creators like these are becoming part of the culture. They might flare up among young adults and (increasingly) get picked up by mainstream news sources. If your patrons want to see the latest popular clip in full, access to YouTube will meet their needs. Does your library workstations permit basic streaming video and audio (with adjustable volume headphones)?
  • Resource. Looking for a famous news clip? Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech, the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Zapruder’s film of the Kennedy assassination are all there. YouTube might even help you quickly find famous scenes from movies, music performances, and comedy bits.
  • Marketing & Training. Some libraries have begun vlogging and advertising to the public (example: Allen County Public Library). Libraries could also include video clips within their training plans. Need to demonstrate a new concept or process? Create a video of your own!

Learn more by participating

Set aside some time this week to explore YouTube. Don’t try to do all this at one sitting. A few minutes here and there over the course of the week might be best.

  • Watch a few (or all) of the clips linked to above.
  • Browse some of the videos suggested on the YouTube home page.
  • Search any topic that interests you and see what comes up.
  • Do you have access to a video camera? Create an account and make a quick video clip yourself. Start with something short (30 seconds or less) and upload it just for practice. If it’s good, send the link to friends or family. If not, delete, and (probably) no one will know.

Have fun! It’s your web now.


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