Is there a kit for that? Flip video cams make programming a breeze

In the last fiscal year, Sacramento Public Library increased its public program offerings by 32% over the previous year: 133,725 people attended some 5,213 programs throughout our 28 branch library system. At least part of the reason we’ve been able to increase our programming, despite all the "tough economic times" (this is Sacramento, California, remember) has been through the development of boxed programs for our staff.

These boxes (58 and counting) are bookable by staff through the library’s intranet and are sent to branches using regularly scheduled delivery routes. Boxed programs range from the elaborate—a two-box Fancy Nancy party, all pink, purple, sparkle and glitter—to the simple, like a box of yarn. While some of the boxed programs come with scripts and a set program plan, others, like the yarn, can be adapted to any library program. The most popular boxes by far are those relating to technology. We have 3 Wii systems, a set of 8 Nintendo DSi, an Xbox 360 with Kinect, projector/DVD combo machines, karaoke machines, and about 30 Flip video cameras (purchased for a song through, though no longer available). These kits are in almost constant use; they return to their home at our Central Library for batteries and then are immediately sent out again for more programs.

With Teen Tech Week approaching, creativity is flourishing! After being inspired by the film Hugo, one of our excellent Youth Services librarians, Thomas Gruneisen, created this video using a Flip camera, a Cricut machine (also a boxed program), and Microsoft Windows Movie Maker. He plans to use this video as a model for a teen group project during Teen Tech Week. Several other Teen Advisory Groups have library PSAs in the works and school-age children last year made one minute (unedited) monster movies after learning about storyboarding—all using the Flip box. The kit also has a photo release form included, as well as tips for filming. Whenever a librarian has a particularly successful program, they are asked to write up a brief program plan to be included in the box. As a result, our library staff creates a continually evolving and circulating guide for best practices in programming.

We created the Flip box in particular because we wanted to provide library programs that go beyond simple, passive, entertainment. By providing our patrons with a basic tool—the Flip camera—and some simple guidance in its use, the library can allow children and teens to explore their ability to tell stories in a way many of them never have before. Whether they storyboard to create a monster movie or spend hours creating a library PSA, young people using these devices are getting a chance to see their creations validated, and valued by the library.  The most important thing we’ve learned from providing programs such as this, is that our staff and the people (of all ages) who use our libraries are marvelously inventive and limited only by their access to the tools which allow them to express that creativity.

Taking a central, yet shared approach to programming allows our library to feel a little more like a unit and less like 28 branches flung over 964 square miles. The programming potential is boundless.

Lori Easterwood, Programming Supervisor

Sacramento Public Library

Sacramento, CA


Do you create videos or use photos to tell your library's story? Enter the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge and win a prize to help you tell your next story.



Thanks for sharing your library's inspiring story, Lori!

For more on our product donation program that Lori mentioned, read Stephanie Gerding's post describing what our donation program offers. We're thrilled to bring donated Flip video cameras to libraries like Sacramento Public Library. Keep up the good work!