10 Things You Need to Know When Selecting A Virtual Program

For the first time, Libraries are considering offering virtual, online, live streaming programs through Facebook and YouTube as a viable programming option.

Here are the ten things you should consider when purchasing a streaming program.

1.  Know what you’re buying, live vs. pre-recorded, or a mix of both. Professional sporting events are just that, a live event. All mistakes, interactions, and uniqueness happen in real-time.  The Tonight Show is pre-recorded and can be edited, and all imperfections can be edited out, thus a perfect show, both video, audio, and content.  Saturday Night Live has a mix between audience interaction and presentation that might not be possible during a live show.

2. Video quality – A good video production is easy to watch; it doesn’t have to be 4k, but a good clear HD video.  Ask to see a sample of both video and audio capabilities.

3. Audio –  Bad audio will have any audience switching off the program after minutes of watching.  If you and your staff find it difficult, hard to hear, or sounds like an echo chamber, pass on the show.  Audio is the #1 reason people stop watching.

Online Streaming Ballloon Show for Kids
Virtual Library Show with Magical Balloon-dude Dale

4. Show content – What once was a great library activity might not work without an audience. Audience interaction is now replaced with entertainment.  It is typical to have a 20 to 30-second lag time using social media chats, which throw off the show’s rhythm.  Seek live entertainment vs. live interaction when selecting a show.

5. Music – Facebook and Youtube have artificial intelligence bots that monitor video posts. All music must be original or copyright free. Uploading content to Facebook or Youtube with copyright music will mute the music, and now you, the library,  and the entertainer look bad for using copyrighted material.

6. Image – Any animation or pictures used during the show must be original and copyright free.  As you know, it’s easy to copy and paste from the web. Double-check to make sure you’re not stealing somebody else’s intellectual property.

7. Show duration – Unlike a library show where families come to the library,  kids can be distracted by any toy, sibling, or video games in the house.  Consider kids watch Youtube videos that are between 15 and 20-minutes in length.

8. Marketing Material – Every good library entertainer provides marketing material to help promote their show.  Images, videos, and live appearances can help draw an audience to your event page.

9. Cost – Expect to buy a show based on minutes.  Virtual shows run in 10, 15, 20, and 30-minute segments.  Yes, travel fees are waived, but considering the entertainer adds more value to the show by a virtual presentation.  Equipment needed to stream,  the studio created, show reconfigure, and customized to meet your needs doesn’t translate into a cheaper cost.

10. No recording of minors – Many streaming platforms allows the video to be recorded.  If you are considering using Zoom or Go To Meeting, a video conference and enable the meeting to be recorded – DO NOT RECORD.  The  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of April 2000 prohibits children’s recording without consent.  If using these platforms, I recommend you address this issue when hiring the act.

reading a book is the final goal of every library program

My final thoughts –  Audio is the most important. If your audience cannot hear the show, they will leave.  The video should be clear, it doesn’t require 4K resolution, but a well-lit show that is not blurred is acceptable.  I like the mixed show between live and pre-record material as it allows for a customized requires more skill, both technically and showmanship. If you do go with a pre-recorded show, request a prescreening of the entire show.  Audio, video, and content should be of the highest quality. After all, you are buying a movie.

Look for a 20-30 minute show, and many shows can be downsized, giving more quality for your money.  It’s easier for an entertainer to add filler to make a 45 to 60-minute show by adding audience participation.  Scaling down your show time improve your show quality.  Look at America’s Got Talent – you only see a 2 to 5-minutes of a routine, which is impressive.

If the entertainer is a professional, then music, images, and props should be copyright free, and any marketing material you request should be given freely without hesitation.

Lastly, be upfront with the entertainer. Customization is the keyword.  A tight budget might negotiate a very high-quality,  15-minute show segment, while those with a larger budget can acquire a 30-minute show.  I’ve learned the best library shows are those when neither party has to compromise and work together to develop an extraordinary event.


Getting People to Arrive Early

Library Planning Program Start Time

“The library program starts promptly at 6:00 p.m.”, said the librarian. “I know my people from years of experience, which means the program will start ten minutes past the scheduled start time as late arrives will be pouring in.”

I am a parent and understand it is challenging to get kids out the door and to move.  As a professional performer, I know what it likes to wait for a family to be seated.

How to combat late arrivals

This technique is used in two industries that demand it runs on time; the airlines and train industry require passager to arrive early.

For decades we have been conditioned to check-in early when flying or going to a train station.  Airlines label documents with pre-check-in and departure time, and many times the check-in time is in larger print and the easiest time to find on the boarding pass.

The Problem

A patron reads the library program and sees an event they like, and next to the event is the date and time of the event.  What happens?  The mom reads the date and time and leaves to arrive promptly at the advertised time.  Showing up minutes before the event, parking, walking to the meeting room with kids in tow, they arrive what they feel is on time, ten minutes into the program.


The family arrives at the start of the program but need to check-in prior to escorting the family trough the door.  Clinging to mom are the two kids who are being encouraged to sit on the floor with the other kids.  With all eyes focused on the new arrivals, the program comes to a slow halt until the new arrivals are settled into their seats.

How to change late behavior

Changing behavoir is the 1st step in planning library programs

Like the airlines who advertise check-in time, so should library schedules.  For example, You want your Summer reading programs to starts promptly at 9:00 a.m. Then promote the reading program check-in is at 8:45 a.m.  The 8:45 a.m. time is when you want the parents to arrive, just like school teachers wish their class in their seats and ready at 9:00 a.m.  The first bell is at 8:50, and the classes start at 9:00 a.m.

Let’s consider professional sports, which starts at the top of the hour.  A perfect example was the Chicago White Sox. As part of the deal, White Sox weeknight home games will begin at 7:11 p.m. instead of the typical 7:05 p.m. first pitch.

Move the Clock Back

I can hear the voice of some librarians say “We cannot change our times, people know storytime is Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.”  The alternative is to have the “actual program” start at 9:15 a.m.  Like professional sports, we turn the T.V. on at noon but realize the game doesn’t start to 12:09 and knowing this T.V. schedule activity based on this new start time.

You, the librarian is the producer of the event.  Advertise the program publicly to start at 9:00 a.m., and schedule the staff or entertainer to start at 9:10 a.m.

Use the extra time for Marketing

Over the years of performing, I always ask the librarian if they have any announcement prior to the start of the show? The majority of the librarians take a pass and say, “We really don’t have anything to announce.”  If you can recall a time that you said this, don’t do it again.  Consider you have new families that may be unaware of all the services the library offers.  Parents are busy people and forget things so that public service announcements prior to the start of the show will help reinforce or reminds local families about the free service the library provides.

Finally, you are using the extra ten-minutes in educating, informing, and distracting the audience from those arriving late. Now the show can start promptly at the delayed time that only you, your staff, and the entertainer knows.  Movie theaters have been doing this for decades, and nobody questions the exact start of a movie once in the theater.

Reward Early Arrivals

Don’t you like receiving something FOR free when it not expected?

Countless businesses are looking for ways to draw customers to their businesses.  Partnering with local companies, the library can advertise the first twenty families will get a gift certificate from XYZ restaurant or business.  From free drinks, fries, and ice cream, patrons will show up early for a gift certificate.

The goal is to reward those who arrive at the check-in time, so the program starts on time.

Getting Results

reading a book is the final goal of every library program

The goal is to get people into the library and service the families in the community. Each library is different and the three options of

  1. Pre-Check-in Time
  2. Delayed Start
  3. Announcements Prior to Start

These techniques can work for some, all, or most of your programs. The key to its success is based on your willingness to try, tweak, and repeat.  No new process is perfect without at least a dozen tries.

Please leave a comment on your views, thoughts, ideas, on what you think about these techniques.

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