The North Merrick Public Library broadened public attendance for library events this year by leveraging the latest Internet technologies. Embedding video clips on websites is not new for most libraries. However, embedding a live video feed was an innovative step. Broadcasting live on the web is different than merely embedding a video. It requires the use of several technologies and techniques.
Chick Flick, for example, allowed the community to experience the birthing process for several chickens (starting from eggs, growing into adolescent chickens), all while being broadcast live on a 24/7 video feed embedded on the library’s website. The whole process, spanning several weeks, was shown to patrons through the live video feed. Patrons were able to sit back in the comfort of their homes and watch exciting moments, including the baby chicks breaking through the eggshells.
Broadcasting this type of event was challenging because the stream had to last all day and night, uninterrupted for weeks- likely too much to use an iPod. The hardware setup, therefore, was more robust and included a retired Dell desktop computer running Windows XP and a Microsoft web camera. Wi-Fi was thought to be less durable for streaming of this magnitude, so the computer was hardwired to the library’s network using Ethernet cabling. YouTube was selected as the video platform and Adobe’s Flash Media Encoder was used to manage the stream upload.
Although free of charge, the software requires knowledge of streaming configurations. The technical details for encoding depend on many factors, and adjustments have to be made to meet each system’s unique requirements. It is important to note that broadcasting live for an extended period of time requires a safe, constant power supply, a solid network connection, adequate bandwidth availability, and YouTube Live events exceeding 8 hours cannot be captured.
Using YouTube, is free and fairly stable for the long term, but can be more technically complex than alternative broadcasting methods. The North Merrick Public Library has experimented with other technologies and techniques to broadcast live events. During a Meet the Candidate Night event, the library used an iPod Touch mounted on a standard camera tripod using a JOBY GripTight GorillaPod mount. This setup was less technically complex than the previous event.
It cost approximately $99: the cost of a month subscription to Ustream, an online video streaming platform that works well with iPods through the Ustream app. A free version of Ustream is available but it includes proprietary advertisements playing throughout the broadcast and videos will not be archived for free subscriptions. The Ustream app takes care of all the technical encoding details normally needed for streaming. All the library had to do was embed the video HTML code directly in its homepage, physically set up the iPod, and have ample Wi- Fi. The iPod’s battery life was more than sufficient for the two hour event.
With little to no cost, broadcasting live events on the web provides a great return on investment and gives libraries a cutting edge avenue for outreach.
Nicholas Olijnyk is the Systems Librarian at the North Merrick Public Library.