By Charles H. Oates, Law Library Director and Associate Professor, Regent University School of Law
The law librarians at Regent University in Virginia Beach recently made an amazing discovery. We aimed to help the
university president prepare for an ABA reaccreditation site visit, and we received more good will than we could have imagined.|
Project GenesisJ. Nelson Happy, Dean of our law school, asked me to prepare a computerized slide show presentation illustrating the services we provide and what we are doing to fulfill the missions of the law library and of the law school. He suggested a PowerPoint presentation similar to one we had done earlier, to be shown at the law faculty meeting the following week in the law library. The president was to be the guest of honor. The marching orders were clear, but details were lacking.
The situation demanded a team effort - and quickly. The obvious first step was to assemble the professional staff for a brainstorming session. Many creative ideas emerged from this session.
Project DevelopmentCollectively, we decided to include videos of each member of the law library staff briefly describing her or his background and job duties. Our Computer Services Administrator, a member of the professional staff, confirmed that video clips could be inserted into the presentation. Each video clip would be followed by a slide briefly summarizing, in bullet form, that individual's responsibilities. Brief testimonials would be included from several law faculty who utilize our services extensively, and who are among the most respected and prolific authors on the law faculty. Credits would run at the end, acknowledging noteworthy contributions. The presentation would begin and end with a favorite song of the president.
The professional staff apportioned responsibilities among themselves. One team planned what each person would say: name, job title, and a brief job description. Educational backgrounds and career goals were included by the professional staff and younger paraprofessionals. For older staff nearing retirement, the focus was on longevity and accomplishments. The Assistant Director gave each person an outline of suggestions to include in their presentations.
Encountering and Conquering ChallengesSeveral technological challenges faced us. The first challenge was that video must be digitized before being inserted into a PowerPoint presentation. This required a capture device to be attached to the video camera. Capture devices vary considerably in price and features. Our Computer Services Administrator quickly researched the options, then selected an MPEG encoder capture device that gave us full-screen, full-motion video with TV quality (30 frames per second). Ten minutes of MPEG video uses only about 100 megabytes of disk space, about one-tenth of the space required by less efficient products. Our twenty-minute presentation required 200 megabytes of disk space, and needed to be saved to a CD for portability. The price of CD-R and CD-RW (CD recordable and CD re-writable) devices has dropped significantly. The price at a national wholesale club was under two hundred dollars in January. Thus, we recorded the entire multi-media presentation on a CD-R, which can be played on any CD drive.
To achieve more flexibility with the PowerPoint presentation, our Assistant Director downloaded from the Microsoft web page free add-ins that included several new templates (some animated), a 3-D rotation, and an animation player which allows the presentation to be viewed from a web site with full animation.
A committee of two was appointed to be in charge of the videotaping. Each person to be videotaped was allowed to record his or her own comments in private by means of a remote control. Re-takes were numerous, and the best of each was selected. A single video shot was sufficient for one of our staff who was formerly a television news anchor and is pursuing currently a Master's Degree in communications at Regent. The rest of us were less comfortable speaking to the camera. However, the project overall was a lot of fun for the entire staff, and produced a collective sense of accomplishment.
Overwhelming ResponseThe response from the president, the law faculty, and deans was a pleasant surprise. Immediately after the presentation the president turned to me, shook my hand, and exclaimed, "That was a fine presentation!" The dean of the law school expressed appreciation that we had acknowledged him twice during the presentation for the inspiration he had given us for the project and guidance during its production. The response from the law faculty was the most surprising of all. Many times throughout the presentation they broke into thunderous applause in spontaneous expressions of gratitude to specific individuals and departments within the library.
Immediate ResultsSeveral positive results have emerged. The four endorsements by law professors were of inestimable value. In only two weeks since production, all law library departments have noticed a substantial increase in faculty use of law library services. Most notably, there has been a significant increase in requests for reference and research assistance, as well as for technology support and training. This documented increase in activity will support our next budget request for additional professional staff, as well as similar requests in the future.
Goals and ExpectationsOstensibly, the goal of the presentation was to inform and educate the university president in the most intimate way possible as to the services provided by the law library. More subtle goals were (1) to increase faculty and administration awareness of the range of support services provided by the law library, (2) to allow each of the library staff to be closely involved in a major team effort, and (3) to create a platform of credibility from which to launch future budget requests to the administration.
The presentation will be modified slightly for use in promoting the law library and its services to potential and incoming students, the local bar, and the ABA reaccreditation site team. In the near future, we plan to allow universal access to the presentation through the law library web page.
We are particularly proud of the fact that the law library staff collaborated to put this promotional multimedia project together in less than a week. No outside experts, consultants, or equipment were used.
Applicability to Other LibrariesAll law libraries contend with budgets. Because these concepts are applicable to other types of libraries, we hope to share our experience with other law librarians. This approach should help any law library to support its budget requests while unifying the staff in a fun team effort.